Joe Biden should be the next president
A year after the election of Donald Trump, a year before the midterm congressional elections, the presidential campaign of 2020 has begun. This is the way in the United States.
Among Democrats, it is still talk. No one has declared. Among governors, the prospects include Andrew Cuomo and Terry McAuliffe. Among senators, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders. Maybe Mark Cuban, the billionaire businessman. Or a dark horse.
There is no front-runner, as Al Gore was in 2000 and Hillary Clinton was in 2016. Expect a cat fight. Trump is vulnerable — if he is still in office.
The Democrats cannot afford an expensive, enervating primary. The party can avoid that — and save its resources for the fall — by making an early, obvious and inspired choice. That choice is Joe Biden.
The case for Biden is as much about the man as the moment. America is in crisis. Its president is an arsonist, the Savonarola of his time. He sets fire to institutions — attacking the judiciary, appointing unqualified judges and cabinet secretaries, elevating special interests, enriching himself, dismantling environmental and commercial regulation, alienating allies, favouring dictators.
If you believe, as most Americans do, that their country is in trouble, 2020 will be pivotal. The election will recall 1860 and 1940, when the nation stood at the abyss and summoned leaders to face it.
For Democrats, defeating Trump makes a wasting, divisive primary season a luxury. The party should nominate Biden — with a twist.
Biden is the antidote to Trump. He brings a generation of experience as vicepresident and senator. He understands the world and his country’s place in it. He needs no on-the-job training.
Biden has decency, honesty and that special grace that comes with suffering. Like Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, he knows the agony of losing someone close; indeed, he is a legionnaire of loss.
In 1972, he lost his wife and daughter in an automobile accident. In 2015, he lost his eldest son, Beau, to cancer. This week, he releases a memoir on his struggle (called Promise Me, Dad). It is deeply affecting.
As Biden embarks on a national speaking tour, he evokes his affection for his wife, his children and grandchildren, and his debt to Barack Obama. There is an awful wisdom that comes through pain — and Biden wears it with dignity.
In 2020, the Democrats will need a nominee who can speak to white, middle class America as well as black and Hispanic America, in the way Robert Kennedy did. Biden can. A native of hardscrabble Scranton, Pa., he moves beyond identity politics to embrace something bigger.
His speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2016 was a confection of folksiness and moxie. “It’s not the example of our power, but the power of our example,” he said. Biden is one of those natural politicos who loves the game. At a rally the night before the presidential election, he saw my teenage daughter on the rope line, exclaimed, “Hi honey!” put his arm around her and posed for a selfie. This is a septuagenarian whom fathers do not worry about.
He is imperfect. He brags. He talks too much. Once, he plagiarized. But is there is anyone in America better suited in intellect and temperament to be president?
He will be 78 on Nov. 3, 2020. Trump will be 74. To acknowledge his age and underscore his commitment to forge a new consensus, he should promise to serve only one term.
As his vice-president, he should choose Kamala Harris, the tough, clever senator from California. The ticket would unite youth and age, white and mixed-race, men and women, big and small states on both coasts. It would prepare and position Harris to succeed Biden in 2024.
Biden doubts he will run. If he declines, the Democrats should draft him, as the Romans asked Cincinnatus to leave the farm to save the republic. Their urgent appeal: Run, Joe, Run.