It seems pretty clear Joe Biden is going to run for president, joining the roughly Graham's Number of declared Democratic candidates so far. As a former vice president, Biden is now part of the global oligarchy, complete with preposterous speaking fees and an extensive entourage, and from that perspective one last run for president probably sounds like a topping idea.
But it will be hard, and possibly catastrophic for his reputation. If he knows what is good for him, Biden shouldn't run.
The most immediate problem for Biden personally is that he has #MeToo written all over him. As my colleague Matthew Walther writes, there are already vast compilations of footage of him being far too handsy with women in public settings. Even if nothing worse comes out, just what is publicly known will make it harder to run against Trump's extensive record of alleged sexual assault.
Setting personal history aside, Biden's actual policy record is probably almost as big of a potential problem. The Democratic Party has shifted markedly to the left over the last decade, as the consequences of the party's policy record from the mid-1970s to 2008 have become clear. The financial crisis made Wall Street deregulation seem like the catastrophic error it in fact was, clockwork police shootings of unarmed African-Americans have shown the enormous harms of the war on crime, the skyrocketing burden of student loans has demonstrated the folly of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, and so on.
This turn is to a great extent a response to Biden's very career, because he was personally involved in almost every bad policy decision of the last 40 years. He pushed the party away from civil rights, starting his career with George Wallace-style duplicitous fearmongering about school integration. Here's an excerpt from a 1975 interview:
The new integration plans being offered are really just quota-systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with; what it says is, "in order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son." That's racist! [Biden, via Congressional Record]
I dunno, I could think of more racist things than that, like the terror-enforced Jim Crow caste system that segregationists like Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) worked to protect. Biden, naturally, eulogized Thurmond in 2003.
Biden was a major engine behind mass incarceration, constantly whipping up fear of crime, demanding harsher sentences, and writing bills to that effect. "I don't care why someone is a malefactor in society," he said in a 1993 speech. As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, "He wasn’t trying to compromise with the Republicans. This was actually an attempt to get to the right of Republicans."
As a loyal toady of the large corporations (especially finance, insurance, and credit cards) that put their headquarters in Delaware because its suborned government allows them to evade regulations in other states, Biden voted for repeated rounds of deregulation in multiple areas and helped roll back anti-trust policy — often siding with Republicans in the process. He was a key architect of the infamous 2005 bankruptcy reform bill which made means tests much more strict and near-impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy.
He also voted for the most idiotic foreign policy blunder in American history — namely the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Then there is the fact that Biden is not very good at campaigning. He's infamously gaffe-prone — which made for an amusing contrast with the preternaturally-controlled Obama, but is also a big part of why both his previous campaigns for president flamed out almost immediately.
Biden currently enjoys the glow from the Obama era, which for all its major flaws was at least not nearly as bad as what we are experiencing under Trump. But if he becomes an official contender, candidates from all sides are going to tear into his hide. Opposition researchers are going to dig up whatever they can find on his personal foibles, and his Democratic competitors are going to savage his record on the war on crime and Wall Street. Elizabeth Warren in particular is guaranteed to attack him over the bankruptcy bill, which she correctly predicted at the time was going to be a disaster.
It's not going to be pretty. If I were him, I'd sit back and enjoy the most comfortable retirement that could possibly be imagined.