Former vice president Joe Biden will reportedly announce his long-awaited presidential candidacy Thursday in a video. His declaration should not try to run away from what he is, a moderate who will be among the oldest men ever to seriously run for the White House. Instead, his declaration should double down on it.
Biden appears to many as a man out of step with the times and his party. A 76-year-old white moderate man seeking to lead a party that is increasingly progressive, young and dominated by women and people of color? That’s about as counterprogramming as you get in politics. If this were a movie, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a 54-year-old progressive woman of color, seems more like the candidate studio heads would cast as the lead. To beat her and the other contenders, Biden needs to "dance with the one that brung ya” — himself.
That means making a virtue out of his supposed weaknesses. From the get-go, he needs to explain why his age and moderation are reasons for Democrats to nominate him, not things they should overlook as they nominate him. He should tackle this head-on in his opening announcement, something along these lines:
Hi, I’m Joe Biden. I’ve come to my old family home here in Scranton, Pa., to ask my old neighbors if they will back me as I try to replace Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. I hope you will join them, too.
I’m sure many of you are wondering whether I’m the right person to lead America in these times. You look at me and say, "He’s too old.” You look at me and say, “He’s too moderate.” I can’t change who I am. But who I am is exactly why I’m the right person to be the next president, and the right person to lead the Democratic Party.
Yes, I’m old. But that’s a strength, not a weakness. I’m old enough to remember a time when Democrats and Republicans disagreed but didn’t hate each other. I’m old enough to remember a time when Americans of all genders and races stood up to dictators and won the Cold War without telling mass murderers they were good people. America was stronger then, and I want to bring that America back.
I’m old enough to remember when Republicans and Democrats agreed we should fight climate change and racism. I’m old enough to remember the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., women’s liberation and Stonewall. I’m old enough to remember when the old America that I grew up in decided it was time to make all Americans full and equal citizens, and that we were going to do it together. America was stronger then, and I want to bring that America back.
I’m old enough to remember when the party I have supported all of my life, the Democratic Party, jumped off the deep end and nominated someone so far left that the Republican nominee won 49 states. Richard Nixon’s reelection gave us Watergate, impeachment and years of national division. America was weak then, and I don’t want Democrats to make the same mistake again.
The greatest Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, told Americans that they faced “a rendezvous with destiny.” The truth is that every American generation faces that rendezvous, because we always have to meet new challenges while keeping our old values. I became a Democrat because I wanted to be a part of that rendezvous, of renewing our national promise of equality and liberty for all as new problems arose. I’ve been doing that for more than 40 years, and I want one last chance to do it again.
Some people call me moderate because I believe in old-fashioned American values. If that’s moderation, then I’m guilty as charged.
I cherish those old values, and they are held as deeply here in Scranton as they are in New York or in California. American ideals are not socialist ideals or nationalist ideals, because they don’t set neighbor against neighbor on the basis of class or race. American ideals aren’t always perfectly applied, but the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and a “government of, by and for the people” are values that always let us make our country “a more perfect Union."
I’m running to apply our old values to our new challenges, to create a new America that the old America would recognize and be proud of.
Together, we can build that new America — an America where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness runs like a mighty stream. An America that lifts its lamp besides its golden door for the tired and the poor. An America that remembers the Great Lakes, the Alleghenies and the mighty Mississippi along with Silicon Valley, Puget Sound and Manhattan.
I’m Joe Biden. Please join me in my quest to renew the American dream.