Don't Dismiss Joe Biden's Ability to Bring America Back Together

Joe Biden's run-up to the 2020 presidential race was anything but smooth.Stories about his questionable interactions with women, support of strict sentencing including the death penalty, mishandling of Anita Hill's testimony and reliance on big money from wealthy contributions all underscored the length of his career and raised questions whether the former vice president is the right person to lead the Democratic Party.As many accounts noted, two past presidential ventures proved fiascoes.But portrayals of him as yesterday's Democrat fail to take into consideration the strengths the 76-year-old Biden brings to the presidential race. If he can negotiate a complex and unpredictable Democratic primary path, they explain why he might be the right person to repair the damage to the American psyche and its institutions by the current president.He is by far the most experienced and knowledgeable candidate. According to polls, he has the broadest support. He is strong with older voters who tend to vote a lot, weaker with younger ones who don't and, despite recent stories, has more support than rivals among women than among men.He has a balanced temperament, a sense of humor and doesn't always take himself too seriously. These all provide a sharp contrast with President Donald Trump. (Have you ever seen Trump laughing? At anything?) Many presidential historians regard temperament as one of the most essential qualities for presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.He has a history of building bipartisan bridges. From his earliest days in the Senate, Biden displayed an ability to work with those with whom he didn't necessarily agree and to do it across party lines, something sadly lacking in recent administrations of both parties. During the Obama years, it was Biden who negotiated a crucial compromise budget and tax agreement with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.He can bridge gaps within his party. Like other white Democratic candidates, Biden faces a challenge competing for the party's influential African-American voters in a field including two prominent black senators, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. But unlike some others, he has considerable black support stemming from his long history of working with minority leaders. Still, he didn't help himself with his maladroit efforts to repair his relationship with Hill and by floating Stacey Abrams' name prematurely as a possible vice presidential choice. Still, it's easy to see the defeated Georgia gubernatorial candidate and Harris as prime prospects for the No. 2 slot if Biden is nominated.The depth and length of his foreign policy knowledge and contacts impresses. European leaders at the recent annual national security conference in Munich showed in their enthusiastic reaction to Biden's speech that many would welcome a President Biden. They see him as someone able to repair the damage Trump has caused to the Western alliance by raising doubts about the U.S. commitment, increasing tariffs and attacking longtime allies.As the Democratic nominee, he could stand up to Trump. There's no way of knowing whether the president will agree to televised presidential debates with his Democratic rival, but if he does, it's important to visualize each of the main contenders on the stage with Trump. Even without debates, Biden will be able to command the media attention needed to counter the president's domination and undoubted mastery of the medium. And the number of Trump's Twitter attacks make clear that he takes a Biden challenge very seriously.There are legitimate questions whether the country should elect a president who will be 78 years old on his Inauguration Day and 82 at the end of his first term. CNN analyst and former White House aide David Gergen suggested he should promise to serve a single term, while others say that would handicap him as a lame duck from the outset and Biden has ruled it out.History says the best path for the Democrats to regain the White House is with a younger candidate, possibly one outside the prevailing party establishment. That's one of several reasons for the widespread belief Biden's candidacy is doomed. Previous establishment nominees like Walter Mondale, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton all lost.But it's also possible Democrats will conclude that Biden's experience and centrist politics would give them their best chance of defeating Trump, and that he would be the best president. As National Journal's Josh Kraushaar suggested, in a field with candidates floating costly and questionable policy ideas, Biden offers something that might appeal to crucial swing voters tired of the chaos of the Trump years: a return to normalcy.It would be the ultimate irony if Democrats regained the White House in 2020 by using a theme that a Republican, Warren Harding, rode so successfully exactly a century ago.And if Biden falters once again, there would be no better choice as the next Democratic president's secretary of state.Carl P. Leubsdorf is the former Washington bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News and a frequent contributor.   Continue reading...

Copyright The Dallas Morning News
Contact Us