Joe Biden's last stand

Voters in New Hampshire head to the polls tomorrow to choose among the Democrats who hope to unseat Donald Trump in November. In the process, they may decide the fate of Joe Biden, the man many people once thought had the best chance of doing that.

Biden's case to voters: His role as Barack Obama's vice president, established political brand, decades of political experience, centrist reputation, and ability to speak authentically to working class voters in the midwestern states that were crucial for Trump's 2016 victory make him the best choice to beat Trump in 2020.


The first test of that case came last week in Iowa, a state where 31 of 99 counties had voted for Obama and then flipped to Trump. These were supposed to be the working class folks that Democrats needed to win back from the GOP. Surely Biden was the man for the job.

In reality, Biden won exactly one of those 31 counties. One. About two-thirds of them went to 37-year old Pete Buttigieg, a man whose political experience is limited to two terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Another handful of counties went for Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.

Look more closely at those Iowa counties. Who would vote for Obama and then Trump? Maybe someone who rejects the entire political establishment in favor of something wholly new. The first African-American president, followed by a celebrity real estate tycoon who had never run for office.

This outsider's appeal is not just an American story these days. Consider the global backdrop for this election. Since Trump won in 2016, we've seen…

  • France elect a president who'd never before run for office, and who created a brand new political party of his own just a year before the election.
  • Germany make the far-right AfD the country's largest opposition bloc and the Greens the fastest-rising party on the left.
  • Italy elect a protest group founded by a comedian and a former separatist party.
  • Mexico elect a president leading a party he invented four years before the election.
  • Brazil elect a formerly little known far-right lawmaker from a party that held a single seat in Congress.
  • Ukraine reject the incumbent president and a former prime minister in favor of a guy who played the president on a TV show.
  • And voters in Ireland last weekend break the century-long stranglehold of two centrist parties by awarding the most votes to a party with past links to a terrorist organization.

In a world where voters are rejecting the entire political establishment, Joe Biden has been in politics for 50 years.

Maybe New Hampshire voters will put him onto the path toward a political turnaround. Or maybe we should question what it means to be "electable" in 2020.

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We've written recently about how the COVID-19 pandemic will hit poorer countries particularly hard. But the burden of the virus' spread also falls more heavily on working class people even in wealthy countries, particularly in Europe and the United States. This is exacerbating the divide between rich and poor that had already upended the political establishment in countries around the world even before anyone had heard of a "novel coronavirus."

Why?

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Meet Mark Wetton, a Kentucky-based businessman who owns a dust-collection factory in Wuhan. He has been there since the beginning of the outbreak, and describes the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak there, life in lockdown, and what things are like today as the city finally begins to reopen its borders and come back to life. He also shares some lessons learned that he hopes Americans will heed.

The coronavirus is likely to hit poorer countries particularly hard, but it is also laying a bigger burden on working class people even in wealthy ones. As less affluent people suffer disproportionately not only from the disease, but also from the economic costs of containing it, we can expect a worsening of income inequalities that have already upended global politics over the past few years. Here is a look at inequality in some of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 so far.

500 million: The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could plunge 500 million people into poverty, according to a new report released by Oxfam. As incomes and economies continue to contract, global poverty will increase for the first time in 30 years, the report predicts, undermining many of the gains of globalization that have pulled millions out of poverty in recent years.

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