Finally, the House of Biden has entered the 2020 game of thrones. Joe Biden is perhaps the most formidable opponent to Donald Trump. But there is no guarantee he will even make it to the finals.
In a crowded primary field of progressive Democrats whose ideas are as diverse as their faces, 76-year-old Biden represents the familiar. Some would say the former vice president to Barack Obama is a throwback to the past, a relic of a bygone era when candidates played it safe, catered to the middle class and toed the party line.
That’s not typically the kind of candidate that appeals to most Democrats these days. But Biden is just the kind of candidate Democrats need right now.
Americans, especially liberals, had convinced themselves with Obama’s election that our nation had moved past the days of identity politics. Democrats were so sure of the progress that they placed a woman at the head of the ticket four years ago.
Hilary Clinton won the popular vote, but unfortunately the majority doesn’t decide presidential elections. The winner ultimately is based on the states’ electoral votes, and they often can be fickle.
The person who defeats Trump will need the support of not only Democrats but also independents and even some Republicans. The candidate must appeal to voters from urban Detroit to the farming communities of Ohio, from the blue-collar neighborhoods of Pennsylvania to the ethnic and retirement enclaves of Florida.
To win back the voters who went with Trump in 2016, Democrats need to offer someone familiar, someone with whom this diverse group of Americans, with their complex baggage and divergent interests, can all feel comfortable. They need an old white man with a middle-of-the-road agenda to unseat the old white extremist man already in office.
The Democratic Party is far from perfect, but one of the things supporters like most is its big, open tent that welcomes women, African-Americans, Latinos, gays and anyone else who decides to take a shot at the presidency. But in a year when so much is at stake by losing, such a large pool of candidates could be detrimental.
Who doesn’t like the idea of free college tuition, having their college loans dismissed, reparations for descendants of slaves and Medicare for all? It all sounds great, but informed and realistic voters know that such things cost money and that they could never see the light of day without bipartisan support in Congress.
Those aren’t the types of things Democrats should be focusing on this time around. They must have one goal in mind — stopping Trump from winning a second term.
It would be a huge mistake for Biden to jump onto the bandwagon with those attempting to lure in voters with promises they cannot deliver. His best bet is to shower the American people with things they have not seen in the last four years — truth, honesty and integrity.
What Biden can offer is a return to decency and compassion — a nation that fights on behalf of its most vulnerable families, opens its doors responsibly to migrants, taxes its citizens fairly and offers everyone a chance to be heard. But his greatest gift is experience, which too often is undervalued.
The problem with many Democrats is that they are seeking perfection. Biden is a flawed man. He has been around politics so long that he might seem stale.
Anyone who has been in public service for nearly a half-century certainly has made mistakes — some of them horrible. But Biden has done nothing that is unforgivable. And he has not risen nearly to the level of contempt Trump has in just four years.
Democrats are mistaken, though, if they think most Americans are so disgusted with Trump that any candidate they put out there can win. Our nation is too complex.
One of the things we learned four years ago is that Trump voters are secretive. They don’t always respond truthfully to polls. While many enjoy getting in your face, others prefer anonymity. They shy away from the negative labels attached to anyone who stands openly with Trump.
Some will cast ballots for Trump for less than honorable reasons, but others will vote for him again because they believe he is solely responsible for the good economy and the progression of conservative ideals. For them, the positives of keeping a Republican in the White House outweigh any bad Trump does while there.
The good thing about a Biden candidacy is that we already know who he is. He is that defiant senator who aggressively challenged Anita Hill’s testimony that she had been sexually harassed. He is that insensitive senator who touched women’s shoulders and kissed their hair without permission.
He is that “tough on crime” senator who promoted mandatory minimum drug sentencing that landed hordes of minorities in prison for minor offenses such as marijuana possession. And he is that senator who a long time ago called state-mandated school integration “the most racist concept you can come up with.”
But he also is the senator who sponsored the bill addressing sexual assault and domestic violence against women. He is the senator who has long been an advocate of marriage equality and gay rights. And as far as some African-American voters are concerned, if he was good enough to be Obama’s running mate, he is worthy of their forgiveness.
What we also know about Biden is that he isn’t afraid to acknowledge his mistakes. He has apologized for his past behaviors and promised to be more cognizant. He has tried to make amends.
That is more than Americans have ever gotten from Trump. And some of the things he has done are unforgivable.
So welcome to the games, Joe Biden. We wish you well on your journey. But never forget the words of George R.R. Martin: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”