Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

Navarrette: COVID-19 claims latest victim: Joe Biden's presidential hopes

  • Updated
  • Comments
Where's Biden?

Politics is a visual art. During a crisis, elected officials can be wrong, reckless or foolish. They can be clowns, bullies or punchlines for late-night comedians. They just can’t be absent. They have to be in public view. They can’t be in hiding.

That’s good news for Donald Trump, a clown and bully who seems to have a natural gift for being wrong, reckless and foolish on his way to becoming a punchline. And it is bad news for Joe Biden, who appears to have enrolled in the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program.

Never mind, Waldo. Where’s Joe?

When you’re putting on a mask and gloves in order to brave a trip to the grocery store, you’re not going to look fondly upon those who are safely tucked away. When you have to ride the New York subway to get to your job, or venture into the dusty fields of Central California to pick melons, you’re not going to have a lot of patience for those who play it safe by not showing up for work.

Look, I understand that a 77-year-old former vice president is in the high-risk group for COVID-19. We all want to protect our elderly from a virus that seems to target senior citizens like a heat-seeking missile.

But my parents are 77 and 78, and do you know another way I protect them? I don’t let them run for president.

Trump’s daily White House briefings are regular trips to Crazytown. But at least the president boarded the train. A lot of voters will give him credit for being out in front, being decisive, and being on top of the war against the virus.

This may include Latinos, who surely win the prize for the most unlikely group of Trump supporters in America. Latinos represent one of the first groups Trump ever insulted when he entered politics. In June 2015, when he descended the escalator at Trump Tower and declared that he was running for president, he jazzed up his base of mostly white voters by telling them Mexico is “not sending their best” but instead purging those who are “bringing drugs ... bringing crime.” What followed was one slight and slap after another intended to put Latinos — America’s largest minority — in their place.

The 2020 election was supposed to be a chance to get even. Part of the narrative that drove the historic presidential bid of Julian Castro was that the former San Antonio Mayor and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was perfectly cast to play the “Latino Avenger.” But Castro’s candidacy never took hold with Latinos, who preferred Bernie Sanders. And when Sanders dropped out of the race, Latinos found themselves saddled with the one 2020 Democratic hopeful they never warmed up to: Joe Biden.

That was the interesting dynamic during the final innings of the Sanders-Biden matchup: Sanders did well with Latinos but poorly with African Americans. Biden flipped that.

It’s no wonder Latinos don’t like Biden. The former vice president never dealt fully and honestly with the fact he spent eight years as the right hand of President Obama, who divided thousands of families and deported a record number of people — most of them Latino. During the campaign, when a young Latino activist recited that record to Biden, the Democrat essentially told the kid to buzz off and go vote for Trump.

As you wish. In a national survey by Latino Decisions, just 49% of Latino registered voters would cast their ballot for Biden. Another 10% say they are undecided but leaning toward backing the former vice president. Only 17% say they back Trump, with another 6% undecided but leaning toward backing the president. Eighteen percent are flat-out undecided, not leaning either way.

As the dominant issue in this election, COVID-19 has to be a factor. The same poll found that among Latinos — who are getting infected and dying in disproportionate numbers — more than 65% have lost their jobs or suffered a significant drop in income as a result of the virus.

The poll also found that 45% of Latinos think Trump has done a good job of handling the crisis, and 47% believe he provides clear and helpful information.

At first glance, these figures would seem to be nothing to brag about. But, in politics, when someone is carving this deep into a group of voters the other party sees as a core constituency, strange things can happen.

Like a bunch of previously anti-Trump voters helping to reelect Trump.

Recommended for You

— Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group. Email

Today's Bible verse

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

Featured Businesses