I previously made the argument statistically of how Biden won, but let's also address How he did it, and why he was a better candidate than Hillary was in 2016
"A recent Morning Consult/Politico poll found 35 percent of voters view Biden very unfavorably, compared with 43 percent who said the same of Democrat Hillary Clinton in August 2016. The starkest difference in views — a gap of 20 percentage points — came among independents: 31 percent said they had a “very unfavorable” view of Biden, while 51 percent viewed Clinton very unfavorably around the same time four years ago."
-Morning Consult, 8/11/2020
Well, there is your easy answer folks. Voters just did not like Hillary Clinton at all, especially nonpartisan voters. The same article mentioned that "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Clinton remain the most reviled leading Democratic figures among voters." We give a lot of credit to Trump for winning in 2016, but do we blame Hillary Clinton enough? I should mention, part of the Trump strategy was to do just that, tear Clinton apart, and they did an exceptional job of it. I'm just saying they had an innate advantage from the get go, which was that Hillary has just never been a candidate voters could feel warm and fuzzy about. Hillary was the why, let's dive into the how.
I'm going for the easy answer again here, and do to so so, let's look into how Bernie Sanders felt about Hillary Clinton in 2016.
"Bernie Sanders is standing by his criticism that Hillary Clinton isn’t “qualified” to be president as the Democratic presidential candidates engage in an increasingly heated battle ahead of the New York primary."
In April of 2016, he didn't appear to be a fan. "Unqualified to be President" was one pretty big claim, and something Sanders supporters likely felt as well. So how did Bernie feel about Biden when he ran against him in 2020?
"Sanders told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it would be “irresponsible” for his supporters to sit back and see “the most dangerous president in modern American history” reelected "My job now is to not only rally my supporters, but to do everything I can to bring the party together to see that (Trump) is not elected president,” Sanders said."
-NBC News, 4/05/2020
There is is. Bernie Sanders in 2016: The Democrat Nominee is "Unqualified." Then, Bernie Sanders in 2020: "It would be irresponsible to sit back and see" (Trump elected). That's a big change of heart considering he lost the nomination both times. So in April of 2016 we have a nomination process playing out deep into campaign season, but in 2020, we have a Democrats nominee months earlier than 2016, and one Bernie is encouraging support for, something that was NOT the case in 2020. That's a lot less time to spend debating someone's electability, and a lot more time to spend promoting it.
A United Platform
The Green Party was on the ballot in 2016, and 2020. In 2016, Jill Stein got over one million votes, including key margins in some critical swing states. While it's possible that those voters were never going to vote for Clinton anyway, there is no debating that the Green Party aligns closer with Democrats than Republicans. In other words, people voting for Jill Stein, at the very least, were people who should have been voting for Hillary Clinton.
"In 2016, the Green party candidate Jill Stein face heavy criticism in the wake of Clinton’s loss to Trump. Nationwide 1,449,370 people voted for Stein, but crucially she received significant votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – each of which Trump narrowly won. If Hillary Clinton had won those three states, she would have been president."
-The Guardian, 8/14/2020
While I mentioned the Green Party was again on the ballot, it is worth noting that they were on the ballot in 14 less states than they were in 2016 (30 to 44). This means their signature gathering efforts were not as strong as before. Was Jill Stein just an incredible candidate who garnered more enthusiasm than the 2020 nominee, Howie Hawkins? Maybe. As I usually do, I like to go straight to the voters for questions like these.
"Bernie Sanders didn't win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, Silvia Machado and Patrick Gibbons voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in protest. Four years later, the couple is still passionate about the Vermont Senator's progressive agenda. But they're open to voting for the relatively centrist Joe Biden if that's what it takes to defeat Donald Trump."
-NBC News 4/15/2020
Sounds like Machado and Gibbons changed their tune between 16 and 20. Notice that those two were "passionate" about Bernie, i.e. not Jill Stein. Their vote for Stein had little to do with the Green Party. It, like many others, was a protest vote against Hillary and the DNC. So how bad did it get? Let's just ask ultra liberal progressive actress and "activist" Susan Sarandon shall we?
“The DNC is gone and we need a progressive party,” Sarandon said in defense of her support for Jill Stein. “It’s completely corrupt,” said Sarandon about the DNC, “In bed with every super delegate is a lobbyist.”
That article in Salon was FOUR...count em...FOUR days before the 2016 election! And here she is telling people NOT to vote for the candidate who could beat Trump. She even suggested that electing Trump would be a well deserved middle finger to Hillary Clinton and National Democrats.
“In a famous case of befuddlement, left-wing actress Susan Sarandon in 2016 even suggested that a Trump presidency might prove more beneficial to the left than a Hillary Clinton presidency.”
You just can't write this stuff folks. In 2016, Bernie Sanders, AOC, and famous actresses like Sarandon were not out there pushing Hillary Clinton. Democrats had no unity, they were splintered, and, as Bloomberg put it, "Many Sanders supporters never cottoned to Clinton; it’s possible that disgruntled Sanders supporters cost Democrats the 2016 election."
2020 - Democratic Unity
So what did Biden and Democrats do differently in 2020 than they did with Hillary in 2016?They invited Bernie Sanders and his friends to the table, and they did it early!
“Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday named the co-chairs and members of their joint task forces meant to shore up Democratic Party unity ahead of November’s general election. The announcement follows through on a pledge the two men made last month — when Sanders, the runner-up in the Democratic presidential primary, endorsed Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee — to establish working groups to advise the Biden campaign on six key policy areas: climate change, criminal justice reform, economy, education, health care, and immigration.”
No one gives the Democrats or Biden's team credit for how hard they worked. Yes, he stayed in a bunker...but let's be honest...in hindsight how many of you Trump folks wish that Trump himself had stayed in a bunker and had his Twitter taken away? You may not have seen much of Biden, but his team was hard at work, building, recruiting, and uniting.
“The task forces’ membership consists of a stable of prominent Democratic leaders and public policy experts, but its most notable appointee is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive New York congresswoman and superstar of the party’s left wing who backed Sanders during the primary contest.....Since Sanders’ exit from the White House race, however, Ocasio-Cortez has all but formally endorsed Biden”
The Biden team, and the DNC, learned from their mistakes in 2016. They seemed to care a lot more about 2020, and they went all in. And the key was doing it early. You didn't have Susan Sarandon bashing the DNC, you had Bernie encouraging our friends that I quoted earlier, Silvia and Patrick, to vote for Biden. You had Bernie and AOC helping Biden craft policy! Sanders supporters who gave Hillary the finger in 2016 had a reason to support Biden in 2020.
“The left was anything but excited about Clinton. It often seems blasé about Biden.....The left’s two most prominent champions are offering bracing clarity, framing the stakes of 2020 in the starkest existential terms.....Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders are betting that those supporters who are spectators to the political contest, with no home team to root for, care enough about the game itself to come off the sidelines.”
It wasn't just Bernie, AOC flew all over the country doing the same. So we didn't just have one individual from the far left, we had the two biggest names. Bernie, AOC, and "The Squad" must have done something like a hundred campaign events. While I looked all over the internet for the actual number of Biden events featuring AOC or Bernie, I couldn't find it, but it's safe to say it was a lot. That being said, it was a lot more than 2016. It was early, it was often, and it was united. Democrats had what they needed, which was the same thing they lacked in 2016, a united front behind their nominee.
While the DNC was busy bringing their factions together and doing it early, Donald Trump was doing the opposite. He was busy bashing John McCain in the swing state of Arizona, where McCain was beloved, saying he was not a war hero. He was busy picking fights with Ben Sasse, who is a top ten rated Senator from the American Conservative Union. He hammered on Republicans like Senator Lisa Murkowski, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and South Carolina Congressman Tom Rice. In the end, he even went as far as to deter people from voting in the critical US Senate races in Georgia. Say what you want, but this was the opposite strategy Democrats took in 2020, and a BIG reason they were able to take down Trump.