Joe Biden

Image: Silvia Faustino Saes
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By TERESA DE SOUZA*

A survivor's last mission

History is often written on crooked lines and Joe Biden seems to be a living example of that. When his political career seemed to be coming to an end, his country offered him one last chance. To defeat Donald Trump, there is perhaps nothing better than a normal, decent man, who has accumulated failures and victories throughout a political life that began at age 29 when he was elected senator from Delaware, which gave him experience, serenity and the necessary courage to fight the last fight. These qualities ended up having an unexpected value because, more than programs or ideologies, what was at stake in these elections was the character of the two candidates.

What does Biden think of America? What will be your program to govern the USA? He will have to start by combating a pandemic that has brutally hit his country and which still has no end in sight. Biden promised some courses of action, but warned during the campaign that there are no miracles. “Even if we win, it will take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic. We will treat Americans honestly and never, ever, give up.”

In economics, his ideas evolved according to the cumulative effect of the 2008 financial crisis and the economic and social consequences of the pandemic crisis. Like the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Biden supported the globalization of markets and free trade, including the various trade treaties signed by both in recent decades and never challenged by Republicans, before Trump.

This consensus is over. The two crises proved that globalization recommends some caution, that markets cannot solve everything and that the State plays a role, sometimes fundamental, in strengthening economies. Rich countries have discovered the risks of over-reliance on production chains that have far-off origins, often in China. Biden will lean a little more towards the “Made in America".

Regarding the relationship between the USA and the world, a simple “return ticket” to the world before Trump would hardly be possible, but many things would change with his election: allies would become allies again, America would return to international treaties and agreements that abandoned. Biden promised that his country would lead the world again.

Biden has neither the charisma nor the oratorical gifts of Clinton or Obama. All she has to offer is a long political experience and an extraordinary ability to overcome the tragedies that life has thrown at her. You have to know them to understand the character.. He took office in his first term as a senator, aged 29, in a hospital where two of his children were hospitalized, seriously injured in a car accident that killed his wife and 13-month-old daughter Naomi. Many years later, his son Beau, a hero of the Iraq war, died at the age of 46 from cancer. The other, Hunter, was expelled from the military for cocaine use, a fact that Trump threw in his face in the first debate. Hunter did business in Ukraine and China whose transparency was called into question during the campaign.

Biden's biographers say he was at rock bottom, but he came to the surface without sourness or bitterness. He tried his luck twice in the “primaries” of the Democratic Party, in 1987 and 2007. He became known for some memorable gaffes, one of them about Obama himself, when he faced him in the “primaries” of 2007 and referred to him as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate, bright, and good-looking to boot.” There was some astonishment when Obama invited him to be his “vice”. A Catholic of Irish origin, if he is elected, he will be second only to John Kennedy. The oldest to reach the White House. Someone who “has always been part of Washington's male aristocracy”, “an old-school senator”, as Even Osnos, one of his biographers, defines him.

He spent his entire political life in Washington, taking the train every day to the small town of Wilmington, in the tiny and peaceful state of Delaware, one million people, where politics is carried out from door to door. The left wing of the Democratic Party frowned when it promised a group of Republicans “for Biden” that it would not embarrass them. In his six-term experience as a senator, he has accumulated bipartisan initiatives in Congress. He'd rather build bridges than dig trenches.

Will this banal man, who likes to remember that he didn't study in the Ivy League and prefers the "town halls” where what counts is empathy, living up to the “impossible” mission of healing the wounds of American society?

*Teresa D'Souza is a journalist.

Originally published on the newspaper's website Public.

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