The Coming Rebranding

Nissan sold cars and trucks for decades before entering the U.S. market. In some nations they were marketed as Nissans; here they were badged as Datsuns, a brand the parent company has owned since the ‘30s. When 1970s gas crises sent U.S. sales soaring, Nissan grew uncomfortable with the Datsun label and decided to make a brand transition. In 1981, small “by Nissan” nameplates appeared on Datsun vehicles. Dealerships were sent NISSAN signs to hang under their DATSUN signs. Soon, the NISSAN signs were moved to the upper position. Then the DATSUN signs came down. In four years, rebranding was complete.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have to make it work much faster. Not by choice, but by necessity. The transition is already underway.

During the lockdown phase of the pandemic, something happened to the archaic but amiable Uncle Joe parodied by Woody Harrelson on SNL. We’ll never know what. The “basement bunker” Biden was a shadow of the seasoned politician we watched float to the top of the primary field. Though cued by a teleprompter we saw reflected in a framed picture, the veteran public speaker struggled for common words, sometimes losing his train of thought altogether. Neither his alleged stutter nor his penchant for public gaffes could explain it. Anyone who’s suffered through the cognitive decline of a loved one knows the signs. Its onset brings sadness, and deep concern; more so for a Presidential candidate. 

Biden’s campaign appearances were few and brief. Aimless movement and clueless comments still suggested a problem, but for a few hours he could pass muster. The brain fog evident on the basement tapes had abated.

More than once, Joe Biden ‘said the quiet part out loud’ -- a tendency all too familiar to families dealing with dementia. In October he boasted about “…the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics." Did he mean “anti-voter fraud?” It makes no sense. Democrats maintain that voter fraud is rare and irrelevant. Why organize against it? The “voter fraud organization” Biden spoke of was very real, as we would learn. The truth had made its way through his deteriorating filter.

It happened again in December, when Biden outlined his plans should he and VP Harris disagree: "...like I told Barack, if…there's a fundamental disagreement we have based on a moral principle, I'll develop some disease and say I have to resign." It was a chilling moment. Only once has a vice-president resigned over a fundamental disagreement. The moral principle then was slavery. Instead, VP’s just keep their mouths shut. They don’t have to “develop some disease.” What Biden was describing -- with eerie precision -- was the plan to cede his office to Harris: the rebranding strategy, laid bare.

It was also in December that President Biden first used the term, “President Harris.”  He would do so again in mid-March. Another ‘gaffe?’ Consider the evidence: by then, Harris had already been fielding calls from heads of state, including Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, for over a month. Vice-Presidents rarely do so.

On March 23, the White House insisted the media use the term “Biden-Harris administration.” This was new. Presidents feel obliged to show a certain appreciation for their Vice-Presidents, especially when campaigning, but not during daily governance. Say it aloud: The Clinton-Gore administration. The Bush-Cheney administration. Sounds unfamiliar, doesn’t it? That’s because you hear it so rarely.

Did you see a Nissan sign going up under the Datsun sign?

Just a few days later, Biden publicly commissioned his vice-president to deal with the deepening crisis at the border. He outlined specific Trumplike policies for her to implement. Within 24 hours, Harris had reframed her response entirely: she would explore “root causes” instead. Translation: she couldn’t care less about Biden’s instructions. Her open lack of deference to her commander-in-chief is extraordinary, and unprecedented. It isn’t difficult to imagine why. If the Biden-Harris administration is actually Obama 3.0, as it appears, the former President’s surrogate is surely Harris, not Biden. There’s little evidence of respect for Joe Biden on the part of Barack Obama. Harris, the most radical Senator, suits his transformational agenda perfectly.

Vladimir Putin, who knows a thing or two about how power is transferred, may have predicted the future in the most oblique but telling way. After Biden declared him a “killer” and warned he would pay for his mythical 2016 election interference, Putin responded by wishing the President “good health.” In other words, that he not develop some disease.

Putin’s good wishes notwithstanding, the President isn’t doing well. Cognitive decline can be delayed, but not reversed. His long-postponed press conference, though entirely staged and scripted, was a grim reminder of that sad fact.

There’s a Datsun in the White House garage, but its check-engine light is on. A shiny new Nissan is ready to take its place -- perhaps sooner than we think.

Image: Piqsels