On Thursday, April 25, Joe Biden officially announced his candidacy for the Presidency in 2020. I was disappointed.
I like Joe Biden. I believe he is a great man. There is no comparison between the former Vice President and the current occupant of the Oval Office. Despite periodic gaffes, blind spots and insensitivities, there is no doubt about who I would rather have as Commander-in-Chief. Still, I wish Joe Biden had decided to sit this one out.
This is a hard post to write and it might be the worst time for its publication. According to polls, Biden’s popularity soared after making his announcement. He raised a ton of money, bringing donors-in-waiting off the sidelines. His retail-politics instincts charmed followers at his early events.
But then there was his videotaped announcement where he opens with, “Charlottesville, Virginia, is home to the author of one of the great documents in human history. We know it by heart: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…’” Really? In today’s #MeToo world, and with recent stories of your invading the space of female colleagues, you open with a line about all men being created equal (and when the term “men” actually meant white, male property owners)? I know what you intended, but couldn’t you have found another opening that was more appropriate to the issues of our day.
Did his stumbling interchange with the hosts of The View about his role in the Anita Hill hearings so long ago–yet still raw, especially with women of color–forebode trouble ahead? His quick rebuff by Stacey Abrams in his ill-advised plot to declare a running mate before even declaring for President was a huge blunder. It is a long campaign. Can he avoid the inevitable landmines that will surface? Can he sustain the current enthusiasm over time?
I understand that Biden passionately wants to be President. I also believe that such passion is an essential ingredient in both effective campaigning and efficient governing. I believe he has the chops to lead us in these uncertain times. At the moment, he may even be the best one in the crowded field to bring us together as a nation. But, before he becomes President, he will need to navigate the increasingly turbulent waters of media excess and political polarization, where the cultural norms have shifted greatly since he last ran for President or served for eight years as Obama’s wingman.
Can someone in their late 70’s with a half-century track record be nimble enough and nuanced enough to capture territory in a field where so many traps lay hidden? The campaign is long. The enemy is furtive and exceedingly skilled at eviscerating opponents…and he has no shame.
I feel this will all end badly. Political pundits are quick to point out how Donald Trump has detonated or undermined the reputations of political allies foolish enough to be drawn into his circle–Tillerson. McMaster, Mattis, Priebus, Kelly. In his desire to be President, has Biden’s strategy of taking it directly to Donald Trump caused him to become the first adversary in the 2020 race to become ensnared in this same downward spiral?
For the good of the country and for his own self-esteem, I wish Joe Biden had seen the writing on the wall and stepped aside to let one of the host of new Democratic faces emerge to fight this vital battle.
We need heroes in this country. Joe Biden is such a hero in both working class neighborhoods and progressive circles. It is correct that a true hero does not shrink from a fight; but true American heroes must lead with their heads as well as their hearts, and not be seduced by a burning desire for power and position. Even if he is able to stick to the script and run a dignified campaign, there is a great chance that this decent man will become nothing more than fodder for late night comedy and be forever relegated to the scrapheap of those who have been destroyed by Donald Trump.
With less than two weeks until opening night for the New York City premiere of my play, Let Me Fluff Your Pillow, have you reserved your tickets? You can learn more about the play and how to purchase tickets, here.