Rajkamal Rao

The stage is set for a Biden vs. Trump show

Rajkamal Rao | Updated on March 11, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate and former US vice-president Joe Biden   -  REUTERS

Joe Biden has all but won the Democratic nomination for the US presidential elections. But the road so far has seen many more winners and losers

The results of the US Democratic Party’s primary elections in six states on March 10 have all but handed former vice-president Joe Biden an impressive lead in delegates over the socialist candidate, Bernie Sanders. Barring the unforeseen, Biden is now presumably the Democratic nominee to take on President Donlad Trump in the upcoming election.

There have been many winners and losers in this drama. The big winner is, of course, Biden, who just two weeks ago was in danger of being eliminated after lackluster performances in three early-voting states. But he was resurrected from the dead by African-American voters in South Carolina, who are now the biggest winners of all. They gave Biden momentum on ‘Super Tuesday’ (March 3), wherein the former V-P won nine of the 14 states voted.

It is very likely that a Black woman, like Kamala Harris, or a Black man like Cory Booker, will be Biden’s V-P pick. One can expect the Biden administration to have quite a few people from the community in important positions.

The Democratic Party as a whole too, is a huge winner. For nearly 14 months, the party endured strains as every ideologue carved out a lane for themselves in the pursuit of the presidential nomination. Nearly two dozen candidates — governors, members of Congress, senators, mayors, business-people, and even a self-help guru — fought in the primaries, trying to pull the party their way.

They met every checkbox for diversity and personal identity — race, colour, gender, and sexual orientation. The most prominent was the ultra-liberal wing headed by Bernie Sanders, who is in fact registered as an Independent, not as a member of the Democratic Party. There was also businessman and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-Independent, who sought the party’s backing.

With Biden, the mainstream Democratic Party is comforted that the reins remain in the hands of someone their own ilk, an elder statesman who served for 36 years in the Senate and eight years as Obama’s VP — all as a traditional Democrat.

Now, to the losers. The biggest loser is Bernie Sanders, who has attempted to convert the US to a socialist economy by advocating new spending of over $55 trillion with free programmes for healthcare and education, and a complete shift to renewable energy, including through a ban on all fossil fuels. Never mind that the entire US GDP is about $21 trillion.

Personal identity also suffered a resounding defeat. Biden is an old White man, and belongs to a demographic that the party nearly hates.

Several young Indian-Americans — Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal, two influential members of Congress, and Varshini Prakash, a climate change activist and co-founder of the Sunrise Movement — lost as they backed the wrong horse in Sanders. Team Biden will likely not have room for them, given their past critical comments about everyone but Sanders.

But an inadvertent winner here could be Trump himself. Biden is gaffe-prone and slips up so much on the campaign trail that he will likely perform poorly in presidential debates. Some of his statements border on the unreal: he recently said he was running for the U.S. Senate. He claimed that 750 million people have been killed in gun violence since 2008; the total population of the U.S. is about 330 million.

Biden has not received much scrutiny in the media and there are numerous questions about his son Hunter, who is embroiled in the controversy with Ukraine and his alleged exploitation of his father’s position in the Obama administration. On the flip side, with the economy likely to slow down from the coronavirus outbreak, Trump for the first time in many months appears vulnerable on this front.

That said, the next few months will surely be a roller coaster.

The writer is Managing Director, Rao Advisors LLC, Texas

Published on March 11, 2020

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