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Column: Are you as uninspired by Joe Biden as I am? Here’s why we need to jump on board anyway

Former Vice President Joe Biden has run his presidential campaign from home in Wilmington, Del.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has run his presidential campaign from home in Wilmington, Del.
(CNN)

There’s a reason President Trump calls him “Sleepy Joe.”

Joe Biden would be the oldest person ever elected president, and, yeah, he sometimes does seem to be slowing down. And for sure he’s no Bernie Sanders — he has no fiery radical program to change the world.

If elected, Biden won’t be known for his inspirational oratory, his close attention to policy details, his bold vision or his dramatic reshaping of society. He’s been in public office for nearly 50 years and is used to playing the game according to its long-established rules. He’s more swamp creature than revolutionist.

But who cares? Call him sleepy, call him slow, call him old, call him dull — none of it matters. Biden is the Democrat with a chance of displacing President Trump, and at this point it’s a very good chance — if we don’t blow it.

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In the 72 hours ahead, as the Democratic National Convention gets into full salesmanship mode, you’re going to see dozens of slickly produced, party-approved docu-ads designed to make you fall in love with the former vice president. You’ll hear dozens of speeches about “my friend Joe, who I’ve known for 40 years.” Many Democrats are primed for this and ready to give their hearts to the Biden-Harris ticket.

But for others, the syrupy sentiment will only annoy. So here’s my less sappy pitch to those people who, like me, lack enthusiasm for the candidate. Biden is decent. He is dedicated. He doesn’t play on the politics of resentment. He believes in government. It may be out of fashion in some circles to prattle on, as Biden has been known to, about cooperation, compromise and civility, but there are worse hills to die on.

Biden is known for his ability to forge a human connection with voters, which is crucial in an election where every vote may count. He’s been defined by his folksiness, his genial garrulousness, the tragedies he’s undergone and his working-class Pennsylvania background.

Is likability the most important quality in a candidate? Of course not. But it’s not objectionable either. If it helps to be a candidate who voters want to drink a beer with, I’m all for it.

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Republicans and Democrats have shown a great deal of difference in how they behave after losing a presidential election.

Because that’s the real issue here: The United States is in the grips of a dangerous, dishonest president. Our job is a straightforward one: to drive him out of office. Only after Trump is gone can we rebuild faith in our laws and institutions, restore facts and science to the pedestals where they belong, and lead the country back onto a path toward fairness, empathy and reason.

To accomplish that, we need a candidate who is, above all, electable. No qualification matters more than that.

The argument on the left is that, no, what we need is dramatic change — real, meaningful, substantial change. We face an existential climate crisis, extraordinary income inequality and a battle over racial inequity that is boiling over. We’re running out of time. Old-school Democrats like Joe Biden are too mild and moderate; compromise and civility are failed tactics. It’s time to reorder society, to take on entrenched powers, to reject business as usual.

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OK. Bring that up on Jan. 20. For now, let’s focus on what needs to be done. Too many people I meet shrug at the thought of voting for Biden — but he is the candidate the Democrats chose. He is the anti-Trump. We need to put him on stage, give him some applause, and put to rest the nasty and dishonest Trump assertions that he’s hiding out or that he’s in some state of cognitive decline. Then we must vote him into office.

Once elected, he will undo Trump’s executive orders. He’ll put us back in the Paris climate accords, end the so-called Muslim travel ban and restart nuclear diplomacy with Iran. He’ll stop the race-baiting and the immigrant bashing. He can’t undo the appointment of all those judges, but neither can anyone else.

It’s your right as an American citizen not to be excited. It’s perfectly rational to wish for more.

But to do anything right now other than jump fully onto the Joe Biden bandwagon and make sure everyone you know does too is irresponsible, short-sighted and self-destructive.

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I’ve lived under 12 presidents and none was perfect. Some were dreadful. Participation in a democracy means a lifetime of compromise, of second choices, of steps forward and back.

By all means, if you think Joe Biden is too timid or moderate, keep pushing him for more. Let him know what you want.

But first, elect him president.


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