A group of former Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren supporters have decided to put their own twist on encouraging unity in the Democratic party as Democrats work to recapture the White House. They have created a website called “Settle for Biden,” which tries to sell the former vice president to the voting public by arguing that that “Biden isn’t fantastic but Trump is far, far worse.” The group’s social media accounts kinda-sorta-cheerlead for Biden by assuring Americans that Biden “won’t destroy the planet,” by reminding us that “a C+ is better than an F,” and by pointing out that “Joe Biden won’t let 180,000 Americans die of a disease that is easily preventable,” adding further that “Donald Trump has done just that.” (As of this writing, the death toll is actually 217,000.)
To be sure, kinda-sorta-cheerleading isn’t the same as actual cheerleading, and “Settle for Biden” doesn’t exactly offer the kind of full-throated support that the Biden-Harris team would undoubtedly wish that it would. And lest there be any doubt as to my own position, let me place my own cards on the table: I believe that Joe Biden deserves full-throated support. That’s because I believe that the presidential election of 2020 is the most important presidential election since at least the one held in 1864, and because I believe that a Trump re-election could very well pose a mortal threat to actual and genuine American greatness and the preeminence of a liberal order that has brought unparalleled freedom and prosperity to America, to her allies, and to much of the rest of the world.
But while I am more than eager to offer full-throated support to the Biden campaign, I still find something healthy and refreshing about the “Settle for Biden” crowd. Notwithstanding the fact that legions of Sanders and Warren supporters actually did idolize and place on pedestals their own first choices for the Democratic presidential nomination, the former Sanders and Warren backers who make up the “Settle for Biden” group refuses to extend the same treatment to Joe Biden. Instead, “Settle for Biden” urges Americans to vote for the Biden-Harris ticket because it is the grown-up thing to do, and because “if Donald Trump wins, there won’t be an election that is even remotely free and fair for decades to come in the United States.”
In a political era that sees just about every serious campaign for the presidency turn into a mini-personality cult, it is something of a relief to see that the Biden campaign is not working to engender fanatical devotion to the former vice president. Maybe that’s just because the campaign knows better than to think that fanatical hero worship of Joe Biden will ever actually be a thing. But maybe it is also because Biden is more interested in offering himself as a sane, sober and levelheaded alternative to the incumbent president, and sane, sober and levelheaded people don’t encourage their allies and supporters to behave like fawning devotees who checked their critical faculties at the door.
Accordingly, there are no “Biden Bros.” There is also no Bidenesque equivalent of QAnon, making up and spreading bizarre, ridiculous, and frightening stories that portray the Democratic nominee for president as a providential and messianic savior, secretly battling vile and barbaric foes engaged in committing unimaginably reprehensible crimes. While Trump supporters are willing to endanger themselves and others by flocking in a maskless and physically non-distanced fashion to campaign rallies that could prove to be COVID-19-superspreader events (even after the president himself tested positive for COVID-19), Biden supporters—who are at least as determined to oust Trump from the White House as Trump supporters are willing to give him four (or eight, or twelve) more years—refuse to endanger their health and lives, or the health and lives of those in their community, by turning Biden campaign events into opportunities for the coronavirus to do its worst.
And even if Biden supporters were willing to toss public health considerations to the side to show their devotion to the Democratic ticket, the Biden campaign wouldn’t let them do so. Speeches and events featuring Biden or Kamala Harris involve a small number of masked and physically distanced participants, in strict observance of public health guidelines. The Biden campaign has made clear that debates will either feature the strictest health precautions, or they won’t happen at all. Contrast this with Trump, who is more than glad to hold campaign events that endanger his fans and could pose a public health threat to the communities in which the events are located, and who continues to scorn the idea of wearing masks, notwithstanding his contraction of COVID-19. Biden and Harris don’t jeopardize the health and lives of others just so that they can jazz up a campaign event with images of vast throngs of supporters, and unless they are speaking at a socially distant podium, both make sure to model good behavior for the American people by wearing masks.
There is, after all, a difference between a responsible and adult presidential campaign on the one hand, and a rampantly reckless clique on the other. And while we may be living in a #lolnothingmatters world, and while there is still plenty of time for the race to shift, it is worth noting that the responsible and adult presidential campaign is having its responsible and adult behavior rewarded in the polls. It’s hard to beat an incumbent president seeking re-election, but for the moment, the refreshingly boring Biden campaign is doing just that.
The refreshingly boring Biden campaign is modeling good behavior and sanity in other ways as well. It seems amazing to have to write the following words, but here goes: Joe Biden is helping bring back best practices and good and responsible government to America by—wait for it!—promising to read his intelligence briefings if he becomes president. As if that is not enough to blow the minds of voters, Biden has also urged the American people to not drink bleach, just in case any of the president’s followers interpreted his medical advice that way. Ordinarily, such common-sense banalities would not amount to much of anything at all. But in 2020, these Bidenesque pronouncements constitute genuine and profound pearls of wisdom when compared to the words and statements of Donald Trump.
So, here’s to the virtues of a conventional, chaos-free, non-crazy presidential campaign, one that promises to restore some semblance of normalcy and decency to American politics. In the continuing chaos of the 200 presidential campaign, it would appear that the almost humdrum lucidity exhibited by Joe Biden’s campaign is not just welcomed by Americans; it is craved. Donald Trump insists on treating America and the American presidency as a reality show. Joe Biden, by contrast, insists on treating Americans as adults and the presidency as serious business. And unless current political trajectories are dramatically altered, Americans are set to reciprocate by voting for Joe Biden, and in doing so, bringing back more refreshing boringness back into American life.
We could do worse than to have that happen.