Stepping stone: The case for Joe Biden

Opinion: Columns

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By Tim Mellman

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I see Joe Biden as the stepping-stone candidate. Biden was not my first choice during the primaries (that position went to Mayor Pete Buttigieg). Nor was he my second choice. At the time, Biden seemed to me a middle-of-the-pack compromise candidate, with nothing particularly good or bad about him.

But as time went on, it became clear who our nominee would be. Biden's sweeping victory in South Carolina was followed by a string of endorsements, which I call "the moderate consolidation." Former candidates who shared many policies and values with Biden, notably Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, all endorsed Biden within the period of a few hours.

The following Tuesday was the first hint of the power of unity, as Biden swept 10 of the 15 Super Tuesday states and territories — states like O'Rourke's home state of Texas and Klobuchar's home state of Minnesota were previously believed to be toss-ups at best, yet the endorsements pulled Biden over the top.

Fast forward, and America is in the midst of a pandemic. A sudden and simultaneous dual disaster of a health crisis and economic crisis has changed everyday life as we know it. However, in the middle of all of this, comes a second series of high-profile endorsements. Over the span of a week, senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders endorse Biden, and are joined by former President Barack Obama. The former were the most progressive Democratic candidates for president this past cycle, and Obama is lauded by Americans of all political affiliations.

These endorsements marked "the liberal consolidation," the unifying of the Democratic Party behind Biden, seemingly a fully united front against President Trump. Many conservative Never-Trumpers and centrist politicians often critical of the President currently remain on the fence. Luckily, if there is any person who could convince them to join the fight against Trump, it's Joe Biden.

Biden is seen by many as a moderate Democrat. His policies are closer to the center in comparison to many of his former competitors. It is this perception of moderateness and willingness to compromise to the political center that could earn the support of conservative politicians such as former Republican Rep. Justin Amash, a vocal Trump critic; and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich; respected Sen. Mitt Romney, who voted for the removal of Trump from office in February; and other politicians who have publicly stated their difficulty deciding between Trump and Biden, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski. This potential "conservative consolidation" would all but ensure a Democratic victory in November, as the conservative politicians would be able to convince their constituents to support Joe Biden.

However, it is important to note that Biden is more than a unifier: he is a stepping stone to a more progressive future. You may have noticed that I spoke of the "perception of moderateness" that could earn the support of conservatives. I phrased it this way purposefully, because one of Biden's greatest strengths is his ability to mask progressive policies in moderate rhetoric. While his policies are admittedly less ambitious than those of his other previous competitors, come January 2021 he will be the most progressive president in recent history, advocating new reforms previously seen as radical — supporting everything from a $15 minimum wage to Senator Warren's bankruptcy plan would have seemed like all but political suicide just a decade or two ago. Biden also has a history of fighting for progressive reforms, notably for Black Americans. Biden was a co-sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 1990 that aimed to protect Blacks from employment discrimination, and his current plan for Black America vows to tackle wealth disparities and expand access to high-quality education, among other things.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, was quoted in 1991 as having said that he hated having Black accountants, and that "laziness is a trait in [Blacks]." And as president, Trump has appeared to more vocally oppose a Black football player kneeling on the ground than a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd.

So for those of you who, like me, are fed up with the regressive policies of President Trump and want a more progressive candidate, I encourage you to take comfort in the fact that electing Joe Biden as president will be a stepping stone toward a new progressive future, normalizing what may have otherwise been seen as radical rather than common sense, and laying the groundwork for a new era of progressivism.

Tim Mellman is a rising junior at OPRF High School. This essay was previously posted on bidenwarroom.com, the website for Biden War Room, a group he is volunteering with. The link to the version with cited sources is https://bidenwarroom.org/article/5/testimonial-tuesday-the-stepping-stone-philosophy.

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Renee Pleshar  

Posted: July 5th, 2020 5:24 PM

Well written, Tim, and I appreciate your hopeful and forward looking thinking in support of Biden's presidency. He was not my first or second choice either, but I think your essay outlines why he is a good pick above and beyond the motivation to vote "against" the "other guy".

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