However you feel about each of them, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders just put all the bullshit to the side. We’re in a national emergency.
No, we’re in two national emergencies. The coronavirus is one. The Trump presidency is the other. We need to join together to end emergency #2 so we can really address emergency #1.
This is what leadership looks like: The two men met in video conversation Monday afternoon, where Sanders endorsed Biden.
“We’ve got to make Trump a one-term president and we need you in the White House,” Sanders said. “I will do all that I can to see that that happens, Joe. It’s imperative that all of us work together.”
Then they chatted—Biden sometimes from a script, it seemed, or notes anyway—for about 40 minutes about…stuff. The crisis. How we have to come out of it a different, and better, country.
“This crisis has only made inequity worse in America,” said Biden. “We can’t just go back to the way things were before.”
They didn’t agree on everything. There was acknowledgement of that. You could make out Sanders wincing a couple times when Biden took a position that wasn’t the full Bernie.
But they accentuated what they had in common. “We may disagree a little bit on the issues,” Sanders said, but they agreed and agreed again and again. I chuckled wondering what those geniuses at Democratic Socialists of America, and the Bernie red-hots more generally, thought as they watched their hero, the only pure man in America, ditch purity and acknowledge political reality.
And they praised each other to the heavens. Especially Biden to Sanders.
“I’m going to need you,” Biden said, “not just to win the campaign but to govern.” And then: “Thank you for being such a gentleman, and I’ll try my best not to let you down.”
He was right. Sanders was a gentleman. This was the Bernie Sanders we need. What a contrast from 2016, when he… nah, let’s not even get into it. He behaved today, and last week in suspending his campaign, exactly as someone in his position should behave. Realistically and graciously.
And Biden behaved exactly as he should behave. Deferentially. To a fault. That’s all right. Sanders has earned that deference, both with the way he’s behaved recently and of course by virtue of the fact that he has that youth army behind him (not quite as big as he thought it would be, but big enough to matter in November).
Their dialogue went a little deeper than the usual loser-endorses-winner, and it’s because of the virus emergency. It’s changed everything. It’s opened a door—a door to a somewhat more Bernie-ish political program.
Remember how Biden was talking when this campaign began? He was talking about a restoration. Now, he’s saying we can’t go back to the way it was.
From the GOP, there’s going to be a lot of chatter like this:
They’re going to try to turn Biden into a socialist. That seems ridiculous to me on its face. But Biden does have to be careful. Come October, he can’t be seen as carrying Bernie’s water, which is what the Republicans are going to say. So he’ll have to draw a few lines that Sanders won’t like, and the Bernie Stans even less so. It’s going to be vitally important that Biden be his own man.
But having said that, the virus does create a context for Biden to make some arguments about the economy that are more aggressive than he might have made without it. Everyone can see—well, I guess not everyone, which is a whole ’nother problem, but I would venture a majority—that you can’t just shrink government down to nothing and leave it all to the private sector and the states and not do anything. The virus crisis shows that we do need government, and that should help the party of government.
And it should certainly hurt the idjit who gave the United States of America the distinction of being the very worst country in the world at responding to this. Exactly as Biden and Sanders were speaking, the Trump White House was announcing the Council to Fuck Up America Even Worse That We Already Have. Ivanka and Jared. And four white guys whose ages add up to twice their IQs, each more right wing than the one before.
It’s incredible to me that the contrast isn’t galactically obvious to everybody. On the one side, we have two men, whatever their flaws, talking sensibly and rationally about how to get the country through this. On the other, we have a man-child who we have to worry will decide that Anthony Fauci stepped on the wrong eggshell in his last CNN appearance and is shitcanned.
For whatever reasons, the contrast isn’t not obvious to everyone. But there’s every reason to think that a united front of Biden, Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and the Obamas (and, yes, even the Clintons) will convince enough people. We may yet have time to save this country.