Ridin’ with Biden for the sake of Americans

  • Wayne Sussman
In the run-up to the United States elections, nuance is something rare and exotic. I speak to family and friends in key American swing states, and they are shell-shocked by the outrage and animus on the airwaves, on news networks, and in the papers.
by WAYNE SUSSMAN | Oct 15, 2020

The adverts that attack President Donald Trump and his Republican Party or Vice-President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party don’t soften or let up, they harden and increase. The vitriol and anger keeps going up a notch.

Before seeing the impact of this election on us on the southern tip of Africa, let’s do something my late father always taught me: to not just negate and dismiss the other side, to not just attack your competition, but understand what makes them popular, and why they are a success.

In 2016, Trump, a reality TV star and alleged business titan, used his fame from The Apprentice and his telegenic artistry to dismantle Republican blue-blood and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the youthful Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican primaries.

Both he and Senator Ted Cruz, a right-wing evangelical, ripped through the establishment of the party. What propelled Trump over the line was his ability to activate white, working class, non-college educated voters.

These were the voters who were let down by Barack Obama and by George W Bush, and the voters who were seeing their jobs shipped off to Mexico and to China. They included voters who felt that they were being pushed to the back of the queue, and others who felt that their culture was being mocked by liberal elites.

Trump found a new market of voters and on election night in 2016, shocked himself and the world with the most unlikely of victories to win the Electoral College and become president.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate in 2016, also gave Trump a helping hand in that election. She failed to campaign in the swing state of Wisconsin, a state which rejected her during the 2016 Democratic primary.

In September 2016, she also infamously referred to Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables”, and said that half of Trump’s supporters were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic”.

“Rule number 3” in politics is that you never attack voters. Even though Trump’s Manhattan values are way out of sync with his base in Pennsylvania and Florida, Trump has delivered when it comes to appointing conservative justices to the United States Supreme Court.

In November 1972, Biden became the second youngest person to ever be elected to the Senate, representing the tiny state of Delaware. A few weeks later, tragedy would strike when his wife, Nelia, and daughter, Amy, were killed in a car accident.

Biden would go to work in Washington DC and take the train back to put his boys to bed each night, to be there for his family. Biden also stutters.

There was a heart rending segment during the Democratic primaries where Biden met a young boy who stuttered, and gave him advice on how to work through this impediment.

It then transpired that there are hundreds of kids with stutters across the country who Biden personally checks in on and to this day, coaches and guides.

Biden has always played up his links to Scranton, Pennsylvania, a town which embodies working class America. He has positioned himself as someone who has working class credentials and is an ally of the economically depressed communities of the country.

Tragedy would again strike Biden when his son, Beau Biden, succumbed to brain cancer. Beau was seen as Joe’s heir apparent in Delaware politics, and a future star of the Democratic Party. The grief over Beau’s passing ruled out Joe’s challenge to Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Bernie Sanders loomed large in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primary. The Jewish socialist Vermont senator had a bitter duel with Clinton in 2016, but has a much more cordial relationship with Biden. This is part of Biden’s appeal. The man might be closing in on 78, he might make gaffes, but he is immensely likeable. He appeals to traditional African American voters, and he appeals to Sanders’ supporters. He also appeals to the coastal elites and has standing in the forgotten post-industrial towns of America. Especially concerning for the Republican party, he appeals to older voters, a group which has reliably voted Republican in the past few elections.

Independents, especially middle-class, suburban, female voters, also favour him. The final element of the Biden coalition is moderate Republicans who are willing to hold their nose and vote blue this time.

Africa in general and South Africa in particular haven’t featured much in this campaign. COVID-19, Russia, China, the economy, and jobs are far more important to American voters than our country and continent.

However, I’m reminded of a video which has been doing the rounds again in 2020. In 1986, Biden addressed a Senate committee meeting and spoke out in opposition to apartheid and in favour of majority rule in South Africa. He challenged the Reagan administration, and lambasted Republicans for not being on the right side of history. Biden famously said, “Our loyalty isn’t to South Africa, it’s to South Africans. And the South Africans are majority black.”

I think this video speaks volumes about Biden and his commitment to our country. Biden has a 34-year track record of supporting our country and all the people who live in it.

However, what’s probably more important to consider is the welfare of America itself. I don’t think the country can continue to hold up to the continued divisions, the pulling apart, the ongoing derision of the other side.

Division has been a good tactic for Trump. It helped to propel him to the highest office in the land. It helped to energise a section of the population which felt left out, but the American people can’t continue be the playthings of his electoral success.

America needs someone who will take seriously the threat of COVID-19, who will listen to the scientists and public-health experts. America needs someone who can reach out across the aisle and understand the hopes and aspirations of his side, but at the same time the fears and concerns of the other side.

America needs someone who can lead and inspire inner city African American youth, unemployed machinists in Michigan, new Latino immigrants, and older, retired Americans who are worried that they won’t have access to medical care.

That answer in this election is Biden.

  • Wayne Sussman writes on elections for ‘Daily Maverick’. He also has a weekly spot on Charisse Zeifert’s ‘Board Talk’ on ChaiFM on Fridays just after 12:00, where he analyses the US elections.


  1. 2 Geoff levy 16 Oct
    Realize that a vote for a 78 year old Biden could in reality be a vote for Kamala Harris who is perceived as being as far left as one can be in American politics.

  2. 1 miranda 16 Oct
    lets see your article again on nov 4 


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