Joe Biden may be in the process of becoming something more than just Barack Obama’s vice president. According to reports, the 76-year-old Democrat is putting together a 2020 run for the White House that could make him the oldest man ever to be elected president of the United States. At a time when Capitol Hill’s left and right wings are in thrall to angry extremists like Tucker Carlson and populist class warriors like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Biden could be just what the doctor ordered for a troubled time in U.S. history.
What Biden represents is more than just a welcome break from the “4Chan /pol” level of discourse that Washington has degenerated into over the past three years. His candidacy also contains a few useful lessons about compromise, bipartisan cooperation, and politics without bitterness, all of which the U.S. could desperately use right now.
Joe Biden & the Joy of Centrist Politics
An unintended consequence of Donald Trump’s win in 2016 was that it helped insurgent leftists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rise to prominence on the premise that centrism no longer works. While it is certainly no surprise that political rivals do not want to help each other or collaborate, the degree of polarization within the government has reached unprecedented levels, typified by the recent record-breaking government shutdown that saw thousands of government employees reduced to living on charity.
President Trump must hold the majority of the blame for this, owing to his insistence on acting like an insurgent outsider even though he is already the most powerful individual on earth. The Democrats, however, have developed a worrying new obsession with creating a left-wing answer to Donald Trump, culminating in the growing profile of Ocasio-Cortez and a handful of prominent Democrats who are far to the left of Biden.
The dangerous idea taking flight is that the only way to make a mark on the political stage is by hypothetically fighting to the death instead of finding ways to coexist. Biden stands as a huge counterpoint to this point of view, with a long, distinguished and scandal-free career as one of America’s most respected senators. Not even the insurgent Justice Democrats faction led by Ocasio-Cortez would dare to seriously question Biden’s leadership capacity or refuse to work together with him.
Hey AOC, Populist Does Not Automatically Equal Electable
Another useful thing that a Biden presidency would do is that it would dispel the newfound notion that winning an election entails being obnoxious and needlessly controversial.
This is especially key because most of the free world takes its cues from American democracy, which helps explain the growth of populist rhetoric as an electoral tool since 2016. President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria are two notable populists who have borrowed parts of their public personas from Trump.
With Biden, the U.S. gets a straight-talking, polite, middle-of-the-road politician who is immensely likable as well as refreshingly competent and prepared for governance. Biden is not the type of politician to inflame partisan tensions in order to avoid exposing his own lack of policy grounding, which both Trump and Ocasio-Cortez are occasionally guilty of.
Biden in fact, openly admits to “liking Republicans,” which under current circumstances is a borderline revolutionary comment for a Democrat to make. Describing Biden’s potential value as president at a time when America is extremely polarised, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said:
“I just think that if our democracy is ever going to get back to governing, as opposed to this partisan warfare we’ve been having in Washington, that it’s going to take a president who understands the benefits of bipartisanship and who also appreciates what it takes to govern the country. That’s a strength as far as I’m concerned, not a weakness.”
At this point in U.S. history, the country could definitely do a lot worse than a competent candidate whom everybody likes. It should be a no-brainer. This is why it will never happen.
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