Opinion

Renée Graham

Joe Biden? Not so fast

Photo illustration by Globe Staff; Adobe; AP
Globe Staff/Adobe/AP

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Actually, let me say it for you, Mr. Biden — you don’t really believe you’re the only person who can beat President Trump in 2020, do you?

With the former vice president’s likely blessing, that’s the message his allies are spreading, though Biden has yet to say whether he’ll make another bid for the White House.

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Of course, while Biden is supposedly making up his mind, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is already meeting and greeting enthusiastic throngs across Iowa. Biden’s proxies are trying to siphon off some of that spotlight by predicting that he would be more than just another high-profile contender in what’s anticipated to be a crowded Democratic field.

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“He has the best chance of beating Trump, hands down,” Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, a longtime Biden buddy, recently told The New York Times. “On a scale of 1 to 10, that’s probably about a 12 for us.

“Us”? Who is “us”?

This is more than skewed math. It’s willfully ignorant of recent history. Last November’s midterms weren’t merely the conclusion of another election cycle. It was a defiant mandate that Democrats want diverse and progressive representation, not just the same revolving door of old white guys.

Just ask former congressmen Michael Capuano of Massachusetts and Joe Crowley of New York, longtime Democratic stalwarts dethroned last year by Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, respectively, both dynamic women of color. As incumbents who benefited from years of voter inertia, they never saw it coming.

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Biden and his backers can’t say the same. With so much political upheaval and hunger for change, it’s foolish to assume Biden is not only a lock for the nomination — something which has eluded him more than once — but also the person destined to fix the country and make Donald Trump a one-term president.

In early polls, Biden is the Democratic front-runner. Of course, after 2016 and the recent midterms, I trust polls as much as I trust a Sarah Huckabee Sanders press briefing. Still, for what it’s worth, Biden holds a sizable lead over Senator Bernie Sanders, who also hasn’t announced a 2020 presidential bid. (Just a friendly reminder here that the Vermont senator is an Independent. In 2016, Sanders was a cosplay Democrat.)

Lurking in the single digits with Warren are Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker, all touted as potential presidential contenders. Except for Warren, none have made it official. At this point, it’s like a phantom primary.

Biden claims he’s “the most qualified person in the country to be president.” As a former vice president and longtime senator, Biden has enviable credentials. And I will admit that, despite my initial misgivings when Barack Obama selected Biden as his running mate in 2008, the former Delaware senator turned out to be an administration asset.

That was before our political landscape was attacked by Trump’s cretinous, criminal presidency.

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It’s not just that many haven’t forgiven Biden for his support of the odious 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which sparked still-historic mass incarceration rates; his vote for war in Iraq; or his disastrous mishandling of the Clarence Thomas hearing, in which he allowed Anita Hill to be treated more like a defendant than a witness.

When Biden promotes himself as the only person who can win the White House, he’s pushing the idea that the only way to stop a bad white man as president is with a good white man as president. It’s a siren call to those white voters who went all-in on Trump — here’s a comfortable alternative whose gender, race, or ethnicity won’t challenge their racist and sexist beliefs.

A wave of women and people of color transformed the House, now the most diverse in American history. Biden discounts this movement at his own risk. It’s just the beginning in a nation where change and inclusivity must supersede yet another white man proclaiming, “I alone can fix it.”

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.