Yes, of course, Joe Biden could win the 2020 election. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk, but I do think he could win. Here’s how.
I’m going to assume that centrist Republicans who find Trump dangerous will actually vote for Biden. The iffy votes, in my humble opinion, are the far left voters who could vote for third parties, or just not vote. These are the folks who see Biden as just more of the same policies that never really solved anything. Racism persists into 2020, therefore, no traditional politicians could possible change anything. Wars persist, therefore… yada, yada, yada. No traditional politician could actually change anything.
Biden could win by persuading these folks that he’s actually more open to change because he has learned that his middle of the road, keep everyone happy positions haven’t fixed things that need fixing. Although he can’t risk losing Republican votes by agreeing to Medicare for All or the Green New Deal before the election, I think he can truthfully say that health care reform on the Obamacare model will be judged by its success in bending (breaking, perhaps) the cost curve and accomplishing the goal of universal access. Or else other options will be considered.
Biden can admit, prior to the election, that the ‘90s crime bill had unintended consequences that must be addressed. Many Republicans actually agree with this, if only because they don’t want to pay for locking people up for the rest of their lives. Biden and Harris both can talk about learning from experience. Truly, if we as citizens are not willing to honor learning from experience, we have no right to self-government. None of us know the future. We make policy today based on what we know today, based on the crises of the day. We should honor the wisdom of learning from experience. It’s OK to talk about this.
No one knows the secret to making public education work for all. Secretly, I believe the answer is to invest more in families than in schools; school works when families work, IMHO. But in any event, as much as I want our public schools to work for all kids, the fact is that they don’t. School choice of some sort helps families feel invested in education, so a wide array of choice programs, even including charter schools (but not religious schools) should be on the table. In addition to school choice, we must invest in policies that support families in any way possible.
If I were Biden, I wouldn’t rely on the pandemic to ease my way to the White House. Yes, mention it because it illustrates Trump’s inability to actually govern. But why not talk about common sense gun control which has tons of popular support? Talk about the importance of access to birth control in times of uncertainty. Talk about lifting all boats, which Trump has certainly not done. Talk about the importance of child care, which the pandemic has taught us about.
Although I believe climate change is a front and center issue, I don’t believe that Biden needs to talk about it much. The Republicans who are willing to go public about supporting Biden are generally aware of the looming impacts of climate change. That said, it’s possible to focus on unequal impacts of climate change to address concerns of far-left voters without alienating centrist voters. I suppose it would wreck things to support nuclear power, but expressing an openness to all potential solutions to the challenge of climate change while paying attention to differential impacts would be pretty smart.
To sum up, I do think Biden can win. But I think he needs to avoid trapping himself in a corner where he can’t challenge anything the far-left throws at him. Being an actual Liberal who supports free speech, the free press, and the importance of disagreeing publicly and sorting things out via dialogue would reassure me. And I think it’s a winning formula.