Biden’s Secret Antidote

Bernie may have the bros, but Joe has the moms.

If you’re a mom, you are used to living with uncertainty. A child wakes up with a fever, throwing your workday into chaos. You hit unexpected traffic on the way home from work, and quickly call whoever you can think of to pick up your kid before day care closes. You recognize that some things are beyond your control, and you garner your resources—your partners, friends, and neighbors—to power through the moment. You know what it means to pivot, pirouette, and rise to the occasion.

The last few years have tested your tolerance for stress. Trump’s tweets shock you. His policies horrify you: putting children in cages, nominating Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, pulling out of the Paris climate accord, threatening war with Iran. The list goes on. The president has already challenged your threshold for trauma. Then came the novel coronavirus, entering stage right and adding a whole new category of worry to your list of concerns.

This level of mom anxiety and uncertainty is not sustainable. Right now, moms all across America would give just about anything for calm, stable, and trustworthy leadership. And that’s where Joe Biden comes in.

After surviving three years of Donald Trump, the moms have spoken. A few weeks into the 2020 primary season, Democratic women—especially those 45 and older—have made clear that they prefer the former vice president, who outperformed Sanders by 12 percent among female voters and 43 percent among middle-aged voters. The mothers of this country want sturdy governance, unwavering institutions, and law and order. What they absolutely don’t want is a revolution. I should know. I’m one of them.

When we look back at how the Democratic Party coalesced around Joe Biden in the days before and after Super Tuesday, we will recognize that coronavirus had a significant role. Sure, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar each realized after poor showings in South Carolina that they had no viable path toward the nomination. Plus, they knew that more moderate Democrats staying in the race would factionalize most of the party while clearing the way for Bernie Sanders to win a plurality of delegates. All true. But the emergence of a genuine crisis has clarified what is really at stake in this election.

We have two men in their late 70s making their cases to go head-to-head against Trump. One septuagenarian wants a revolution, yells red-faced at his opponents, and wants to scrap the gains from the Affordable Care Act for something bigger and bolder. He also just survived a heart attack. The other septuagenarian tears up when he recounts stories of losing his son, literally smiles at and embraces his supporters, wants to build from Obamacare’s successes, and has overcome a lifelong stutter. In short, Biden has earned the empathy and affection of mothers in ways that Sanders simply hasn’t.

More importantly, Biden has earned our trust: He served as vice president in a functioning, scandal-less administration; he led the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; he introduced and shepherded the Violence Against Women Act; he fought the National Rifle Association to pass the Brady Bill and ban assault weapons; and he’s been a champion of campus sexual assault reform. It’s no wonder, then, that moms view Biden as the safest bet. Coronavirus has given him a timely and much-needed boost. And because women’s desire to oust Trump—62 percent of women disapprove of how he is handling his job as president, according to a Quinnipiac poll—has become so closely tied to our health and the health of our families, Bernie’s Bros cannot compete with Joe’s Mamas.

Indeed, Super Tuesday exit polls showed that Sanders amassed more support from men than women (Biden was fairly evenly supported between the genders). But women turn out more to vote than men—approximately 60 percent of 2020 primary voters have been women. AP VoteCast says the Democratic presidential primaries are “all about what women want.”

Think about their current plight: On fearing the collapse of democracy, moms now have to worry about a global pandemic hitting their communities. They are constantly asking themselves: Did I buy enough hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and boxed mac-and-cheese? What happens if school gets cancelled and I can’t get to work? Should we keep our 10-year-old’s birthday party this weekend or do we need to cancel? What happens if my company is losing so much business that they can’t afford me anymore?

To add insult to injury, we simply can’t trust—nor do we have time to hyper-analyze—the Pollyanna coronavirus information coming out of the Trump administration. The results have already been staggering. And each day the financial markets tumble even further.

We need to be able to count on our government to give us the facts.  We long for the days when someone in charged managed a crisis with science, a pandemic czar, a credible CDC Director, and a whole of government approach. Early in his presidency, Trump closed an entire office dedicated to global pandemics for no good reason other than to save money. Look how well that has worked out.

All of this has worked to Biden’s advantage over Sanders. Most voters, especially older female ones, want someone who can restore a sense of normalcy to the country while advancing needed progressive causes. They don’t want another destabilizer in chief.

This week’s election results in Michigan and elsewhere confirm that in a contest between a revolution and the restoration of security and safety, the latter will win out. In other words, it’s Biden for the moms. Our mama-bear instincts have been activated to protect our families. Now, we are unstoppable in the face of a health crisis. (Just ask the D.C. mom who spent a year training and two weeks skiing across Norway to raise awareness—and $1 million—for her daughter’s rare genetic disease.)

Sanders may have had an online army of Bernie Bros touting his ideas and knocking down the opposition. Offline, however, the bros are no match for the moms. The Trump administration’s incompetence and dishonesty have unleashed fury in the stay-at-home mom, the activist mom, the double-shift mom, and the high-powered mom. Women all across this nation are on a singular mission to stop the madness.

During her campaign, Kamala Harris frequently said that “Justice is on the ballot” in 2020. She repeated that mantra again this week in Detroit as she campaigned for Biden. If he’s smart, Biden will borrow that slogan, and adjust it for our new normal: “Our nation’s health is on the ballot.” So much has crystallized over the last couple of weeks: our mental health, physical health, and economic health are all on the ballot. The moms want Trump out and Biden in. And they are more than ready to rise to the occasion.

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Julie Rodin Zebrak

Julie Rodin Zebrak is the Washington Monthly's director of digital strategy and outreach. She is a veteran attorney with nearly 20 years of experience at the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice, and the founder and CEO of Yes Moms Can.