DANIEL VAUGHAN: Is Joe Biden enough of an all-star to outlast the scandals?

April 8, 2019

If you’re like me, you’re enjoying the opening week of baseball season. America’s pastime is back, and it’s just beautiful to be able to turn on the TV and keep some game on throughout the day.

While I don’t consider myself a stat-head like some superfans, I do enjoy listening to people argue over who is a better player for this or that reason. One of the most popular stats used by baseball fans is WAR, or Wins Above Replacement.

WAR is an attempt to “summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic.” The Sabermetrics crowd says that WAR answers the following question: “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a freely available minor leaguer or an AAAA player from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?”

I like taking the concept of WAR and plugging it into politics, filling it into situations where a politician is dealing with a significant scandal, either in life or a campaign. If you had to replace that politician and put a generic person of the same party in their position, without the baggage of the scandal, how much value would the party gain or lose?

The terrifying answer for most politicians is that not only are they easily replaceable, but their party would probably gain ground if they chucked the scandal-plagued member.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule — and we’d call these the superstars of politics. Much like baseball has Mike Trout, basketball has LeBron James, and football has Tom Brady, the world of politics has its equivalents.

But for every one superstar, there are considerably more politicians who plug a generic hole in the party — and if they get embroiled in scandal, it’s usually better for the party to chuck them.

And that brings us to the question of Joe Biden. I think it’s easy to say that Biden isn’t a generational political talent, like we’ve seen in Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, presidents who had skill sets that translated into party victories across the board.

But for the Democratic Party going into 2020, is Biden enough of an all-star player, so much better than the rest of the playing field, that he deserves being kept even with his ongoing “groping” scandal?

It’s not like anything Biden is getting attacked over is anything new. If anything, Biden is getting destroyed by the culture he created.

As Emily Yoffe writes in Politico:

Joe Biden is now living in the world of accusation he helped to create. It is one of peril for the accused, in which they are subjected to expansive definitions of sexual misconduct and little benefit of the doubt… Now, as he mulls whether to enter the presidential race, Biden is finding himself ensnared by some of the doctrines he has advocated over the past several years.

Biden led the charge in trying to defeat Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill hearings, and used a similar playbook to destroy the reputation of Robert Bork before Thomas. Democrats sought to do the same to Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

I also think Jonah Goldberg is right in that even though all of the above is true, there’s still something fundamentally wrong with the attacks on Biden. He writes:

It’s funny. Progressives are quick to defend the customs and mores of non-Western peoples. They celebrate women who wear the hijab. They defend non-traditional cultures at home and traditional cultures abroad. This doesn’t bother me, really.

Indeed, in some cases I often find it admirable and wish more conservatives would do likewise. But what does bother me is how this tolerance tends to be selective. For many progressives, when the practices are usefully at odds with mainstream traditional culture, diversity is wonderful. But when the practices are consistent with or — shudder — reinforcing of traditional culture, progressives are often appalled.

It’s a case of selective hypocrisy from a group of people who aren’t attacking Biden because he’s a creepy louse, but rather, because they perceive him as not being progressive enough for the new democratic-socialist hard left.

Biden’s scandal isn’t a #MeToo moment. It’s a #WhyHim moment for a group of voters who want a radical — not someone perceived as part of the establishment like Hillary Clinton.

Democrats chucked Al Franken to the side because he was easily replaceable in the Senate. Democrats wanted to run on the #MeToo platform, and doing that with someone like Franken made those prospects dim.

But when faced with the same situation in Virginia, Democrats dug in their heels and refused to bow to criticism that their governor and attorney general were either using blackface or dressing up in Klan outfits, while the lieutenant governor was credibly accused of sexual assault.

Biden leads the polls in a highly fragmented Democratic field, which makes a case for him as an uniter amid no-name contenders. But is that enough to convince voters to roll with him instead of any of the other generic Democrats in the field?

This field isn’t comparable to 2016, when Democrats had to choose between Clinton or Bernie Sanders, a socialist who technically has never been a Democrat. There are many choices for 2020.

Biden’s best day in the race might end up being the day he announces, because the field is signaling it is ready to shred him to pieces — which is why his flirtation with running has run longer than anyone else.

Uncle Joe wants the job, but it’s not clear he’s enough of a superstar to outlast his scandals. His only hope is to come out swinging, hitting home runs. Otherwise, voters might discard Biden as quick as they did Jeb! in 2016.

Play ball!


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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.