On February 7th I posted an entry titled “The Upside of Narcissism.” In that piece I tried to explain why Joe Biden, an admired and respected public servant and statesman, had faltered when running for president. Not just in the early 2020 caucus and primary states, but in his previous two campaigns for the nation’s highest office. Bottom line, Biden has always been more comfortable talking about other people than about himself. And although I hedged my bets, saying “if and when his campaign folds,” I hoped he would show up and talk up the eventual Democratic nominee. Like many, I thought Biden would be a footnote by Super Tuesday.
What I missed was, when you ARE admired and respected, you do not need to talk about yourself. Others will gladly do it for you. Enter Jim Clyburn three days before the South Carolina primary. And his simple reminder why so many people think so highly of the former vice-president. “I know Joe. You know Joe. But more importantly, Joe knows us.” What polling suggested would be a close race turned into a 28 point blow-out for Biden and what is being touted as a modern day retelling of the Lazarus parable.
Biden still trails several of his opponents in terms of money and organization. But what he brings to the party is something the others can only dream about. An army of colleagues who will tell you why Biden is the best choice for president among the current field. Just today, Amy Klobuchar who served in the Senate with Biden did not hesitate to tell the electorate, “If it’s not going to me, then I want it to be Joe.” Just as Jim Clyburn made the difference in South Carolina, I will not be surprised if the endorsement by Minnesota’s favorite daughter has changed the dynamics in one more state.
Every successful candidate for president has a secret sauce. Clinton’s focus on the future. Bush’s promise of compassionate conservatism. Obama’s inspiring oratory. And Trump’s appeal to fear. Each stuck to what they did best replicating the formula at every rally, campaign stop, during every interview, on television and social media. After Saturday night, Joe Biden’s secret sauce is no longer a secret. It is the willingness of those who know him best to remind him, “We’ve got your back. You talk about how you will govern. We’ll remind voters why, based on our years working beside you, people can believe you.”
I know, other candidates have their endorsements. But take a look at the running list Wikipedia is compiling of each candidate’s formal endorsements. While Biden’s list is dominated by people who have been responsible for governing (current and former executive branch offials, ambassadors, senators, representatives, governors and state legislators and mayors), his counterparts’ supporters include mostly celebrities, pundits and social media influencers. Killer Mike, Dick Van Dyke and Haile Bieber can tell you who they prefer, but on what basis? When choosing the leader of the free world, I will always put more weight behind those who have worked alongside a candidate and knows how he or she approaches the task of governing.
Is this an endorsement of Joe Biden? No, not yet. But it is a call to ignore the noise and look for the signal. Mike Bloomberg may have said it best in his recent interview with MSNBC’s Casey Hunt. When asked about his lackluster performance in his first two debate appearances, he replied, “We are not electing debater-in-chief.” Nor are we electing the celebrity-in-chief. Every presidential election is about one thing and one thing only, choosing the person who, with access to immense power, best wields that power on behalf of the citizens of the United States. If you want to vote for someone because a celebrity says you should, watch American Idol. This is serious business. We expect the candidates to be serious. They should expect the same of us.
So, even if I was half right on February 7, when I said Joe Biden was not going to win if he relied on himself to be his own chief advocate, I was also half wrong. I did not imagine how different the contest would be if he left that task to others. On previous occasions, I have told readers sometimes I hate it when I’m right. But the opposite is also true. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.
For what it’s worth.