Joe Biden Has Been Making His Own Luck

And he’s not throwing away his Top Shot.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

1. American Rescue Plan

Amie Parnes and Jon Allen have written an insider’s account of Biden’s path to the presidency titled, “Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won The Presidency.” The premise of their tome is true in the narrow sense. Like anyone who rises to the presidency, Joe Biden caught a few breaks, of course. And yes, thanks to the quirks of the electoral college, Biden’s victory was a squeaker, even though his popular vote margin was the second largest of the 2000s. 

But as he is poised to sign into law a massive, legacy-defining COVID relief package that will, among other things, fund the vaccine surge that will ensure every desiring adult will be jabbed by May, well ahead of the pace he inherited. I feel compelled to point out that we got here thanks to luck that Joe Biden made for himself, and for all of us. 

In November of 2017 Joe Biden did an interview with Peter Hamby of Snapchat and Vanity Fair during which he laid out what a campaign that he didn’t exactly want to run would be premised on. Hamby summed up the Biden message as one about how “a certain set of ideals tether us together as Americans, and that above all else, character counts.” 

This was...not the prevailing view about the state of the country or the path to victory among the other Democratic candidates, strategists, or left wing pundits. Biden was derided for his obliviousness and naivete when he would bang on about bipartisanship. He was underestimated and in every interview I gave about the Democratic Primary his campaign was compared to my former boss, Jeb

Yet, when he launched his campaign he was undeterred, calling the unity doubters out explicitly saying, “I know some of the smart folks say Democrats don’t want to hear about unity. The angrier a candidate can be, the better chance they have to win the nomination. I don’t believe it. I really don’t. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation.” 

It turns out Biden was right and almost everyone else was wrong.

The landmark legislation he is set to sign has the support of around 70% of the public, depending on which poll you choose. And in his statement on the Senate vote yesterday, Biden stuck to the same nostalgic norminess that he was spewing back in that November 2017 interview. 

“By passing this plan we will have proved that this government, this democracy can still work...When I was elected I said we were going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back into the business of delivering for the American people.” 

Biden’s next task will be harder. Can he actually “break the fever” and win over Republicans on needed legislation now that his reconciliation card has been played. (Is there a less than $15 minimum wage deal he could cut, for example?) Can he ride the wave of good feelings following the end of the pandemic to see his dream of unity fulfilled? 

It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. But at this point, who is to doubt him? The Biden craps table is pretty hot. His bets have paid off. And it’s those of us who were desperate for someone to rid us of Trump who seem to be the lucky ones so far. 

2. If you had the luck of the Irish, you'd be sorry and wish you were dead.

I had a few other nits to pick when it came to the notion that Joey just benefited from the luck of the Irish. There were few things Parnes and Allen covered that from one vantage point might seem “lucky” but looked at in a different way made Biden’s degree of difficulty even higher. 

Parnes and Allen credit Elizabeth Warren with eviscerating Mike Bloomberg in the Las Vegas debate, clearing a key rival for the establishment/neoliberal/red dog vote in the primary. They cite a Biden aide saying that “he was going to be a major problem for us, but that changed things.” 

But the fact that Bloomberg was even in the race at that time was preposterous. Warren’s debate performance coincided with an opposition research avalanche that the Biden comms team was dumping on Bloomberg’s head. And while he claimed he was running as the “electability” candidate—the one man standing between America and a Trump vs. Bernie general election—that was never true. He wasn’t any better positioned to be nominated than Mayor Pete or Amy Klobuchar, particularly after Iowa. He didn’t have the support of black voters that propelled Biden to victory in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday. 

Despite the spanking that he received from Warren on the debate stage and having circles run around him in the media by Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, Mayor Mike still stayed in the race spending millions of dollars to bank early votes that largely would have broken for Biden once Pete and Amy decided to be team players. All things considered, I’d say the fact that Biden swept Super Tuesday despite having a Bloomberg anchor in most states makes his victory more impressive, not more lucky. 

As for the COVID-19 pandemic, I understand the macabre POV that Anita Dunn shared about COVID being the “best thing that ever happened to him” given that it exposed Trump’s gross incompetence and allowed Biden to campaign on his strengths (empathy) rather than having to suffer through rally size comparisons and “what about your gaffes” campaign culture. 

But here again, wasn’t Biden making his own luck? His “sleepy” competence and “healer-in-chief” brand were both cultivated intentionally. It wasn’t inevitable that the Democratic nominee would have those traits. Plus Trump was an absolute outlier in seeing a favorability decline amidst the pandemic, most world leaders and U.S. Governors saw their numbers go up. 

It seems just as likely to me that COVID was another challenge that Biden had to overcome as much as it was a lucky break. 

3. Top Shot 

Like pretty much everyone else I know, one area where I did not make my own luck was in monetizing my baseball card collection. For years I would page through the old Beckett checking out how much my 1990 Topps Frank Thomas no name card was worth. In the end, I think the answer was pretty much zero. 

Well, good news gamblers! Thanks to late stage capitalism, pandemic boredom, and the American entrepreneurial spirit, the trading card experience has been updated for the digital age with TopShot, a “collectible, blockchain-based highlight repository” that has taken the crucible of sport by storm. 

This seems to me like a modern day Beanie Baby, but based on my track record, I’d take the Top Shot luck into your own hands. Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin explains

Developed by Vancouver-based Dapper Labs, the company behind the popular CryptoKitties game, Top Shot "moments" like Settleman's James dunk are essentially virtual sports cards, folding short highlight clips into a package with 3D animations and player stats. They utilize blockchain technology, which is the backbone of the cryptocurrency world, to ensure transparency in production and verify the authenticity of these digital collectibles, known as NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

Copies of a specific Top Shot moment are given a serial number to indicate how many are produced. Lower serial numbers are considered more valuable, along with serials that match the player's jersey number (Settleman bought the No. 23 serial copy of the James dunk, for example). Different runs are given names like "Cosmic," "Holo" and "Metallic Gold," just like limited-edition physical trading cards.

"If we were dealing with normal cards, I'd say 'I love Ja Morant' and you'd say 'I love Zion Williamson,' and we'd argue about who's going to have the better career," says Luc Doucet, a freelance advertising producer and crypto trader who hosts another Top Shot podcast called The First Mint. "But the next layer is we can say, 'What do you think is better, the Ja steal to end the game or the Zion block where he sends it into the rafters?' You can argue on a different level of fandom about which one should be worth more. And then see what the market thinks."

Thanks for reading my weekend newsletter, make your own luck and