Why I wish Joe Biden had run for president

Service through political leadership is about offering your identity as a representation of your community. Policies, personalities and ethics come together to reflect on the identity of a politician; the choice to elect that person reflects the identity of their constituents. That’s why, independent of any one policy position he’s taken over a 40 year career in public life, I’m sad Joe Biden won’t be running for President in 2016. Few, if any, of our political leaders have put so much of themselves into their work in such a public way as Joe Biden, and fewer have represented more of what I hope represents my identity.

Identity politics often gets reduced to demographics, even though we know there’s so much more that goes into identity than census data. I identify with Biden in ways that have nothing to do with age, race, gender, zip code or socioeconomic status. Instead, I primarily identify with Joe Biden due to his impulse to use grief to drive social good and the influence of his father’s struggle to keep a roof over his head when he was young.

One of the most basic human emotions is grief, and Joe Biden has experienced more than his fair share. As a young father he buried a wife and daughter who died in a tragic car accident in 1972. Just this year he buried the son, Beau, who was supposed to carry on his legacy in public service. And who can’t identify with grief? My mother died of pancreatic cancer when I was nine years old. She had been diagnosed four years earlier and lived longer than the vast majority of pancreatic cancer patients by enrolling in clinical trials with no certainty of success and by stubbornly refusing to give up. But eventually, just like Beau, the reality of cancer caught up with her force of will and she passed away in 2001.

Biden, reflecting on the loss of his young daughter and first wife in front of a crowd in 2012 spoke of the “black hole you feel in your chest, like you’re being sucked back into it.” I strongly identify with that experience. That black hole shaped who Biden is and it certainly shaped me in ways I’ve only begun to understand. It’s a fundamental part of our identities. But he also told the crowd that it gets better. The pain never goes away but it “gets manageable” he said.

In his speech announcing he would not run for president, Biden spoke of the need for a moon shot to end cancer as we know it. He said that goal would be central to the remainder of his life in public service. My mom wanted to fight back too – joining a small organization called the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to speak out for herself and her peers and work for change. Now I volunteer with that organization in hopes of joining in the Vice President’s goal to achieve that moon shot to cure cancer and continuing her legacy. She had a saying that I think Biden would agree with: As long as you are alive there is hope. In his speech, Biden said “if I could be anything, I would have wanted to have been the president that ended cancer, because it’s possible.” I think that’s a goal we can all relate to, as it’s a goal built on hope, for better or worse.

Joe Biden, via Wikimedia Commons

Joe Biden, via Wikimedia Commons

Biden’s undying optimism surely comes in no small part from the example of Joe Biden Sr. In then-Senator Biden’s 2012 speech to the Democratic National Convention, he recalled his father, who had fallen on hard times, leaving the family home in Scranton, PA to find work in Delaware. His father, facing uncertainty many of us have faced in the job market, told his son that “everything’s going to be fine.” It’s the same brave face we put on we walk out of a graduation ceremony without a full time offer in hand, or move to a new city for an internship in a field that may not pay much but stokes our passions. The stakes for Joe Sr. were higher with a family to feed, but the fear is palpable for all of us who have faced job insecurity in the modern job market.

Biden absorbed his father’s optimism and carried it with him for the rest of his life. Through his career he spoke eloquently about his dad’s reminder that a job is more than a paycheck. I know that from my experience too. If I don’t get a job, I can move home with my parents; I’ll never go hungry. I don’t technically need a job to survive, and for that I’m lucky. But to me a job means the ability to convince myself that tomorrow I’ll be in a better place than I am today. It means I can spoil my newborn nieces and young cousins and I never have to show up to a birthday or holiday without a small gift to show my appreciation for someone special in my life. It means I can support myself and have agency – the same goals Joe Sr. must have worked for.

In countless ways, large and small, Joe Biden has laid his identity bare for voters to accept or reject as representative of our own identities. His values about work and family are what I want my values about work and family to be. More importantly, by his example I’ve learned to articulate those values so I have a benchmark by which to hold myself accountable to who I want to be. His grief is my grief and my grief is his. The same can be said, in equal or greater measure, for our stubborn optimism. That’s how I identify with Biden despite our demographic differences. Closing his recent interview with the Vice President, Stephen Colbert told him that “it would be emotional for a lot of people if you don’t run.” He was right.

Joe Biden is fond of his father’s expressions, repeating on many occasions his dad’s saying that “A father knows he’s a success when he turns and looks at his son or daughter and know that they turned out better than he did.” Here’s my dad’s version: a parent is a success if his kids grow up to serve – in the military, in government, in their communities. I hope one day I can make my dad as proud of his work as Joe Sr. deserves to be.


Josh is a data analyst with expertise in grassroots engagement for national and local politics and a particular interest in the behavioral psychology of voting and civic engagement. He spent five years working in northern and southwest Virginia for for candidates from Blacksburg Town Council to President of the United States. In 2013 he ran a campaign that registered over 3,000 Virginia Tech students to vote for state and local candidates and tested innovative messaging and communications tactics to persuade them to make their voices heard on election day.

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27 Responses to “Why I wish Joe Biden had run for president”

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  2. 2karmanot says:

    Well done, my thoughts exactly.

  3. OnceAMule says:

    Joe Biden is the quintessential doofus – a stumbling, bumbling, likable incompetent. That said, I think, for a politician, I’d also have to say that he’s honest, which would be a big step forward from either Hillary, or Mr. Obama. Additionally, I doubt he’d be as afraid of working with Congress as Obama is, nor as disrespectful of the American people.

  4. FLL says:

    …appease the GOPer extortionists even worse than Obama did.

    Which is the one thing about Obama that I always hated. It was like nails on a chalkboard. I think Obama was trying to imitate Abraham Lincoln’s “team of rivals” strategy, but it was a false equivalency. Lincoln had the support of his Congress, so he could afford to be magnanimous. Obama faced a hostile Congress, so he was just being foolish.

  5. BeccaM says:

    Yeah… for Biden to refer to Clinton as ‘naive’ for noting the Republicans are unambiguously her political enemies is ridiculous. When he said that, my reaction was, “Great — if Biden is ever president, expect constant and pointless attempts to appease the GOPer extortionists even worse than Obama did.”

  6. FLL says:

    Biden was so pointed in his displeasure about anyone opposing the Republicans on principle. He mentioned it twice: once after the Democratic debates and a second time (unnecessarily) when he stated that he was dropping out of the race. Maybe it wouldn’t be out of line for Biden to call the national Republican leadership “friends” if he were speaking 30 or 40 years ago, but today it sounds bizarre, given the insane asylum and decimated rump political party that the Republicans have become. Biden’s insistence that today’s batch of national-level Republicans are friends ignores the current level of vitriol and outright demographic slurs that have become an intrinsic part of the modern Republican Party—what’s left of it.

  7. BeccaM says:

    I, for one, am glad he didn’t run.

    First of all, running to satisfy a tragically deceased family member’s deathbed request isn’t a valid reason why the rest of the country should accept Biden as a president. You gotta have a fire in your belly and to want to lead, and Biden lacks both of these things.

    Secondly, Biden would have been crippled right from the start in terms of campaign financing and on-the-ground organizing. If he wanted to run, he needed to start at least six months ago. The plain fact is by time someone comes out and announces the intention to run, it is virtually never a surprise to anyone except those who listen to and believe the idiot news network ‘political analysts.’

    Thirdly, as other commenters have noted, I too haven’t forgiven Biden for his horrible sexist attacks against Anita Hill — and he’s never apologized, either. Nor for his solid pro-corporate stances, including support for the newer bankruptcy laws which make it harder for citizens to discharge unpayable debts. He’s mushy on abortion rights, having supported the ban on all public funding of them (even if medically necessary) and the ban on what used to be a common late-term abortion technique used only in the most serious of cases. And yeah — he seems to think drug crime is due mainly to the drugs themselves, and not from the fact of them being illegal in the first place (that is, he seems to think Prohibition is a worthy cause).

    Finally, and this is just a subjective reaction: Joe Biden may be a nice guy in general, but his public persona is decidedly creepy and personal space-invading.

    I don’t care about Joe Biden’s identity. What I care about is whether he’s the right guy to lead the country and to oppose the Republicans. He’s flat out said he doesn’t see any problem with the opposition party or the lunatics running it now.

  8. mf_roe says:

    He helped screw over working class bankruptcies while leaving TRUMP style bankruptcy Oligarch Welfare Republican Family Values.

  9. mf_roe says:

    Biden is of the Velvet school of Pimping, when he fucks you he trys to conceal the pain—but he still fucks you.

  10. mf_roe says:

    THANK YOU!!!!
    Biden is Hillary with a penis and a better family, the rest is the SOS.

  11. 2karmanot says:

    Who gives a flying F’ about Joe Biden. The personal drama and his nice guy histrionics don’t impress me. He’s a plutocrat’s go-to man. Thanks to good old working man’s Joe, families and individuals suffering from medical catastrophic financial loss had a very difficult row to hoe declaring bankruptcy. He was a Congressional stooge of the banking, insurance and military industries. I for one wouldn’t give him the time of day on a ballot. His wall-flower theatrics these past few weeks were worthy of an energy sucking diva. pppfffttt

  12. 2karmanot says:

    You poor thing….best move along

  13. Moderator4 says:

    Well, although he is a very, very seldom commenter, he has been around for three years. I am willing to give someone like that a bit more slack than a complete “newbie.”
    On the other hand, if he decides to bail on this blog, I am sure the blog will recover. ;)

  14. FLL says:

    Biden is completely out of step with the modern-day drive to reform cannabis laws specifically (both medical and recreational) and drug sentencing in general. Biden is a drug-war dinosaur. The last thing this country needs is a new drug war in which African-Americans and the poor are always disproportionately singled out. I’m convinced that it’s just as well that Biden dropped out of the presidential race.

  15. Moderator3 says:

    You’re so kind. I would have deleted his comment.

  16. nicho says:

    When you’re sure, be sure to let us know.

  17. nicho says:

    Ever wonder why all the WalMart shell corporations are located in Delaware and why the stores have to pay them for the use of sings, logos, etc., leaving no “profit” in their home states to be subject to state taxes. Delaware doesn’t tax that income, allowing WalMart to avoid paying state taxes.

  18. timncguy says:

    Further, when Hillary answered the republicans were her enemy, she was answering a question about who “HER” enemy was, not the enemy of the Democratic party. What more evidence do you need that they are “her” enemy when one of them is already speaking in public about impeaching her on inauguration day if she is elected?

  19. Moderator4 says:

    Nobody is forcing you to read this blog any longer.

  20. Finn says:

    I’m not sure I can handle the ignorance and naivete of the writers here anymore…

  21. nicho says:

    His values about work and family are what I want my values about work and family to be.

    I think you need to do some more research into how he sold his soul to the banksters and how the changes he brought about have devastated families beyond belief.

  22. Indigo says:

    I don’t believe he kicks the dog or ridicules small children’s efforts. That makes him a conventionally nice guy. Not good enough for the presidency but a conventionally nice guy.

    Then there’s the whole business about his lessez-faire attitude bring tax breaks to the corporations, Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, the anti-drug histeria, and that generally willingness he has demonstrated over and over to look away from those issues where the spotlight of reform must shine.

    Thanks for holding the V-P chair, Joe. Go home now, I’m glad you said no.

  23. dommyluc says:

    Thank you! Biden is one of the main reasons Thomas is on the SC. He could have shut down the nomination of that incompetent buffoon, but he tried to earn those delusional “bipartisan” chops for a future presidential campaign. I’m sorry about the death of his son and his other personal tragedies, but as far as I am concerned, he can go fuck himself before he gets my vote. And his remark about how the Republicans are not the enemy was a line I expected to hear in 1991, not 2015. After all the times Obama held out his hand to Republicans and they returned the favor by pissing in his face, Biden must be out of his fucking mind if he doesn’t think the Republicans are the enemies of not only the Democrats, but of democracy in this country itself.

  24. timncguy says:

    Biden brought us Clarence Thomas onto the Supreme Court by his treatment of Anita Hill. Biden also sides with the financial industry that locates itself in his state of Delaware because of their lax financial regulations. Ever wonder why all the Credit Cards companies are located in either Delaware or Dakota?

  25. 2karmanot says:

    Bingo. Who gives a flying F’ about Joe Biden. The personal drama and his nice guy histrionics don’t impress me. He’s a plutocrat’s straw man. Thanks to good old working man’s Joe families and individuals suffering from medical catastrophic financial loss had a very difficult row to hoe declaring bankruptcy. He was a Congressional stooge of the banking, insurance and military industries. I for one wouldn’t give him the time of day on a ballot. His wall-flower theatrics these past few weeks were worthy of an energy sucking diva. pppfffttt

  26. Houndentenor says:

    I feel like I’m in the minority on this, but to me the purpose of primaries is that it gives the parties a chance to discuss the issues and come to a consensus on a platform for the general election that fall. It’s not just a horserace. There are plenty of reasons to run besides who will win. For that reason I’m sorry that Biden isn’t in the race. Biden represents a part of America that is too rarely represented in our politics. Because until becoming Veep he went home every night to Wilmington he didn’t get sucked into the beltway culture of lobbyists and activists distracting him from what his constituents wanted and needed. That’s a much needed voice in the Democratic Party and one that needs to be heard. Sanders represents that too but from a different political perspective.

  27. Knottwhole says:

    Anybody who thinks Cheney is a decent man is untrustworthy.
    Biden is also a drug warrior.
    Double untrustworthy.

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