Joe Biden has made pardoning Trump voters a core tenet of his campaign and I hate it. But I also hated it when my father made me rewrite my homework all night long and then get up to run my wind-sprints in the morning. The lesson was that although I hated doing what I had to do, I loved getting the results that followed. Those old memories came rushing back to me when news outlets were ablaze with reports that Joe Biden had characterized the election of Donald Trump as “an aberration.” My first take on that was what you would expect from an aggressively progressive citizen, voter and writer. I was mad as hell and offended as well. I figured that Biden was letting Trump voters off the hook- pandering to them by blaming Trump for the stupid choice they made to elevate this menace to the highest elected office in the world.
And although my first take was factually sound on every point, it failed to account for the harsh reality that the leadership crisis in America is bigger than my precious facts. As important as those facts are, it is also critically important that our nation finds a pressure-release valve to let some of the air out of our tires before we hit another big pot-hole and we have a major blow out. Watching his amazing Philadelphia campaign launch made me realize that Joe is aiming for that pressure-release valve. My personal preferences and objections are just not as important as avoiding the disaster of a lame-duck Donald Trump. By labeling Trump’s election “an aberration” Joe is providing a reprieve for some people who are guilty of aiding and abetting Trump’s con-job rather than sentencing them for it.
Voters like me are right to insist upon a complete accounting and full reckoning for how we got into this mess. Everyone must be held to account for any role they played in embracing, elevating and empowering this lecherous traitor- whether it was in their public representations or their private acts in the voting booth. And we will have ample time and the appropriate power for that reckoning AFTER we vote Trump out of office. If we don’t win, we probably will never get it. He will almost certainly get away scott-free for the damage he did to our country and for the emoluments he pocketed while doing it. Surely we are unified in our commitment against that.
Just like my dear-old-dad did for me, Joe Biden is giving us exactly what we need from him exactly when we need it whether we like it or not. And by “we” I mean those of us who view a 2020 Trump re-election in the appropriately apocalyptic terms that the rest of the country has made a parlor game of denying. If Trump wins again by any means at all- fair or unfair, legal or illegal- America as we know it is over. Full-f****ng-stop. So Joe Biden opening up his campaign by leaning right into that fact as the core rationale for his candidacy was the best move for the moment. Of all the candidates running, only he can do that with the back-breaking force required to defeat an incumbent because one thing we don’t need from Joe is an introduction.
Biden is taking full advantage of the fact that we already know who he is and what he is about both as a man and as a public servant. He doesn’t need to wow us with policy proposals or prove his progressive bona-fides. All he has to do is make it clear that he has a raging hard-on to knock that swirly thing off Donald Trump’s head and dog-walk him out of the White House. More than any other candidate, he can balance his strategic commitments by focusing directly on weakening Trump’s base while strengthening his own. The other guys trying to run in that lane lack the name recognition or the gravitas necessary and therefore have no shot at winning. Biden has both in spades.
So with whatever respect is due to Bennet, Bullock, and Buttigieg, they should all be blocking for Biden in their respective states instead of trying to run the ball themselves. Tim Ryan thinks that just being fa white guy from Ohio is enough but that doesn’t cut it. Maybe he thinks old white folks in Cincinnati will confuse him for Paul Ryan and vote for him by mistake. I’m not too keen on that approach but it seems like that’s all he’s got. Despite his self-evident lack of self-awareness, he most certainly knows that he can’t offer absolution to Trump voters without Obama voters lining up to drown him in the Ohio River. But Biden can do it and Biden knows it. And most important of all, Biden knows how valuable that power is.
In order to weaken Trump’s grip on his voters, Biden can publicly let some of them off the hook and give them an off-ramp that doesn’t make them look or feel like they are being cowed by “the Libs.” Joe Biden is performing political surgery by separating the Siamese twins that are the “Trump voter” and the “Trump supporter.” He is targeting the “Trump voters” that can be redeemed and not the “Trump supporters” who will follow him off a cliff. Those are two separate groups that he has deftly identified and the rest of us are misinterpreting his strategy by conflating them. There is a political opportunity to be exploited and only Joe Biden can do it without weakening the backbone of the most reliably pragmatic of all of Democratic voters: black women. No other Democratic candidate has the history and gravitas to pull that off.
He is using his greatest advantage of all: his public service record that spans four decades, with the fourth decade being spent embracing, supporting and at times protecting the most beloved figure in the modern history of Democratic politics.
Joe Biden is showing the full benefit of that experience now and we should be glad he is. Because as much as I hated it but needed it at times when I was a teenager, America is in desperate need of a great father-figure right now. Joe is that guy.