Born on November 20, 1942, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.’s political career started in 1969, at the age of 27 when he was elected a Councillor.
In 1972, at only 29, he beat Caleb Boggs, the Republican incumbent, to get into the Senate, defying the odds stacked against him, which at a time was 30 percentage points. He ran a campaign with “almost no money”, relying on family members to staff his campaign, with his energy and ability to connect with people getting him over the cliff with just 1 percentage point and less than 4000 votes.
It was a case of the people of Delaware sending Joe to the Senate, in the words of Barack Obama, “as quickly as they could”. He was eventually re-elected to the Senate six times, including 2008, when he also ran as Vice President, ensuring he clocked in for a 7th term, before stepping down to take office as Vice President. At the end of his second term with President Obama, Joe Biden, whom Obama fondly referred to as “the best Vice President America has ever had”, had clocked 47 years in what many describe as an “extraordinary career in public service.”
As of 2016, it was thought a fait accompli that Hillary Clinton would be elected President to most likely serve out two terms, with nothing in the future, in that realm, for Joe. Biden might just be on his way too to remind us that it is not over until it is over, winning election as President of the U.S. at the age of 78. In 1974, Time magazine had named Biden one of the 200 Faces for the Future. I doubt that their reading of the future extended as far as seeing him become President in the year 2020. At the surprise ceremony held by President Obama, on his way out of office, to present Vice President Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction, a rare honour extended to only 25 other recipients before Joe, Obama had said about Biden, “the best part is, he’s nowhere close to finished. In the years ahead as a citizen, he will continue to build on that legacy internationally and domestically…” Prophetic.
Joe Biden has, no doubt, had an extraordinary career and has made his own fair share of mistakes. But for a career that has lasted this long, one thing that stands him out is that, in spite of the allegations of impropriety that have been made against him, being on the wrong side of some legislations passed, some of which he has apologized for, his list of misspeaks and gaffes and saying too much or letting out what might have not been meant to be let out, Joe has managed to let his person take pre-eminence over his political persona, such that people just find it easy to take to him.
Indeed, people know Joe. They know him as a straight shooter. They know his story. They know about the tragic loss of his first wife and daughter in a car accident, with his sons – Beau and Hunter injured. They know he was going to resign, even though he had only just been elected, to be able to take care of them, but was persuaded not to do so. They know that he was sworn in at the Medical Centre. They know that in order for him to be able to see his sons every day, he took to a daily commute by train between his home in Delaware and Washington, D.C., something he kept to. all through his 36 years in the Senate.
Americans know about Joe Biden’s second wife, Jill, and her passionate commitment to education. They know about his daughter, the Social worker. They know about the loss of his Beau to Cancer. People know about his battle with stuttering and how he took to poetry recitation to overcome it. Obama again – “You see Joe’s heart in the way he consoles families. Dealing with cancer backstage after an event. When he meets kids fighting through a stutter of their own, he gives them his private phone number and keeps in touch with them long after. To know Joe Biden is to know that love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully.”
Joe probably doesn’t get as much credit as he could for his work in the Senate in the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees, which he chaired at different times, or his work as Vice President, whom the President not only leaned on for candid advice but farmed out some assignments to. But hardly does anyone dispute his signature on the Recovery Act among other pieces of legislation, especially those that were in desperate need of a leaning across the aisle to pull through. It was him that the Obama team relied upon to make things happen, as it became more difficult working with the Republicans.
In all, it does appear that fate has again played its strong hand, throwing up conditions that make the timing perfect for one whose time has obviously come. A whole lot about the 2020 elections simply made Joe the best bet to pitch against Trump. He would overcome the initial lethargic start to the primary election to become a steady favourite, extending that to a consistent lead over the incumbent all through the campaign. Then, COVID-19 came to disrupt just about everything. With that, it became even a more difficult contest for Trump than it already was. Now, even with many pundits holding back at an over-the-top declaration, taking lessons on-board from the 2016 experience, there is little doubt that Joe is finally on his way to becoming President, 33 years after he first ran for that office.
He might not have been as forceful in confronting the other man. The fact is, he didn’t need to. He doesn’t need to. “Everyone knows Biden’s greatest strength is also his greatest weakness.” All he needed to do was stand his ground and ensure that he doesn’t score an own goal. He has, somehow, largely managed to achieve that, ensuring that the needle does not move in the opposite direction.
Finally, we might get to have an American President who is not in the contest over everything, assuming himself to be the best, smartest, greatest, or whatever else, at everything. We might just get to have a man with whom many more have an affinity, in terms of values. We should be having a man who was raised to believe and has lived by this principle – “No one’s better than you, but you’re better than nobody.”