Why Joe Biden Has Been Able to Unite Democrats

It is more than just a desire to beat Trump.

Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. With the convention postponed until August, it will be a while before that is formalized, but there is no doubt about the outcome.

Bernie Sanders’ exit from the race sealed the deal. But he didn’t just drop out. He endorsed Biden, and on Tuesday, Sanders told Steve Peoples that “it would be ‘irresponsible’ for his loyalists not to support Joe Biden, warning that progressives who ‘sit on their hands’ in the months ahead would simply enable President Donald Trump’s reelection.”

With Biden as the presumptive nominee, Barack Obama was able to jump in with his own endorsement on Tuesday.

Among Biden’s former competitors, Elizabeth Warren was the last hold-out when it comes to an endorsement. On Wednesday, she jumped in as well.

That kind of unity prompted Jonathan Martin to announce that, at this point, Democrats are not in disarray—a major concession from a media that has been obsessed with the opposite.

I would posit that there are two reasons for the kind of unity we’re witnessing from Democrats. The first doesn’t have anything to do with Biden. Over the course of this primary, a lot of Democrats had to come to grips with the reality that their favored candidate didn’t win. With over 20 of them in the mix, that could have led to a lot of division and hard feelings.

The reason that hasn’t happened is that what unites Democrats right now is the need to defeat Donald Trump. Of course, Democrats have always been motivated to beat a Republican president. But this time, it’s different. The horror that we have been exposed to combined with Trump’s incompetence and cruelty means that we feel it in our bones. I suspect that the party would have unified under any candidate who prevailed in the primaries. Sanders put it well: anyone who sits on their hands in the coming months will simply enable Trump’s re-election.

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed one blue wave election after another. The latest happened in Wisconsin last week. The primary driver of those elections has been to defeat the party that Donald Trump leads. But since 2016, he hasn’t been on the ballot. That changes this November and I don’t think that Republicans have any idea about what’s coming.

While Trump’s base will, of course, remain loyal to him, there is a backlash to this president that was expressed the weekend he was inaugurated with the Women’s March and, because of his daily doses of mendacity, cruelty, and incompetence, has never gone away. That is what is uniting Democrats.

The second reason for the unity we’re witnessing does have something to do with Biden. Warren captured it in her endorsement video.

Among all of the other candidates I competed with in the Democratic primary, there’s no one I’ve agreed with 100 percent of the time over the years. But one thing I appreciate about Joe Biden is he will always tell you where he stands. When you disagree, he’ll listen—and not just listen, but really hear you and treat you with respect, no matter where you’re coming from.  And he’s shown throughout this campaign that when you come up with new facts or a good argument, he’s not too afraid or too proud to be persuaded.

Joe Biden was there at the very moment I became a senator—he swore me in. And when he did, he said, “You gave me hell! And you’re going to do a great job.”

What Warren is describing about her experience with Biden is the same kind of respect he has shown to his Republican colleagues—which often drives Democratic partisans a bit nuts. But it is also why he is able to unite those who “gave him hell” in the primary: he tells you where he stands, listens with respect, and isn’t too proud to be persuaded if you make a good argument. That isn’t merely campaign lingo. People have been saying that about Joe Biden for years, which is precisely why, after a contentious primary, he has been able to unite Democrats.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.