Joe Biden is in. I’ve always liked him. In fact, I’ve got a letter dated February 10, 1986 that reads:

Dear Mr. Mills,

Thank you for calling my office.

It is too early for me to make any decisions regarding 1988. However, if I should decide to be a candidate, you can rest assured that I will contact you. 

I appreciate very much your offer of assistance. Thanks again for thinking of me. With best wishes, 

Sincerely,

Joe Biden

I was 22 years old and somewhere around a junior at UNC-CH during my circuitous seven year undergraduate career. I had seen a 60 Minutes interview with him and read a few stories about him. I thought he was sincere in his beliefs and committed to making America a better place to live. I still do.

I’m glad he’s in the race. That said, I’m concerned about electing a president who will be 78 years old when he’s sworn in. I know age can take a toll on both physical and mental health and that changes can happen fast. The presidency itself takes a toll and is an incredibly demanding job. 

Still, Biden came out of the gate with the right message. Instead of focusing on racial justice or a Green New Deal, he made Donald Trump and his presidency the target. Citing Trump’s response to Charlottesville as a defining moment of his presidency, Biden says, “I believe history will look back at on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

The desire to defeat Trump is the single most unifying message of the presidential campaign. While so many candidates are talking about programs and platforms, Joe Biden is talking about the fundamental values that made this nation great and the need to stand up for them at this moment in history. It’s a call to action, not a prescription for solving all of our ills. 

With more than 40 years in public service, Biden has a lot of baggage. However, we’ve heard it all before–maybe not the specifics, but the general charges that will be levied. For every unsavory video clip of Biden saying something inappropriate, there will be another one showing his humanity. For every attack from Republicans, there be another one of him giving the eulogy at John McCain’s funeral or being praised by a GOP leader. He’s a candidate who has been fully vetted and been determined to be a fundamentally decent man. The decision of whether or not to nominate Biden will rely more on his age, our age and what Democrats want from their party, not on his character.

Whether he ends up the nominee or not, I hope that Biden’s candidacy drives the debate in the Democratic primary to focus more on defeating Trump than the minutiae of policy. Sure, everyone deserves health care. And we certainly need to address the existential threat of climate change. And we need a humane approach to immigration that doesn’t rip families apart and put children in cages. But none of that matters if we can’t get Donald Trump out of the White House. Joe Biden is the one best making that case today. 

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