BY: Michael Robbins
PEJOURNAL – Joe Biden is the Democratic Presidential candidate in the November 2020 election. He is not a new name in politics. His career has been lengthy, at times prolific, and despite what the critics on the right might say—he is a highly skilled diplomat and foreign affairs expert, especially when it comes to dealing with China and other big players on the international scene, as well as being able to locate other countries on the map. He has a sort of good-natured appeal for talking to leaders, for understanding their qualms, a quality that has been forgotten as the mainstream press simply reacts to his popularity status in regards to Trump in recent weeks.
This Joe Biden approach to dealing with a stressed out international world order is some good news during the current pandemic, especially seeing a way forward for America in terms of new commitments and increased trust in some of our neighbors.
In essence, Biden’s pragmatism is really why he is a great candidate for the November election—and it should be good enough for America whether America is ready to accept something as plain and trustworthy as pragmatism. Americans, after dealing with four years of inconsistent narratives, should maybe feel like the plain spoken-ness of Biden is good enough, and that the concept of being good enough is one way to advance our countries foundation of democracy and human rights.
But many Americans in fact don’t like the idea of something being “good enough”, and instead want a dramatic finish. That is the sad part about American elections. They are so hyped up that watching the race to the finish line is akin to checking the live tweets of an NFL Sunday matchup. It’s ridiculous, but people seem to love it. We should remember that someone’s steadfast career in politics and rational way of problem solving is worthy of American votes.
The drama from such a media effects perspective is perhaps Biden’s biggest problem in the election—not his actual career leading up it. It’s problematic because drama usually requires an ideology. But Biden doesn’t really have one. That’s not how he operates. He spent eight years in the White House as a democrat who echoed Barack Obama championing causes in human rights, education, and environmental awareness. But that was Obama’s legacy and excellent public speaking voice that won the hearts of Americans, not Biden’s.
Obama was the underdog who won the 2008 election and restored hope that the American dream was alive and well (it was still dying). And Biden was his pragmatic running mate who represented low political risk in the public eyes and someone who Obama could bounce ideas off in the White House.
As such, supporters on the right shrug at Biden and don’t care about the world order he has stuck up for in the past because it’s not always a glorified story to meet with leaders and talk to them respectfully—it’s just part of doing a good job. From this side of things, it looks like Trump has struck Biden in the first presidential debate by attacking his character, of course, and by simply being Trump and antagonizing Biden to the point where the repetition of his falsehoods is the mission if he says it like a “Proud Boy”.
But Biden, in the first debate, finally showed Trump that he is not just a pragmatist, he’s also someone with deep humility (much unlike Clinton in 2016) and made it exceptionally clear when attacked for his son’s drug problem that really you don’t attack people for their son’s drug problem. You try to understand, and think about the systemic issues that need to be tackled so America can advance its human capital. That’s what leaders do. And on that point, Biden made it clear that he had some resemblance of a presidential body.
In favor of Biden and reminiscing on the 2016 elections, another key difference between the Biden and Clinton campaign is that when Biden does start talking, people don’t see his as much as the democratic-elitist-establishment candidate as they did Hilary. In this light Biden is not really they guy Americans see as a “fraud”, or someone that “belongs in prison” but rather a respectable man in a country that still believes in patriarchal systems.
Maybe the democrats can gain an edge in this election because of this fact. Socialists, and liberals especially, are obsessed with wanting to dismantle the patriarchy, but this election might prove to be the case where a man on stage helps to save our country from four more years of dysfunctional politics. That’s not a bad alternative.
Some of Biden’s most memorable moments in his career that few Americans seem to know about are his historic meetings with Xi Jinping during his rise to power in 2011 when Biden travelled to China and engaged in friendly relations with the soon to be Supreme Leader and asked for cooperation, a stable trading partner, and the advancement of foreign direct investment between China and the U.S. Biden told the press during the conference that such strong ties between the two superpowers meant “…jobs. American jobs.” He doesn’t stray too far from neoliberal thoughts, but America is not really ready for anything super drastic, so this kind of mentality, from the more moderate tone, should be good enough.
During that same Asia trip, Biden also travelled to Japan, to the city of Natori which was mostly destroyed only a few months earlier in a deadly tsunami where one of the biggest earthquakes in 140 years was recorded. During his time in Japan, Biden spent the first day of his visit touring the city, making sure the Japanese people felt that America was still invested and committed to helping an ally during a time of distress. Biden’s impression made it clear that the resilience of the Japanese people was something to be equally admired by Americans. Such a policy tactic really helps to describe how Biden operates— like someone who is able to make sense of history, culture, and economics.
Trump on the other hand is someone who makes up history to suit his own economic endeavors. Hopefully Americans, and especially millennials will be able to see that Biden’s ability to make clear associations between people and their distinctive cultures is a real presidential quality.
Having such an advocate for a rules based international order is something America might come to terms with as we move forward, especially with trying to find a vaccine for Covid-19. The debates will come and go and Trump will be Trump. But our health is long term. Hopefully as both the election and the vaccine become more of a reality, the U.S. will be equipped to make a full recovery.