Joe Biden should be our next president
After winning the hotly contested presidential election in 1800, Thomas Jefferson gave an inaugural speech that confronted the simmering partisan tensions that had broken out in the young country — and set a goal that has been pursued by every president, right up until the day Donald Trump took office.
Many Americans hadn’t supported Jefferson, the first candidate to defeat an incumbent (John Adams), and in the new nation still adjusting to partisan politics it was still uncertain how the defeated Federalists would fare. But Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, declared that he would be the president for all Americans: to “retain the good opinion” of his supporters, but also “conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power.”
That simple pledge — repeated, in one form or another, in the victory speeches and inaugural addresses of the next two centuries of presidents — came to be a bedrock assumption of American democracy: that the institution of the presidency is not a partisan spoil, but instead the nation’s foremost public trust. No president, not even Jefferson, has completely lived up to the ideal, and yet, until 2017, it endured as a goal, an aspiration.
If the past four years have proved anything, it is that Trump has neither the desire nor the ability to govern in that tradition. And if the career of former Delaware senator, two-term vice president, and now Democratic nominee Joe Biden has demonstrated anything, it is that he is uniquely suited to restore the standards that generations of Americans took for granted: that presidents aspire to serve all Americans; listen to all sides; advance the welfare of all; and put the national interest ahead of their own.
The Globe is proud to endorse Biden, a candidate who has the potential to restore not just common decency and civility to the Oval Office, but also a proper sense of the president’s role. The fact that Biden is not an ideological firebrand, and is thought unlikely to pursue reelection in 2024 if he wins this November, augurs well for the central challenge that will confront the next president: how to repair the damage from Trump’s four years.
That damage starts with policy. Trump’s myriad failures have been cataloged in these pages since he took office. On his watch, international alliances have frayed. His mismanagement of the pandemic response and recklessness with public health have let a deadly virus run rampant, killing more than 210,000 Americans and even sickening him and his advisers. The flames of racial hatred have burned with greater ferocity. Carbon emissions have continued unabated as climate disasters erupted across the country. Gun violence has raged. In each of those crises facing the nation, Biden would offer superior leadership.
Biden has spent almost his entire adult life in elective office, and in his Senate career acquired a reputation as a dealmaker and foreign policy expert. He is a supporter of common-sense gun control and environmental protections. He listens to the advice of scientists on matters of public health. As vice president under Barack Obama, he managed the 2009 economic recovery package — an experience that, sadly, will be relevant in 2021. His victory in the Democratic primaries was built on support from Black voters, demonstrating an ability to build coalitions across racial lines that will be of critical importance in a starkly divided nation that must address the sins of its past. Biden has already made history by choosing as his running mate Senator Kamala Harris, a fierce defender of civil rights and LGBTQ rights and the nation’s first Black and Asian-American woman to be a major party’s vice presidential nominee.
Alongside this endorsement, the Globe editorial board outlines in greater depth the specific ways Biden would make a better president for various kinds of voters. But as important as those distinctions are, it would be wrong to see this election as merely a clash of different policy priorities or visions.
It’s also a referendum on the future of the presidency. Will Americans tolerate a president who abuses the pardon power to help his friends? Who attempted to enlist the help of a foreign government in his reelection, leading to his impeachment? Who has transformed the Justice Department into an extension of his political campaign? Who uses the bully pulpit of the presidency to attack protesters and undermine the integrity of the election itself? Who has refused to disentangle himself from his personal business interests? Who appears to care only for the minority of Americans who elected him in 2016, not the country as a whole? Who misled the public about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic?
That’s the president Donald Trump has been. And make no mistake: That’s the model of the presidency his reelection would affirm and condone.
Americans deserve better, and ought to demand better. If Democrats take control of the Senate and retain the House, Biden has the chance to be a transformative president, expanding health care access, preventing climate catastrophe and cleaning up our air and water, and protecting voting rights. But Joe Biden doesn’t need Congress at all for the most important job before him: to make the presidency great again.
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