Features Australia

The story of Mrs O

28 September 2019

9:00 AM

28 September 2019

9:00 AM

Of the 27 original candidates who entered the race for Democratic Party nomination for the 2020 US presidential election, only 19 remain. According to the latest polls, former vice president Joe Biden’s handy lead over his closest rival, radical Senator Elizabeth Warren, has all but evaporated.

This, no doubt, reflects growing public concern, supported by party luminaries, that Biden’s fitness for office is in question. Democrats, Julian Castro and Cory Booker, have openly raised doubts about his mental health, verbal acuity and physical endurance. Biden will be 78 if inaugurated in 2021. His dentures slip. He repeats untrue war stories giving his ‘word as Biden,’ forgets his talking points and stumbles with answers.

Of course, Biden supporters will point to Donald Trump being labelled ‘crazy’ and ‘dangerous’ by some of his rivals, in the heat of the Republican primaries. But, unfortunately for them, voters prefer ‘crazy-brave,’ to befuddled and, physically ‘past it.’

The dilemma for the Democratic Party is that there is no clear front runner. Other than Biden, socialists, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, are the only candidates in double figures. However, they are seen as divisive individuals who risk alienating moderate Democrats and independents. They are obsessed with impeaching President Trump and want ‘Medicare for all,’ the ‘Green New Deal,’ the decriminalisation of unauthorised immigration, the elimination of college debt regardless of income and free education for all.

Based on estimates provided by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, these policies would add $42.5 trillion to government spending over the next decade alone. Responding to criticism that these promises are unaffordable and unrealistic, Senator Warren argues, ‘I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.’ That’s fine for her faithful followers, but Democrat hard-heads know they owe the recent recapture of the House of Representatives to 40 moderate candidates, not 40 socialists.

Of the present field and, for all his weaknesses, Joe Biden seems the safer bet. He has tied his campaign fortunes to his time as deputy to the immensely popular, Barack Obama. Unfortunately for him, while on foreign and domestic policy he may not be to the left or right of the former president, he can never be Barack Obama. He is, in fact, a long-serving member of the Washington establishment with a reputation for offending minorities. Trump, meanwhile, deplores ‘the swamp,’ Anything but ‘an insider,’ he is seen by ordinary working Americans, as an empathetic ‘blue collar president.’ Of course, economically, by 2020, things may be less rosy than today. Unemployment will probably be on the rise. The stock market, which Trump has used as a barometer of his success, will likely have suffered major falls and, China’s president, Xi Jinping, will probably have kicked a trade deal down the road in the hope that post the election, he will be dealing with a different president.

But even with these circumstances, for Democrats, with Joe Biden as their candidate, the unthinkable — another four years with Trump in the White House — becomes a realistic prospect. They know that as the campaign wears on, scrutiny of Biden’s behaviour will intensify. He may always have been gaffe-prone, but his age now invites a different reading. He campaigns at a leisurely pace. His performances in the debates have shown him slowly flagging as the evening wears on. Donald Trump has already labelled him ‘Sleepy Joe’ and, while Trump is only three years younger, it’s Biden’s electability which is being questioned.

Sensing this, a growing number of desperate Democrats are hoping that former first lady, Michelle Obama can be persuaded to run as their 2020 nominee. It is suggested her upcoming ‘moderated conversation’ tour is a way of testing the waters. Her surprise appearance at the Grammy awards earlier in the year, where she stole the show, lends weight to this speculation. Last year, Mrs Obama embarked on a promotional tour for her best-selling memoir, Becoming. Confirming her rock-star appeal, the book sold 1.4 million copies.

Veteran Los Angeles Times columnist, Steve Lopez, feels the vibe. He recently wrote, ‘Michelle Obama for president. The only one who can beat Trump?’ Lopez suggests that many Democratic voters whose support for people like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren is decidedly tepid, might be far more motivated if Mrs. Obama would run. Left wing political activist Michael Moore declares, ‘There is one person that would crush Trump and she hasn’t announced yet and her last name rhymes with Obama.’ He thinks she would energise the Democratic Party, particularly younger voters.

Michelle Obama describes her speaking tours as money-makers. She claims ‘there’s zero chance’ that she will run. She says she has definite plans to ‘make a difference’ in the future but ‘sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office will never be one of them.’

But then, when Hillary Clinton was asked whether she would run for president in 2016, she responded, ‘I really want to just have my own time back. I want to just be my own person. I’m looking forward to that.’ Her friends now admit, she had to be coy.

It’s possible Michelle Obama enjoys rock-star popularity because of her apparent lack of political ambition. But this won’t phase Democrats desperate to have her save the country from President Trump. They know the former First Lady shares their concerns. She publicly expresses deep reservations about ‘what kind of country we’re leaving for our children or grandchildren.’

So, it may not be for herself or the party that she changes her mind, but fears for the future of her children and grandchildren. Whatever it is, she is the Democrat who has the best chance of evicting President Trump from the White House.

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