Joe Biden’s decision to seek the presidency is a clarifying event. It will require those who see Donald Trump’s tenure as disastrous to decide whether restoration or transformation should be the primary task after he leaves office.
And Biden’s entry gives greater definition to the sprawling contest for the Democratic nomination. The race starts as Biden vs. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with the remaining candidates jostling for position. It’s unlikely to stay that way. To emerge as one of the final three or four left standing, each candidate will have to focus more sharply on which competitors might block the way.
In his announcement video last Thursday, Biden did not talk about his service as Barack Obama’s vice president or his connection with blue-collar white voters. Using Trump’s shameful response to the 2017 white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, he sought to make the election a referendum on the country’s core values and implicitly argued that his experience and broad appeal equip him to take on and defeat the man nearly all Democrats loathe.
The only issue that truly matters, Biden signaled, is whether Trump will be deprived of a second term. This, he said, would determine whether his presidency would be seen as “an aberrant moment in time,” or if a reelected Trump would “forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.”
But Biden’s most clarifying comment came later Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware, when a reporter asked if he had a message to the world. Biden replied: “America’s coming back like we used to be—ethical, straight, telling the truth ... supporting our allies, all those good things.”