Biden’s ‘coalition’ is not Obama’s


Chalk it up to whatever you want — an overly-involved DNC, a belief in his electability, maybe even a passion for his policies — whatever the reason, former Vice President Joe Biden had a very good night Tuesday.

What looked like a campaign on the edge of collapse just a few weeks ago now seems to have the privilege of being the one to beat. Michigan, a state that gave Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hopes in 2016 and became a big moment for his campaign in 2020, fell into Biden’s hands more easily than MSNBC ever could have hoped. As for the other big prizes on the so-called “Second Super Tuesday,” voters in Mississippi and Missouri absolutely trounced Bernie in favor of the former VP, as Bernie once again failed to match Biden’s appeal to African American voters and more moderate white voters outside city centers.

All these happenings have some in the mainstream media pushing their latest narrative — that Joe Biden is reassembling the so-called “Obama coalition” of working-class white and African-American voters that drove the 44th president to victory in 2008 and to reelection in 2012.

It’s an interesting thought, and one not entirely without grounding. Joe Biden was, after all, President Obama’s guy (regardless of his eulogizing Sen. Robert Byrd, who was an organizer for the KKK as a young man). One would imagine that, with similar policies, he’d appeal to the same general types of voters.

However, something that many in the media tend to miss — a lot — is the idea of context. No statement, fact, or finding exists independently of the world around it. And here, the context of the “Obama coalition” support lies in something, I argue, which Biden lacks.

President Obama was able to appeal to a broad swath of the electorate in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis largely because he crafted a narrative that his policy commitments were in the best interests of the working middle class. Even more, his campaign (both times around) was able to successfully align his Republican opponent with the interests of big business that would threaten the stability of noble working-class jobs. This was a president, people thought, who would work against bad policy decisions of the past establishment to bring about a new era of “hope and change.”

Joe, simply, is not like this.

Trade deals unfair to U.S. workers barely show up in any of Biden’s public statements, coherent or otherwise. The commitment to protect struggling American industries like coal mining and steel manufacturing and to enact policies to make them thrive is notably absent from Biden’s campaign. Even Joe Biden himself is a product of the establishment, something Bernie voters and Trump voters both understand as abhorrent. With the DNC and candidates for president throwing wholehearted support to Biden before the most important races, it’s hard to understand this guy as anything less than an establishment puppet.

All of these things, just as they were in 2016 when tied to Hillary Clinton, are stances that the working middle class distrust.

Then-candidate Trump was able to pluck away at components of the “Obama coalition” with his insistence on doing right by the American worker in trade and industrial policy both at home and abroad. In many ways, he had to buck the GOP establishment to stand for these policies as a Republican — and in that, the people saw a leader committed to their well-being over party doctrine: a prime example of the “hope and change” President Obama had promised.

It is in these broader contexts that coalitions form. In 2016, Donald Trump showed the context of the “Obama coalition” to be one fundamentally built on the economic security of the working middle class. Around this general policy outlook — a commitment to preventing the ravages of globalization from affecting middle class jobs — different sets of voters join in supporting a candidate of their common interest. And without this grounding for his campaign, Biden is trying to reuse a script without understanding any of its meaning.

Simply, there is no way Biden will have anywhere close to the pure and enthusiastic support Obama could generate.

But that’s what happens when your party’s identity is centered around hating Donald Trump.

Maybe they’ll learn; maybe not. But if I were to guess, the “Obama coalition” may soon need to change its name.

Corey R. Lewandowski is President Trump’s former campaign manager and a senior adviser to the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign. He is a senior adviser to the Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pences political action committee. He is co-author with David Bossie of “Trump’s Enemies” and of “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency.” Follow him on Twitter @CLewandowski_.

Tags African American vote Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Biden 2020 campaign Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Michigan primary Mike Pence Obama coalition Super Tuesday working class

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