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If voters want to beat the scowler in chief, Biden’s their guy



We’ve long known that white men are the demographic to hate (on), as the woke generation might put it. But not so long ago — like, last summer — it was considered bad form to be ageist. P.S. Warren is 70.

What happened? And how did the Democratic Party suddenly start acting like the GOP? Somehow, with all the diversity crowding the original field of Democratic contenders, the party of progress wound up culling the herd to two white men of advanced years.

One, 78-year-old Sen. Bernie Sanders, is an arm-waving socialist who comes across as a fanatic. The other, 77-year-old Joe Biden, is a bleeding-heart, old-school liberal whose style leans toward the conciliatory.

My favorite Biden line from the debate series tells the story. When the moderator in the debate here last month called time on Biden, the former vice president seemed surprised at himself when he responded: “Why am I stopping? No one else stops.”

Indeed, Biden did stop because that’s what he was supposed to do, whereas nearly all the others continued talking over the moderators. Most people probably thought little of Biden’s remark even if they unconsciously absorbed the deeper meaning of his words: Biden plays by the rules. This counts a great deal when it comes to governance and consensus-building, as you may have noticed the past three or so years.

After almost five decades in public office, Biden has learned how to talk to the other side and pitch legislation without breaking down doors. Though some Democrats may see compromise as surrender and might prefer a Sanders-style revolution in the nation’s affairs, they seem to be in the minority.

If the Democrats’ mission is to defeat President Trump this fall, then primary voters have thus far chosen wisely. There is simply no way independents and Republicans-in-exile would vote for Sanders. Indeed, the Vermont independent is the perfect candidate if voters want to see Trump reelected.

Among those disappointed with the old white men’s club are those who had hoped Warren would lead the Democratic ticket. They blame her failed campaign on long-embedded notions that presidents should look a certain way, insisting that the deck is stacked against women. Without question, women have to strive harder than men to advance in nearly every arena, and Warren out-debated, out-planned and outdid herself with a passion and energy seldom, if ever, before seen.

Even so, she was often her own worst enemy. Despite her enormous talent and intelligence, Warren began losing ground when she continued to adjust her position on Medicare-for-all. This undermined the sincerity she otherwise conveyed. When a candidate keeps rearranging her spots, people tend to lose faith. And, by the way, didn’t the Democratic Party nominate Hillary Clinton last time around?

For better or worse, Sanders and Biden have been consistent across the ages.

Both are, oddly, straight out of the Silent Generation — the cohort wedged between the Greatest Generation and the baby boomers. But the two men couldn’t be more different. Sanders, who honeymooned in the Soviet Union (for heaven’s sake!) moved from Brooklyn to Vermont in 1968, a pivotal year in America’s cultural history and the one in which Sanders seems still to be stuck. To him, it seems, once a radical, always a radical.

Biden’s mind-set was formed in the 1950s — like Trump’s, only different. In Richard Ben Cramer’s “What It Takes: The Way to the White House,” a political Bible for many of today’s journalists, Biden never thought of himself as a radical — either when he was in college in the early ’60s, much less now. He thought of himself as an athlete, as well as someone who could get all the way to the White House from the tiny state of Delaware. He still talks about taking Trump out behind the gym, sounding more like a character out of an Archie and Veronica comic than, say, one of Trump’s “people” the president sometimes sics on troublemakers at his rallies.

The main difference between the two, of course, is that Biden has grown and learned from experiences that might have broken a lesser man. He has suffered and has resolved to stay positive, in stark contrast to Trump, who seems to relish the opposite.

Both Sanders and Biden have served more years in Washington than should be allowed, 29 and 47 years, respectively. But the country isn’t yet ready for what Sanders is selling, and Biden, though he trips over his words sometimes, is steady, familiar and human. Not least, like the president he served as vice president, Biden flashes a dazzling, reassuring smile, the value of which can’t be overestimated.

Against the scowler in chief, aged 73, an experienced, congenial, happy warrior should do well.

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