On Wednesday Vice President Joe Biden announced that he would not run for president in 2016. During the days leading up to his announcement, the Washington press corps waited with bated breath to see if Biden would run or not. During the run-up to his announcement, Biden hinted at what his strategy would have been if he he had chosen to run. Biden seemed intent on running as the Democrat who would buddy up to Republicans, and who would seek bipartisan compromise in order to get things done.
Rhetorically, Biden was laying the foundation for mimicking Barack Obama’s naive 2008 campaign, promising a post-partisan presidency. Biden suggested he would willingly reach across the aisle and shake hands with Republicans. It was a theme Biden sounded with increasing frequency as he contemplated entry into the race for president.
On Tuesday, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, Biden proclaimed:
The other team is not the enemy. If you treat it as the enemy there is no way we can ever ever solve the problems we have to.
He expressed the same sentiment at George Washington University, when he stated:
I really respect the members up there and I still have a lot of Republican friends. I don’t think my chief enemy is the Republican Party. This is a matter of making things work.
Now if Biden simply wanted to substitute the words “political adversary” for “enemies” in describing Republicans, reserving the latter term for terrorists, that would have been one thing. However, his suggestion that Republicans were friends, seemed to ignore the contemporary state of American politics. With the level of vitriol that Congressional Republicans have expressed toward President Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the GOP has taken friendship off the table.
Biden however, seemed to have momentarily forgotten that 1970s-style, friendly bipartisan compromise has ceased to be possible. On Monday, at a George Washington University moderated forum with former Vice President Walter Mondale, Biden said:
I actually like Dick Cheney for real.
While working with people you disagree with is sometimes necessary, and a willingness to compromise can be an admirable quality, Biden appeared destined to run as a candidate who would be friendly to a fault. His post-partisan, “play nice” rhetoric was so detached from contemporary political reality, that it destroyed any logical rationale for his candidacy.
Compromise with good faith actors is laudable. Compromise with the nihilists and political hostage takers of the tea party, however, is not sober-minded political pragmatism, it is capitulation to a cadre of malicious lunatics. Barack Obama learned part way through his first term that the Republicans had no interest in meeting the president half way on any issues. Instead, they spent the entirety of Obama’s presidency trying to bring down the man who once campaigned on the promise of a post-partisan America.
Before stepping aside, Joe Biden seemed ready to revive the delusion that Democrats can simply reach out to the Republican Party and accomplish things together in a spirit of bipartisan compromise. That ship sailed long ago. Rather than cater to a handful of voters who believe in fairy tales of bipartisan comity, the Democratic nominee needs to speak to the millions of Americans who are fed up with GOP obstructionism and the tea party’s destructive influence over American politics.
The last thing the Democratic Party needed was a presidential candidate who projected weakness and a willingness to let the tea party tantrum throwers have their way some of the time. Instead the Democrats need to find a leader who will fight the Republican Party tooth and nail. That candidate must also inspire voters not only to vote Democrat for president, but also to vote blue all the way down the ticket, so that the Republican Party is buried at the polls.
Joe Biden probably recognized that he was not that candidate, and that Democratic and independent voters would reject the illusory politics of bipartisan compromise. Instead Democrats seem determined to unite to fight the Republicans at every turn, so that the nation can return to a government that works for the American people.
Vice President Biden has served honorably as U.S. Senator and as Barack Obama’s Vice President. His decision not to enter the presidential race was a wise one, as the post-partisan rhetoric he employed leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, essentially destroyed any compelling rationale for him to run for president.
Fortunately, Vice President Biden probably recognized this himself, and that, along with several other factors, influenced his decision not to seek the Democratic nomination. Despite all his rhetoric about being friends with the Republicans, Joe Biden also is loyal to his even better friends in the Democratic Party. Vice President Biden took one for the team on Wednesday, and Democrats should be grateful to him for doing so.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.
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