Democrats Are Getting What They Bargained for Out of Joe Biden – By Ben Mathis-Lilley (Slate) / March 23 2020
Which is maybe just enough to get by.
Joe Biden’s first major event since his March 15 debate with Bernie Sanders is set for Monday at 11:30 a.m. EDT, when he will discuss the coronavirus crisis from a studio that’s been set up in his Delaware home. [Update, March 23, 2020, at 11:45 a.m.: Biden went on a bit earlier than expected and spoke for about 15 minutes.] His reclusiveness in recent days has become news in itself: His only real or virtual public appearances last week, during the most alarming series of events to transpire in America for at least 19 years, were a five-minute speech about Tuesday’s primary elections and a Friday conference call with reporters. At the end of that call, he apologetically said his campaign was just on the verge of getting digital streaming figured out. “They tell me there’s ways in which we can do teleconferencing via us all being in different locations,” he said in a way that did not quite convey steely confidence and managerial focus, adding: “We’ve hired a professional team to do that now. And if you excuse the expression, it’s a little above my pay grade how to do that.” (Bernie Sanders, despite being older than Biden and having a full-time job in the Senate, has already been holding regular events online.)
Biden’s absence has been noted by his critics in the left-liberalsphere, who are asking what exactly the point is of having a nominee whose main selling point is a steady, affable public persona if he’s not going to be appearing in public when stability and morale are running low. His disappearance, it’s said, has allowed Donald Trump to dominate the crisis narrative and somehow possibly to put himself in a position to win an election by belatedly semi-fixing a problem he created himself.
But Biden’s campaign has always been about the collective idea of Joe Biden rather than the day-to-day reality. His comeback to presumptive nominee status didn’t happen because he gave a series of stirring performances or because his ideas seized the public imagination but because of other people’s endorsements and strategic electoral skepticism about Sanders. His speeches and debate sound bites are about Barack Obama and Donald Trump more often than they are about himself, and his baffling non sequitur–to–appearance ratio is close to 1:1, which is probably why, even before the virus hit, he held relatively few campaign events and press conferences. Sure, it might be nice to have a nominee with the energy and mental focus to appear in public every day during the possible end of civilization, but the 2020 edition of Biden was never such a person, and you can’t disappear if you were never really there. Right now he is giving Democrats exactly what they voted for: a distant presence who will not be actively alienating and who is associated with enough good ideas and capable people that you could reasonably bet on him to be an improvement over the current disaster.