An Open Letter to Vice President Joe Biden in Advance of Super Tuesday
Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Dear Vice President Biden:
Although we do not know each other personally, I hope you won’t mind my being candid with you. Until now, you have not been my first-choice candidate. Today, you have my enthusiastic support. Because I want Democratic voters to know this, and so that I can encourage them to vote for you on Super Tuesday, I am going to post this open letter on my personal blog. I am also going offer you some important advice. What I’m proposing is unusual, but this is an election that demands thinking differently. I believe if you take my advice to heart, you have an excellent chance of pulling this off.
My personal blog is called “Blindspot.” We all have them, and it is often helpful when they are pointed out. I believe that the Democratic primary candidates, and party voters, risk exhibiting blindspots in ways that will prove profoundly damaging in the 2020 primary and general election. I also believe all of that is avoidable. Until now, I have expressed my strongest support for Senator Amy Klobuchar. As I said, I’m going to be candid. In fact, if I were to rank all the top Democratic candidates, excluding Tom Steyer who has dropped out, this would be my list:
(1) Amy Klobuchar
(2) Pete Buttigieg
(3) Joe Biden
(4) Michael Bloomberg
(5) Elizabeth Warren
(6) Bernie Sanders
You will notice that I have subdivided these rankings into three clusters, 1-3, 4, 5-6. For me and for many center/left Democrats, along with several moderate independents and moderate Republicans, there is a very sharp line between 1-4, on one side, and 5-6, on the other. Progressivism has not always equated historically to Democratic Socialism, but as we have all witnessed, in the last two presidential campaign cycles, these have coincided. The center of our national politics is not that far left. Selecting such a candidate is a recipe for failure, and this is a risk the Democratic party must avoid.
Elizabeth Warren has repeatedly claimed she, unlike Bernie Sanders, is a capitalist. Although this is helpful rhetorically, it is also disingenuous. The policy distance between Sanders and Warren is practically non-existent, and Warren’s claim to greater practicality and budgetary transparency rests on a house of cards. Warren’s platform depends upon on a 2% wealth tax that is virtually certain not to pass. And although there are credible arguments on both sides, if it should pass, the tax is most likely to be struck down as unconstitutional before this particular Supreme Court. The greater threat is Bernie Sanders, who, without decisive action, is on a path toward gaining the Democratic nomination. You must not let that happen.
You will notice that I’ve also placed a space between 1-3 and 4. Throughout this campaign I have observed that any of the top three candidates—you, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar—are responsible, informed, exhibit integrity, and, perhaps most importantly, are virtually certain to surround yourselves with extremely smart and capable—and non-ideologue—advisors. I think that if any of you were able to consolidate the center/left line, you can defeat Bernie Sanders in the primary, and then go on to defeat Trump in the general election. Between us, I am less persuaded that Bloomberg could succeed in doing that, which is why there is a space between clusters 1-3 and 4. Money can buy a lot of airtime, but it cannot buy base enthusiasm nearly to the extent that I believe Bloomberg imagines. His performance in the debates has not inspired the needed base support. Although he was mayor for three terms in New York City, on the national stage he might be better suited behind the scenes. To be sure, you could benefit greatly by harnessing his energy and by motivating him to deploy his financial resources in beneficial ways (yes, campaign finance laws are complicated, but his team of lawyers can sort it out).
Although I had previously ranked you #3, today, you now have my enthusiastic support. Your victory in South Carolina was remarkable and impressive. You did what you said you were going to do—what you needed to do. At this point, I believe you are best positioned to consolidate the left/moderate wing of the party. Conversely, the longer this drags on, especially if Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg continue dividing the left/moderate lane, all of you will watch Sanders continue to assume a growing plurality of support. The consequence will be setting the Democratic party up for a resounding defeat, with devastating consequences at home and abroad. This is why I am going to publicize this letter, urging all who will listen to vote for you on Super Tuesday.
I also have some very specific advice for you that I hope you will take to heart. NYT columnist Tom Friedman offered similar advice to two of your competitors. First, we have to acknowledge that Donald Trump made a truly brilliant move in his 2016 campaign. Yes, he did. Trump preannounced a list of Supreme Court candidates. True, he abandoned his original list when he appointed Brett Kavanaugh, a strategy that encouraged the Supreme Court’s centrist, Anthony Kennedy, to retire. Even so, his pre-announcement strategy was a masterstroke. It conveyed to the Republican base that whatever voters might think of Trump the man, those supporting him would be rewarded with a set of truly conservative Supreme Court appointees. And, on that, Trump delivered.
For you there’s no need to preannounce Supreme Court nominees. The concerns are different. I want to offer my suggestions for a set of preannouncements, as soon as possible. Each will require quick work if you are to successfully pull off this much needed team of rivals as a strategy to win the nomination. So here goes:
My ideal ticket today is Joe Biden/Amy Klobuchar. Choosing her as your running mate will signal that should anything happens to you during your first term, you have a truly first-rate Vice President ready to take charge on day one. No one can question her chops, and no one would doubt that you have set up a successor who will be a steady hand at the wheel. Pete Buttigieg should also be included in your cabinet, perhaps Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as this would allow him to leverage his understanding of challenges in Midwestern cities on a vaster scale, and would also let him work closely with leaders in larger urban areas to improve national policies on policing and housing development, all while helping him personally solidify his relationships with leaders in communities of color. Perhaps someday he might be running mate to Amy Klobuchar, and then one day, his own party nominee. After all, he is only thirty-eight years old.
I recommend Tom Steyer for Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This will demonstrate your firm commitment to working toward national and international strategies to address climate change. Mike Bloomberg would make an excellent choice for Secretary of the Treasury, leveraging his natural talents and placing him as a critical member of your team. You might want to consider Andrew Yang for a cabinet post, but I’d like to offer a somewhat different suggestion. I recommend you put his self-professed math talents to work as head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OIRA, the most powerful unknown post in your future administration, thereby making Yang responsible for coordinating spending and programming across myriad federal agencies, with an office just down the hall from the Oval in the West Wing. And although this excites me less, please consider appointing Elizabeth Warren head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In a genuine sense, this agency is her brainchild. Politics demands compromise. And this will buy you support within the progressive base without having to bring on board Sanders, who is less apt to be a team player.
To be sure, I hope you will find a place for past candidates, most notably Kamala Harris or Corey Booker, even as they will serve you well as members of the Senate. Harris, for example, would make an excellent Attorney General, and Booker, would be an excellent candidate for Secretary of the Interior, or if Buttigieg prefers a different position, perhaps HUD.
Mr. Vice President, although you were not my first choice, today I am happy to offer you my enthusiastic support. We need a candidate to pull this left/center lane together. I believe you are that person. To do so, I think you need to reach out to your rivals, past and present, and do something no candidate has done before. Let the party know now that you have formed a team ready to take on Sanders, and then ready to defeat Trump.
And to be clear, for everyone else reading this letter, I enthusiastically support Joe Biden, and I hope you will cast your ballot for him this coming Super Tuesday.
Max Stearns (aka Blindspotblogger)
I welcome your comments.
(1) Since the original posting, I edited this letter, recognizing that NYT columnist, Tom Friedman, had advanced a similar proposal, with some overlap in appointments, although his was centered on an alliance in which Sanders or Bloomberg would head the Democratic ticket. I strongly prefer Biden at the head of the ticket to either alternative for reasons stated in the letter. The Friedman column is linked in the body of the letter, and also here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/25/opinion/democratic-primary-candidates.html
(2) Shortly after I posted this open letter, Pete Buttigieg ended his presidential run. Buttigieg ran a truly impressive, and inspiring, campaign. I very much look forward to watching his future political career unfold. For more on the story, see here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pete-buttigieg-drops-out-of-presidential-race/2020/03/01/57a3b384-5743-11ea-9000-f3cffee23036_story.html?fbclid=IwAR0AGV4z1ROAq-gDjPrQh0sxGQfFCaGC1bKEQ5tPQu7oosBp0eP0jJ25FNA