Joe Biden hopes to defeat Trump through old-fashioned politics, and then restore some old-fashioned normality to the United States. But have the country’s furious divisions made that impossible?by Sam Tanenhaus / June 10, 2020 / Leave a comment
The last week of May 2020—one of the most horrific in American history—may also be remembered as the week in which the election of 2020 was decided.
It started calmly enough. On Monday 25th May, Memorial Day, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president Joseph Biden appeared at a veterans’ war memorial near his home in Delaware. Biden was with his wife Jill, and was carrying a wreath. Like millions of other Americans, he has been following “stay at home” orders and it was the first time he had been glimpsed in the flesh outside his immediate neighbourhood, where he walks and bikes, in more than two months.
And it was only a glimpse. The Bidens’ appearance was unannounced. Reporters immediately scrambled to the park, hoping for live interaction with a candidate who had mounted a remarkable comeback from seeming political death at the start of the year, with a sequence of primary victories in some 20 states in every region of the country: large states and small, on both coasts, in the north and south, and in the Midwestern heartland.
Throughout his long career—which stretches over 50 years, including two terms as Barack Obama’s vice-president, seven terms in the US Senate and two years as a county councilman before that—Biden has been famous, or rather notorious, for loose-lipped volubility. But not this time. After laying the wreath, he spoke only a few terse words. (“Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made. Never, ever, forget.”) With his snowy-white hair, and dressed in a black suit with a black mask and black sunglasses, he looked like an aged hero in a Hollywood action film. Then he climbed back into his SUV and was driven home, there to resume the virtual campaign he has been waging via camera, screen and pre-recorded video.
“Nearly every morning,” New York magazine reported in mid-May, “Biden spins through an early Peloton ride in the upstairs weight room, dresses (formally, no sweatpants), drinks his breakfast shake, and sits at the phone in his study awaiting the latest updates on the world’s misery.”
This disciplined routine runs counter to Biden’s instincts and history. He is the most conventional of old-school American politicians—gabby, flesh-pressing—and the product of a distant time. Way back…