Joe Biden is Not What America Needs: Frustrations from a Long-Time Fan

Joe Biden is Not What America Needs: Frustrations from a Long-Time Fan

This is the piece I wanted never to write. My love and respect for former Vice President Joe Biden is legend. I even enjoy the gaffes. For example, in 2010, Joe Biden was caught on a hot mike after the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) whispering into then-President Obama’s ear, “This is a big fucking deal.” Let the mainstream media shake its head, I thought to myself. Breaking through Washington gridlock to do something right for the American people is, in fact, a big fucking deal.

And let us #NeverForget the glorious VP candidate debate from the 2012 Presidential campaign, whereupon my dude Joe pantsed Congressman Paul Ryan live on national television. From Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce at the time:

“Joseph Biden is a very lucky man. The Great Political Matchmaker in the Sky keeps handing him people who are trying — and failing — to fight above their weight class…

Joe Biden laughed at [Ryan]? Of course, he did. The only other option was to hand him a participation ribbon and take him to Burger King for lunch.”

Joseph R. Biden III’s personal biography is one of tragedy and resilience, of longtime public service, a genuine belief in the innate goodness of the American people and of the power of democracy to lift all boats. There are certainly cringe-worthy career moments, such as Biden’s disgusting participation in the 1991 destruction of Anita Hill. Our own Evangeline Van Houten satirized the unjustifiable nature of this episode amongst liberal women voters – of which I am mostly definitely one.  But at the age of 40, I’ve lived long enough to have a few egregious mistakes of my own haunt me.

In recent years, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Joe Biden found his lane. He excelled as Barack Obama’s wingman, and their productive rapport and friendship launched a thousand memes. He became America’s plain-spoken grandfather. And we all mourned with his family when 46 year-old son and former Delaware Attorney General Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015. Joe Biden outlasted the train wrecks that were his failed presidential campaigns, rebuilt the respectability of the Vice President role (after the mercurial and cruel Dick Cheney tore it to shreds) and left the White House with a 56 percent favorability rating. That should have been enough for one public lifetime.

But it wasn’t and so Joe Biden is one of 21 candidates comprising the 2020 Democratic field. At 76 years old, he is relic from another time of perceived bipartisan cooperation, of white male backroom collaboration. It is unfailingly clear to many that Biden is ill-prepared to lead a new America where Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement has unleashed centuries of repressed victimization into empowering, female action and leadership.

Biden’s mealy-mouthed public and private Anita Hill apology tour bears more than a hint of “You can’t blame me. It was the 1990s. Things were different.”  His role in creating the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which directly led to today’s race-based mass incarceration crisis, is quite deservedly following him down the campaign trail. And as New York Times writer Shane Goldmacher effectively argues this morning, Biden labors under the misguided belief that the modern Republican Party is merely grappling with an unfortunate Trump aberration. In Biden Thinks Trump Is the Problem, Not All Republicans. Other Democrats Disagree, Goldmacher observes:

“There is no disagreement among Democrats about the urgency of defeating Mr. Trump. But Mr. Biden’s singular focus on the President as the source of the nation’s ills, while extending an olive branch to Republicans, has exposed a significant fault line in the Democratic primary.

Democrats, like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, see the President as a symptom of something deeper, both in a Republican Party overtaken by Trumpism and a nation cleaved by partisanship. Simply ousting Mr. Trump, they tell voters, is not enough….

Do Democrats want a bipartisan deal-maker promising a return to normalcy, or a partisan warrior offering more transformative change?”

As a liberal woman approaching middle age, you will find me shouting fervently from the “transformative change” column. I want Mitch McConnell tossed from his long-running, undemocratic chokehold on Senate leadership. I want the House’s Freedom Caucus bitch slapped into the history books for its mercenary, dedicated efforts to deprive millions of Americans of adequate healthcare. And I want state legislatures that can overcome their obsession with uteruses to address the economic, educational and infrastructure crises in our communities.

If you don’t understand the depths of our nation’s problems, and the calculated decisions resulting from one party’s four-decade strategy to shove wealth upward, blow up the deficit, lead us into foolish, amoral wars and disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible, I can’t give you my vote. The problems of today took a long time to metastasize and can only start to be fixed when we collectively decide to shun the GOP from city council, to statehouse, to Capitol Hill. You don’t get it Joe, and as much as it saddens me to write this – because I still love you – it’s time to call it quits. You are not what this country needs.

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate

Becky is an award-winning journalist, Op-Ed columnist and blogger. On March 29, 2018 her first book, Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team, will be published by Eckhartz Press. She is a proud Chicago resident, where Becky lives with her husband Bob. Check out her collected work at, and follow her on Twitter @BeckySarwate.