A piece published in The Atlantic made the argument this week that the “idea” of former Vice President Joe Biden is enough to defeat President Trump in November and that in order to do so, Biden would simply have to “stay alive.”
“Democrats need little from the front-runner beyond his corporeal presence,” Atlantic contributing writer Alex Wagner wrote on Tuesday in a piece titled “Stay Alive, Joe Biden.”
Wagner suggested that Democratic voters are so eager to oust Trump that Biden’s ongoing campaign has less weight than his decades-old familiarity.
“Voters seem to have coalesced around Biden for his past — who they have known him to be for the past four decades in American politics — rather than for anything in his present. It’s as if Biden exists primarily as an idea, rather than an actual candidate,” Wagner wrote. “Democrats have chosen Biden as their vessel for Trump’s defeat, and that choice is the entire point: The vanquishing matters more than anything else.”
She went on to make the case that the coronavirus effect on the 2020 election shouldn’t weaken Biden’s campaign as long as his team keeps the former vice president “alive in the American imagination.”
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“Biden’s team appears to understand this, and to believe that what matters most now is keeping their candidate alive in the American imagination as an alternative to Trump,” Wagner explained. “His appearances these days have an almost parallel-universe quality to them: Biden’s audience-less remarks from his home in Delaware have the suggestion of an Oval Office address, and their content seems intended to offer a glimpse into the twilight zone where someone else, someone more empathetic and capable, is president. It’s as if Biden is telegraphing to his public: You have already imagined that I can beat Trump; now imagine what it will be like when I am president.”
She continued: “For the foreseeable future, there will be no more speeches in front of hundreds, or lines of people waiting to shake Biden’s hand. There may not even be the glossy fanfare of a convention with a primetime address. But, truthfully, all those things were always sort of beside the point… Biden was never really convincing anyone on the stump — his political power at this point is an idea, held collectively, about how to defeat Trump. The work now is to keep that idea convincing enough, for long enough, among as many people as possible, for the corporeal man to actually win.”
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The piece raised eyebrows on social media, including Sen. Bernie Sanders’ surrogate Shaun King.
“They really said the quiet part out loud here. ‘Stay Alive, Joe Biden’ is the actual title of the article in which they say all he needs to do is stay alive and be a warm body in the room. This is not OK,” King wrote on Twitter.
“Now this is inspiring!” The Intercept editor Glenn Greenwald wrote.
“Talk about grading on a curve,” New Statesman editor Jeremy Cliffe tweeted.