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24 Nov 2020 16:49
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  •   Home > News > International

    Joe Biden is 'decent' but will that be enough to defeat Donald Trump in the US presidential election?

    When you talk to people who have spent time around Joe Biden, including Republicans, there is one word that keeps coming up.

    When you talk to people who have spent time around Joe Biden, including Republicans, there is one word that keeps coming up.

    "He's an extraordinarily decent person," said Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under George W Bush.

    Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator and secretary of defence, said the Democratic presidential candidate was "the most decent, honourable politician I've ever known".

    Mr Biden is "a person with decency", according to Michael Chertoff, former secretary for Homeland Security.

    Few but the most fanatical supporters of US President Donald Trump would dispute Mr Biden's decency, but whether that is enough to win him the election is another matter.

    America is younger and more diverse than ever. Generation Z, those born after 1996, are voting for the first time, and a third of them are non-white.

    In this election, also for the first time, Hispanics will be the largest voting minority, and the Democratic Party's progressive wing is stronger than ever, mobilising around issues such as universal healthcare, the Green New Deal and police reform.

    It is hard to believe that Mr Biden, a life-long centrist who will celebrate his 80th birthday in the White House if he wins, is the man for the moment, or that he will inspire young, progressive voters to head to the ballot box.

    In 2016, antipathy towards Hillary Clinton among people who would otherwise vote for a Democrat suppressed Ms Clinton's vote and helped tip the election Mr Trump's way.

    The Democrats' gamble is that this time around, enough people will rally around yet another establishment figure.

    "How I feel about Joe Biden as a presidential candidate, doesn't matter. That's how I feel. I feel that right now we have a moral obligation to get rid of the most dangerous president this country has ever had," said Moumita Ahmed, an activist who founded Millennials for Bernie Sanders.

    Ms Ahmed not only volunteered for the former Democratic presidential contender, she was so inspired by the progressive icon she tattooed his face on her arm.

    There is not so much enthusiasm for Mr Biden, however. To Ms Ahmed, he is the epitome of establishment politics, offering incremental rather than radical change.

    Still, despite her lack of enthusiasm for the candidate, she is doing her best to get him elected, canvassing in the diverse community of Jamaica, New York.

    "Although Biden is a milquetoast centrist Democrat who's not appealing to people like me, we have a duty to our country and our people, so that's why I'm going to enthusiastically vote for him," she said, punching the air sarcastically.

    The question is how many other progressives will feel the same way.

    'We're all behind Biden'

    Jim Messina, who managed former US president Barack Obama's 2012 campaign, is cautiously optimistic.

    "Democrats are all together because they just hate Trump so much," he said.

    Unlike in 2016, when progressives disappointed that Ms Clinton won the nomination did not vote, progressives are rallying around Mr Biden, even if it means holding their nose.

    "As soon as Biden won [the nomination] there was a sort of universal assumption of, 'OK, we have this fight. We didn't win in the primary. Now we're all behind Biden.' And that's all because of Trump," Mr Messina said.

    So far this coalition seems to be holding. Although no-one can take polling as gospel given its failures in recent elections, virtually every reputable poll is pointing to a decisive victory for Mr Biden.

    According to Patti Solis Doyle, who was Mr Biden's chief of staff during the 2008 campaign, this could pose a challenge when it comes to actually governing.

    "If Joe Biden wins, I do think that there will be a time of compromise and real need to sit down with the party, with the left of the party, the moderates of the party, and come up with a consensus on how to govern," she said.

    First, there is an election to win.

    Sam Nunberg was an adviser to Mr Trump's 2016 campaign. He is no Biden fan, but says his strategy of focusing on Mr Trump's failings is paying off.

    "Donald Trump has become Joe Biden's best surrogate. So Biden made that gamble," Mr Nunberg said.

    "If the President were to win, it would be the most remarkable comeback in American politics and in modern American political history."

    Watch this story tonight on 7.30.

    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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