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My quick take on the Biden/Sanders debate:

Max Stearns


Bernie Sanders sought to convey the image of a man who, unlike his competitor, Joe Biden, was truly principled and visionary, and who held an undying commitment to the poor, to rooting out injustice, and to ensuring a better world. But that's not who I saw. I saw in Sanders a man, who, unlike Biden, seems incapable of recognizing the need to operate in a world of political reality, a world in which to get things done one has, sometimes, to sully oneself by working with those who are impure, with whom one will often intensely disagree, and yet who hold the keys to the levers of power that must be pressed to accomplish vital goals, however imperfectly. I do not want such a man as my President. Truth to tell, I do not want such a man representing me in any capacity. I don't mind having such men (or women) as academic colleagues, in a context where ideologues belong, even as the experience risks occasional annoyance or frustration.


Biden sought to convey wisdom, experience, and insight, along with a tendency to accommodate in a changing world. I somewhat wish he had read my affirmative case for his candidacy. I don't say this for bragging rights, but simply because Biden truly needs to better convey how his personal record reflects how politics actually works, and historically has worked, to a generation of newcomers who did not grow up in that world. The idea is not to pretend one man can restore a golden age, but rather to convey that even minor edging back toward such cross party, and cross aisle, cooperation is vital. I think, for the most part, Biden succeeded. Immediate television commentators somewhat criticized Biden for failing to accommodate Sanders when olive branches were offered, but truth to tell this went both ways, and Sanders also declined overtures at critical junctures. As the most likely nominee at this point, Biden also has to balance pitching toward the center, not merely the hard left.


I'll concede that on climate change, Biden's plan is likely inadequate. But one thing about a non-ideologue: because they don't claim to have all the right answers, etched in stone from time immemorial, one can work with them, move the needle, and bring about benign change. Not so with a purist, one who thinks it is better to brag about "correct" votes decades, or multiple scores, ago than to have scored a record of actual accomplishment, even if the price was sometimes getting one's hands dirty. Politics is dirty. And those who pretend otherwise get nothing done.


We face multiple global crises--the virus, the economy, and with those, likely rises in cyber and actual terrorism. I am far more confident in the capacity of a Biden administration to handle those than a Sanders administration. That is because I already see the makings of a remarkable group of advisors. Not so Sanders, who can brag about AOC, another ideologue, as his most high level endorsement.


I had hoped the two men would produce a stronger sense of future alignment. Alas it was not meant to be. But on this I remain hopeful. Biden had a good--not perfect, but good--night. I trust him not because he has all the right answers, but because he has the wisdom and sense of self to know, unlike his competitor, that he does not, and that, in truth, no one ever does. Only ideologues or narcissists think they have all the answers and have had them for decades on end. We have experienced another leader with such a stunningly inflated sense of self. And we know how that has worked out.


Biden has now committed to having a woman as his Vice Presidential nominee. I hope it's Amy Klobuchar and think it might be. I suspect that by committing to an African American woman as his first nominee to the Supreme Court, he might be clearing a path not to select Stacey Abrams or Kamala Harris. I would be quite excited to support a Biden/Klobuchar ticket.


I welcome your comments.

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