“Now Is the Time to Fight:” Barack Obama Finally Endorses His Former VP Joe Biden for U.S. President
U.S. President elect Barack Obama and Vice-President elect Joe Biden smile on stage after Obama's 2008 victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
In a speech that was quintessentially Obama-esque with its flashes of empathy, literary flair and lawyerly logic as well as an appeal to the American public’s better angels, Barack Obama, the historic Democratic two-term 44th president of the United States, today endorsed his former vice-president Joe Biden to be its 46th. Pending an act of God or a yet unforeseen event given the turbulent times, Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, will battle the incumbent Republican president, Donald Trump, the country’s 45th, at the polls this November.
Rather than at a rousing rally, the 12-minute speech had a socially distanced delivery, presumably from Obama’s D.C. home. It was released on his social media accounts to a combined 196 million followers. Among decor items, a basketball sat on the well-appointed bookshelf, which he spoke in front of, and one couldn’t help but reach for a cliché fitting for the sports-mad Obama. He was finally off the bench.
Watch Obama’s endorsement video below
In April of 2019, at the start of his uneven primary campaign that limped along until a string of dominant late-breaking wins forced his last standing competitor, Bernie Sanders, out last week, Biden had announced that he had, in fact, asked Obama not to endorse him. And it would have done neither any favours with the young, activist wing of the party if Biden were seemingly undergoing a coronation, not a race, and that Obama had his thumb on the scale. Also, there were whispers among the political chattering class that Obama, though fond of Biden, wanted another type of candidate who would align with the historic nature of his presidency as the first African-American to hold that office. It was reported that, in 2016, he nudged Biden out of running in order to facilitate Hillary Clinton’s drive to be the first female president. This time, the thought was he would have preferred a candidate like Mayor Pete Buttigieg who was running as an openly gay man or a fresh Hispanic face like his former cabinet member Julián Castro instead of the same old, same old white male.
Biden sure could have used the Obama endorsement as the attempted Burisma smear of his character took centre stage during Trump’s impeachment trial. Obama might have sat publicly silent and let his veep fight his own battles, but it was Biden’s role in the Obama legacy that ultimately turned his political fortunes around.
The pair’s legendary bromance got off to a rocky start when, in 2007, Biden described the then-junior senator from Illinois as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean …” No drama – Obama was unbothered enough to pick Biden as a running mate as he could deliver the white working-class vote in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. This bloc of voters was a segment of the rainbow coalition, of African-Americans and other minorities, women and young people who swept the Obama-Biden ticket into office in 2008 and 2012, but they were also the segment that chose Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. For African-Americans who voted as a bloc to deliver Biden his 2019 primary win, he “had Obama’s back” is the most-cited rationale. His willingness as an older white male to loyally work under a Black boss endeared him to generations of African-Americans.
Now, Obama, who still regularly tops lists of the most admired person in America and the world, has returned the favour. And just days after a serious unproven allegation of sexual assault made by a former staffer against the VP was inconclusively investigated by the press. So, not a moment too soon.
The speech was Hope and Change 2.0. If Obama had a thesis, it was “we have to go further” in more of a progressive way then he did, as times have changed; and with the coronavirus laying bare the economic and class inequities that bedevil his country. His political instincts remain astute – speaking directly to the disgruntled Sanders wing of the party while throwing red meat to the base by taking it to Trump. Coolly, without mentioning the president’s name, Obama drew the contrast between Biden and Trump’s characters and competence. And his calm, measured, intelligent speech was a contrast in and of itself to the recent spate of unhinged COVID-19 focused press briefings emanating from the White House. Still, passionately invoking facts, science and reality, he called out a certain propaganda network and today’s Republican party as in it for power, not progress, with a politics of meanness. “Join Joe,” he ended. “And I’ll see you out on the campaign trail as soon as I can.” Game on.
Bernie Sanders Is Out, Clearing the Way for Joe Biden to Face Trump in the U.S. Presidential Election
Published April 8, 2020
In an expected and long awaited announcement, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has dropped out of the 2020 race to be the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. This makes former vice-president Joe Biden the presumptive nominee who, barring an unforeseen circumstance, will face the Republican incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump at the polls in November. The unforeseen circumstance could be a variety of things, but health and longevity is a factor. Trump, who is medically obese and enjoys a fast food diet, is 73 and will have turned 74 by November. Biden, who has had surgery twice to repair aneurysms in the 1980s, is 78, and if he wins will be 79 when sworn in. Both have been criticized for “losing a step.”
Once the perceived front-runner, Sanders, also 78, had suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail last fall. He returned to the debate stage two weeks later to continue his increasingly quixotic campaign. But Biden went on to survive a shaky start and rack up a string of victories after cementing the support of the African-American vote. The rest of the field then coalesced around him, giving him an insurmountable delegate lead over Sanders. Currently, Biden has 1,151 delegates compared to Sanders’ 874. To secure the Democratic party nomination a candidate must hit 1,991 delegates. Yet, Sanders an avowed Democratic Socialist who, to the chagrin of the Democratic party establishment, considers himself an Independent, hung on.
All the better to leverage his popularity with younger voters – the most counter-intuitive aspect of his run – to push the party further to the left. His Medicare for All and Free College Tuition platforms as well as his anti-millionaire and -billionaire stance, spoke to their visceral anxiety around America’s surging problem with income inequality. His “Bernie Bros” swarmed social media, giving his campaign a black eye when some ventured into misogynistic online harassment, and he was criticized for taking too long to disavow the fringe element. Sanders also double-downed on his decades’ long admiration of aspects of the Castro regime – effectively ending his ability to win the swing state of Florida where a large population of votes of Cuban heritage don’t remember the ’60s the way he does.
Sanders was endorsed by New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasia Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress (she was 29 in 2019 when she was sworn in) and, even as the delegate lead over him widened, campaigned with him at rock concert-style rallies. Still, they may have “felt the Bern” but not voted the Bern as is commonly the case; his youthful cohort chose not to go out and vote in numbers that mattered.
And then came COVID-19, effectively stalling any momentum he could have maintained out on the trail.
Today, Sanders was criticized for not dropping out before yesterday’s Wisconsin primary, essentially ensuring that more people would have more reason to leave their home and congregate despite stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines.
But he does not make the rules – Republican Wisconsin officials could have agreed to mail-in ballots. Sanders may suspended his campaign, but he has promised to stay on the ballot in the states where he is on it to gain as many delegates as possible. Sanders still intends to influence the party platform at the convention this summer.
Many Democrats are hoping it won’t be 2016 all over again. He effectively went into that convention as a spoiler, weakening the eventual nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign before he finally endorsed and started campaigning for her. This, of course, helped hand the electoral college and White House to Trump.
Comeback Kid Joe Biden, 77, Likely to Face Trump in Election With Lead Over Sanders
Published March 11, 2020
How great is it that the comeback kid of the moment, the wunderkind of American politics, turns out to be a 77-year-old former has-been.
“A miracle,” exclaimed New York Times pundit Frank Bruni, barely resisting the word “resurrection,” but suggesting nevertheless that Joe Biden has come “back from the dead.” The Boston Globe likewise described it as “Lazarus-like.”
After poor debate performances, lacklustre stump speeches, losing the first two primaries badly and coming in a distant second in the third, the seemingly indomitable Biden shocked and amazed everyone, including himself, as he roared ahead of the pack on Super Tuesday and became the frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States.
He scooped up delegates, winning 10 of the 14 contested states, including those no one could have predicted: Texas, Virginia and Massachusetts. Last night on Super Tuesday II, he dominated Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, putting him ahead in the delegate count. Unless something catastrophic happens, such as a poor performance in Saturday’s Arizona debate with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders – who took North Dakota last night – it’s Biden’s to win. This is even though California, which is still being counted, went for Sanders, his only viable opponent for the top of the ticket.
Watch Joe Biden’s full victory speech from South Carolina
It’s Biden’s third try for the nomination in 32 years and the first time he’s won anything, anywhere, on own, except for his Senate seat.
No Spring Chickens
Sanders, of course, is no spring chicken either. At 78, he’s got a year on Biden. As one late-night host put it, the choice now is whether to vote for an old man or an older man. Come the general election in November, one of them will be running against the incumbent toddler-in-chief, Donald Trump, who is indeed the baby of the bunch at 73. Does it mean that being 70 is no longer over the hill but rather occupying its peak?
In Biden’s case, it means exactly that. And how he got there — overcoming a stutter, the political blunders, the gaffes, the family tragedies and the brain aneurysms — is a big part of who he is. Because in the end, what mattered most is Biden’s resilience, his refusal to be defeated.
Instead of seeing Biden as a washed-up loser, voters obviously value his ability to bounce back time after time, hanging in there year after year, decade after decade, when all seemed lost.
If Donald Trump is the American id on steroids, the consummate volatile bully and ruthless unrepentant capitalist, Joe Biden is the other side of the coin: decent, empathetic, steadfast, earnest, big-hearted, an ordinary Joe. As Biden tweeted on Feb. 28, “My Dad always said, ‘Champ, when you get knocked down, you get back up.’ I’ve been knocked down a lot in my life, like so many Americans have, but always get back up.”
A String of Setbacks
A week before Christmas in 1972, senator-elect Biden learned his wife and 18-month-old daughter had been killed in a car accident and his two young sons were seriously injured. A moving photograph shows him being sworn into the House of Representatives at their hospital bedsides.
As a single father and newly elected senator, he took the train home to Delaware from Washington every night to be with his sons, earning him the affectionate moniker Amtrak Joe.
He married his second wife, Jill, five years later and their daughter Ashley was born in 1981.
During the 1980s, Biden had surgery twice to repair aneurysms in arteries that supply blood to the brain. (He has released his medical records, unlike Sanders, who suffered a heart attack in October 2019 and has yet to produce more than a letter from his cardiologists avowing he is fit to run for office.)
Then in May 2015, his eldest son Beau, an army veteran who was attorney-general of Delaware and his father’s political heir, died of brain cancer. In 2017 it was reported that Biden’s surviving son, Hunter – who has battled addiction – was having an affair with Beau’s widow. Hunter’s wife initiated a divorce after the news broke, accusing him of blowing the family’s money on hookers, strip clubs and drugs. Hunter’s incongruous and lucrative position on the board of a Ukraine energy company, even as the former vice-president was leading an international coalition to battle corruption there, has been used by Biden’s political enemies to smear his father.
The voters thus far aren’t buying it. The political blunders and the baggage that Biden carries after a long career in Washington, such as plagiarism incidents that forced him to drop out of the 1988 race, have faded in significance. His electability argument – that he is best positioned to beat Trump in the general election – strengthens with every win.
For instance, as #MeToo took hold, he was criticized for being too touchy-feely with women and invading their personal space, as memes of him doing just that circulated on social media, adding a creepy quotient to his Uncle Joe persona.
“I’m a hugger of both men and women,” he responded. “As it turns out that those are taken in an offensive manner, I need to have a greater sense of awareness of what I am doing, and we will correct that.”
But that wasn’t all. As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was in charge of the 1991 Clarence Thomas U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Bending over backwards to be fair to Thomas, he pretty much threw witness Anita Hill, a young African-American woman, to the wolves after she accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Hill has not accepted Biden’s non-apology apology that came decades later. Biden supporters often tout his 2017 public service announcement with Lady Gaga in support of survivors of sexual violence and the fact he wrote the Violence Against Women Act as part of the 1994 crime bill that he steered into law.
But the crime bill, which has led to mass incarcerations, has come back to haunt him, putting a dent in the younger generation that is part of electoral firewall – the Black vote. Early in this campaign, Biden was attacked by senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, two African–American contenders for the Democratic nomination, for his 1970s position on the controversial practise of busing and his statement that, back then, he sought to work with segregationist senators “to get things done.” After Biden was trounced in two states with little diversity – Iowa and New Hampshire – and came a distant second to Sanders in the third, Nevada, his political obituary was all but written.
The Obama Legacy
Then civil rights hero and African-American South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn stepped in with a powerful endorsement of the beleaguered candidate. “We know Joe, but most importantly Joe knows us,” he said, which delivered Biden’s blow-out victory. He won two-thirds of the Black vote, which makes up 60 per cent of Democratic primary voters. All ages broke for Biden, proving how potent the Obama legacy still is. The pair’s legendary bromance got off to a rocky start when Biden described the then-junior senator from Illinois as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean …”
No drama-Obama was unbothered enough to pick Biden as a running mate, as he could deliver the white, working-class vote in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. This bloc of voters were part of the historic coalition that swept the Obama-Biden ticket into office in 2008 and 2012, but who voted for Trump in 2016, which cost Hillary Clinton the electoral-college win and the presidency. He “had Obama’s back,” is the most-cited rationale for his willingness to work under a Black boss, and endeared him to generations of African-Americans.
Voters of every background seem to crave a return to normalcy – to view the Trump administration as a hiccup in the historical time line – and the continuity of the last widely approved president’s administration would restore America to a less divisive, chaotic present. Washington experience may not seem such a negative now, but the fundamental decency of the man himself, who wears his empathy on his sleeve, is also key. Every former rival, from Congressman Beto O’Rourke to former mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who dramatically endorsed him the night before Super Tuesday, have mentioned it. Yesterday, both Booker and Harris – who Biden hinted could be his pick for VP – endorsed him too.
With the Democrats determined to rid the country once and for all of Trump and his thugs, with their rally to pragmatism and the politics of the centre, it seems big-hearted, gaffe-prone Joe Biden is the right man in the right place at the right time.
When the time is right, it’s never too late.
-Irma Bay, Judy Gerstel