Seven a million more votes was hardly enough. If 45,000 had gone backwards in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, Donald Trump would remain president. Calls to withdraw the funds to the police nearly cost Joe Biden the victory and led to a loss of more than a dozen seats for House Democrats.
Biden had “separated himself from the orthodoxies of his party base,” but “had no warm skirts,” write Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. As always, culture counts, even in the midst of a pandemic.
But “Unwoke Joe,” as the authors call him, was the only Democrat whose empathy and instincts matched the demands of the time. Lucky is a fitting title for Allen and Parnes’ third book.
“In 2016, Trump had needed everything to go wrong for Hillary Clinton to win,” they write. “This time, Biden caught every imaginable break.”
Their joint vision for Biden is a prism and scorecard that provides a greater understanding of the seemingly endless war of 2020. Allen is a veteran political writer at digital NBC News, Parnes reports for Hill. They deliver.
Subtitled How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency, Lucky is the first full-length campaign autopsy. It makes the silent parts of the conversation audible and reminds the reader that the past is always with us.
The authors convey the cultural dimensions of Biden’s victory. He was a northeastern politician of yesteryear who repeatedly witnessed personal tragedies. For so long in the Senate, he prided himself on his ability to compromise and cross the aisle, a trait Allen and Parnes report provoked the scorn of Elizabeth Warren.
Biden also sought to maintain a “close relationship with the police and the civil rights community,” in his own words. It was no accident that South Carolina emerged as Biden’s firewall in the primaries, or that James Clyburn, a 15-term congressman and the House’s highest-ranking black member, was instrumental in pulling Biden out of a deep hole.
After the election, Clyburn attributed the poor performance of the Democrats to the decision to defund the police and the mantras of the left.
“I’ve always said that these headlines can end a political effort,” he told NBC. Just in case, Clyburn added: “Sometimes I have real problems trying to figure out what progressive means.”
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seem out of sync. We are told that Clinton, the “vampire in the bullpen,” was harboring thoughts of another career, until the end of 2019.
The fact that Clinton lost in 2008 and 2016 had not totally weakened his ability to believe that he could unify party and country. Lucky captures Biden in 2016, calling the former secretary of state a “horrible candidate” who failed to communicate what she really stood for.
Unlike Clinton, Biden understood that simply contrasting with Trump would not be enough. Yet Clinton saw that the 2020 Democratic nominee, whoever he was, would be in a fight for “the very soul of the nation.” Charlottesville provided that epiphany for Biden.
Obama is not doing too well either, a friend of his vice president on several occasions, too concerned with protecting his own legacy. He was wrong on some very important things. Biden was more attractive and viable than the 44th president and his clique thought.
According to the authors’ account, Obama was temporarily in love with Beto O’Rourke. Like Kamala Harris, the candidacy of the former Texas congressman ended before the first primaries. For both, stardom didn’t translate into staying power.
Then at an event with black corporate leaders in the fall of 2019Obama expanded Warren’s chances and spoke ill of Pete Buttigieg, then mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Obama reportedly said: “He is the mayor of a small town. He’s gay and short. “Unlike Buttigieg, Warren never won a primary. He also finished third in Massachusetts, his own state.
As for Biden, one source describes Obama’s support as “tepid at best.” Obama tacitly endorsed Biden just days before Super Tuesday in March. Months later, he took time to congratulate Biden on his election victory.
Biden’s supposed “brother” didn’t call him “on Election Day, not the next day, not the next day, not the next,” according to Allen and Parnes. Obama waited until Saturday, November 7, “the day the networks finally called elections.” The audacity of caution.
Synchronously, the authors find space for the Biden campaign to unleash on Andrew Cuomo and his ability to stoke his own ego. The New York Governor’s five-minute convention speech devoted only its last eight seconds to the nominee.
“They put his speech on our door, set it on fire, rang the doorbell and then fled,” says a campaign informant. To think about, in December the press reported that Cuomo was a contender for attorney general.
Lucky is nothing if his eyes are not clear. Trump stirred the nation’s waters, but failed to achieve a decisive change in his policy. It energized and polarized the electorate along class and education lines.
College-educated white suburbanites became more Democratic, while Republicans, once John Cheever’s country club party was established, had become home to four-year-old untitled white voters. In other words, November 3 yielded a result, not a resolution.
At Trump’s instigation, our semi-civil war turned hot and bloody. It was not antifa, but an armed segment of Trump’s base that stormed the US Capitol.The January 6 insurrection claimed lives, ruined others, and brought the Confederate flag into the halls of Congress – a chilling first time.
Democracy and process prevailed. The constitutional architecture “stood firm.” But for how long?
As Allen and Parnes observe: “It has been said that luck is the residue of design. It was for Joe Biden and for the republic. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism