Another day, another head shaker from former Vice President Joe Biden. At a virtual town hall, the Democratic frontrunner for president riffed, “There are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there who are just not very good people, but that’s not who we are. The vast majority of the people are decent. We have to appeal to that, and we have to unite people – bring them together. Bring them together.” So, the question is: Are you one of the few, the proud, the 15%?
Who are these people anyway? Does this 10-15% represent the deplorable contingent Hillary Clinton referred to, or is it a new segment of America that the presumptive presidential nominee has unearthed?
The Bard to the Rescue
In Act 2, Scene 2 of Hamlet, Shakespeare penned some words of wisdom that may apply here, to wit: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Is this phrase uttered by Biden a tell of his inner thoughts and bias? Surely, he can’t be talking about all Trump supporters as there are clearly more than 10-15% of these “not very good” people out there. And just what constitutes a “not very good” person? What rubric is Mr. Biden using to sift citizens like “wheat from the chaff,” as the scriptures say?
It appears that in trying to winnow the American people into little piles by separating the worthless from the valued, Biden is exposing his prejudices without meaningful clarity. Since his comment echoes his former boss, Barack Obama – i.e. “We are better than this” – perhaps he is merely trying to channel Barack. It may be that the former vice president believes if he mimics a winner, then he too can transform himself into a winner – something Mr. Biden most assuredly has not proven in his many efforts to become the president of the United States.
The world of politics is all about the numbers – the electoral numbers, the poll results, and the percentage of people voting are but a few. Ten to 15% in any election is a helluva lot of people. For example, should President Trump get 10-15% of the black vote, Mr. Biden’s chances of removing Trump from the Oval Office are practically nil.
For the sake of argument, a look at the popular percentages of a few presidential races might be edifying to Mr. Biden:
- Dwight Eisenhower 57.4%
- Adlai Stevenson 42.0%
- John F. Kennedy 49.7%
- Richard Nixon 49.5%
- Richard Nixon 43.4%
- Hubert Humphrey 42.7%
- Jimmy Carter 50.0%
- Gerald Ford 48.0%
- Ronald Reagan 50.4%
- Jimmy Carter 41.0%
- George H.W. Bush 53.4%
- Michael Dukakis 45.7%
- George W. Bush 47.9%
- Al Gore 48.4%
Of course, Donald Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 but still won the election. Nevertheless, the percentage was close – 48.1% for Mrs. Clinton and 46.0% for Mr. Trump. The point is that 10-15% of the population is a game-changer when it comes to presidential elections. So why risk insulting that many people?
One would think that Joe Biden might have learned a thing or two from the missteps of Hillary Clinton. Her “deplorables” moment had to be walked back but never really left the political conversation in 2016. Every campaign strategist knows that disparaging voters is the third rail of American politics. No good can come from it. This leaves the average citizen to wonder if Mr. Biden could defend such a remark or whether it was merely another slip of Joe’s lip. As such, the top dogs at Biden 2020 might want to have a little chat with their candidate to let him know that denigrating members of the American voting public does not make for a winning strategy.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.