By Linnie Frank Bailey
The “will he, or won’t he” has started again regarding Joe Biden. Is he, or isn’t he? Members of the media ask the question almost daily. His frequent appearances – and he does seem to be everywhere these days – has the grassroots wondering if Joe Biden is a candidate for President in 2020. All indications point to it, and yet the tease continues – “Will I, or won’t I?”
In 2015, I was part of a fledgling group of activists called Draft Biden. Our goal – at least what I understood it to be – was to develop a groundswell of support for a Biden presidential candidacy. Although we had teams in nearly every state, I’m not sure if the groundswell ever happened. Clinton and Sanders were too far ahead in terms of organization and money. Nevertheless, I was convinced then that Joe Biden could win the Presidency. Not only that, I thought he was the best candidate for the Democrats and for the country.
I first came to this conclusion after watching a video of a speech he gave to the 2015 graduating class of Yale. I had heard it was a good speech and decided to check it out. What I heard was a motivational speech by an everyday guy – a dad – who happened to be the Vice President of the United States. I heard a history lesson by a statesman who spoke of how politics could be….should be. He described his years of working with members of both parties including being able to disagree on ideology but retain respect and friendship. He saw the divisiveness and rabid partisanship that were overtaking national and local politics. Beyond that, his many years in Congress allowed him a vantage point few possess.
I looked at his record and realized I did not agree with some of his past positions. But this was the guy that Barack Obama picked, not just as his Vice President but also as his friend. “This guy, this man of family and faith, is the person who should be President,” I thought at the time, and still believe.
So, when I found others who shared my vision I joined them. We hoped he would soon be a candidate for president. We kept waiting for him to announce.
Our biggest hope came at the time of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Anticipation was building that Biden would announce. The pundits stressed that time was running out. CNN, the host of the debate, insinuated that they would ‘leave a place’ on the stage for the Vice President. For Biden supporters, visions of sugar plums danced in our heads! In our dreams, Biden would pull up to the event (of course in the infamous convertible and aviators), march down the aisle, and take his place on stage, saying “I’m Back!” (Okay, maybe not that, but just showing up and letting people know he was IN!). Mic drop. Joe Biden takes the lead.
In our minds, that was all we needed. Excitement, momentum, everything would fall his way after that. (Never mind pesky things like organization, fundraising, and polls.)
It didn’t happen and as the weeks went on with no declaration it became harder to keep our Draft Biden group together. It’s hard enough to get people to recruit and make phone calls when there is a candidate. But having a candidate who is sitting on the fence does not a campaign make. Alas, Biden got off the fence and although we were disappointed, who wouldn’t understand his reluctance given the tragedy of losing his son that year.
Draft Biden disbanded. Some became Clinton supporters, but it seemed to me, most worked on behalf of Sanders. At the General election, I felt NO CHOICE but to vote for Clinton, but I was not totally surprised that she lost. Not long after the results were in, I started receiving phone calls from friends saying – “Biden would have won!” Of course, this is after the fact, however, I still to this day feel he would have won.
But what about now?
There are those questioning if his age will be a problem, particularly for younger voters. Sanders didn’t have a problem attracting many younger supporters. We do millennials a disservice when we put them in a box and don’t give them credit for judging candidates on authenticity and policies. Biden can capture the youth vote, he’s also appealing to many working-class and middle-class voters.
Still, his task will be momentous – just on the Democratic side. The field of candidates will be enormous. Some consider a run against the current President an easy win for whichever Democrat runs against him. We thought this in 2016 also. And we lost to a candidate who capitalized on mistrust of government and ran on divisiveness and fear.
Now is the time for a uniter. Someone who knows how our institutions should work. Someone who is our bridge from the past to the future.
Biden is still out there, capturing our hopes and dreams of uniting America. Reminding us who we are as a country or at least who we should be. He has served his country faithfully for decades, upholding the Constitution of the United States – the framework of our Democracy.
We see you, Joe.
However, soon – if you don’t announce, we might have to look elsewhere.