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USA | Oct 9, 2020

Biden campaign must call on Bill Clinton’s political prowess

/ Our Today

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Joe Biden, candidate for the presidency of the United States. (Business Insider photo)

Now in the home straight, all the polls show Joe Biden has a lead going into the United States presidential election.

 But the polls were wrong back in 2016.

The Joe Biden campaign will want to guard against that happening again and must call on those who have proved successive winners.

To date, Bill Clinton has been inconspicuous, making the odd perfunctory appearance. There is no doubt that the man from Arkansas is a high performing political athlete whose antenna is one of the best in the U.S. arena.

Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, Huma Abbedin et al  didn’t give him a leading role in the 2016 race, some say because his alleged sexual pecadillos would be a turn off for voters and his political acumen just didn’t fit American political campaigning in the 21st Century. That was short -sighted and we all know what happened.

Bill Clinton is a senior statesman in the Democratic Party, having won two terms as president (1992-1996 and 1996-2000) and presiding over the longest period of economic growth in the last quarter of a century. Add to that, his oratorical gifts , charisma and his high favourability with blacks, other minorities  and middle-class whites, it is clear what he brings to the table.

“He knows how to win elections and more often than not he’s underutilised.”

Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko

At 77 and 74 respectively, Biden and Trump are Clinton’s contemporaries. Even now one wouldn’t want to bet against “The Comeback Kid” in a match up against either of them.

As we get older the number of mistakes and scars do mount. But the ability to count on one’s innate talents and to press forward should never be discounted.

“ If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit,” said Clinton.

It is easy to write Bill Clinton off as toxic, yesterday’s man, a detriment to a campaign going up against a national phenomenon who has a galvanised base. Do not forget that Bill Clinton was the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term. He is the man who appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court and oversaw a budget surplus, presiding over booming economic times that many people still remember.

He left office with a very high favourability rating and he is still political box office. His assets far outweigh his shortcomings.

Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko is prescient here when he says of Bill Clinton: “He knows how to win elections and more often than not he’s underutilised.”

Donald Trump has proven to be a political force and his base cannot be dissuaded. It will take the ability to appeal to several demographic groups with a concise message that speaks to the betterment of all Americans’ financial futures and the prosperity and well-being of the country. There aren’t too many who can convey this better than Bill Clinton.

The Joe Biden campaign is playing it safe but that approach never won a fair lady. The message is that Trump is uncouth, out of his depth and is a miscreant. But is that enough to dislodge him? As the campaign draws to a close, the President appears to be growing stronger and closing Biden’s lead. No one can put their hand up and say, ‘Joe Biden has this in the bag’. He needs a compelling message and star power that gets Americans to buy into a better tomorrow.

In this image from video, former President Bill Clinton speaks during the second night of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

This might be the last presidential campaign that sees Clinton suit up and display his obvious talents, but he has to be asked. He doesn’t appear to be the kind of man to push himself uninvited onto what many say is an insipid, uninspiring campaign. The Biden/Harris ticket cannot look to win by default or a technicality.

“Our democracy cannot survive its current downward drift into tribalism, extremism, and seething resentment. Today it’s “us versus them” in America. Politics is little more than blood sport. As a result, our willingness to believe the worst about everyone outside our own bubble is growing and our ability to solve problems and seize opportunities is shrinking. We have to do better. We have honest differences. We need vigorous debates. Healthy skepticism is good. It saves us from being too naïve or too cynical. But it is impossible to preserve democracy when the well of trust runs completely dry,” wrote Clinton.

Here he sums up America today and its journey into darkness. Clinton is somebody, despite what many think are his personal failings, who can push America to be better and to call upon it to find that optimism and humane take on life.

“But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness  but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.

“ As Winston Churchill said on taking office: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future,” said John F. Kennedy in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1960.

Sixty years later, these words would not come as a surprise uttered by Bill Clinton as a surrogate on the hustings.

“ If one candidate is appealing to your fears, and the other one’s appealing to your hopes, you’d better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope,” said Bill Clinton. True that!

Joe, pick up the phone, make that call. It could make the difference.


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