Biden prevails

EDITORIAL

BY ART CULLEN

Joe Biden did not run a great campaign in Iowa. He brought former Gov. Tom Vilsack with him to Storm Lake. By the time Vilsack finished speaking about the grandson he lost, everyone in the room was ready to vote for Vilsack. They liked Joe Biden, too, mainly for his empathy. Same in New Hampshire: not much of a campaign, low finish like Iowa. Bernie Sanders was on a roll, and young Pete Buttigieg was in second.

Then came South Carolina. Realizing that a self-described democratic socialist could garner the nomination, pragmatic African American voters who can’t abide one more day of Trump put their bet on Biden.

The former vice president swept the South, dominated in Michigan and ran even with Sanders in California and Washington.

He did all this without changing his campaign, which was exhausted of cash and had a skeleton of an organization a couple weeks ago. He did not suddenly become a better speaker or debater. He remained the same old Joe, knocked down and getting back up, full of gaffes and carrying baggage from a long Senate career, but always surviving somehow.

He can manage a crisis. He is decent and empathetic. He remembers growing up in Scranton, Pa. He is not a socialist.

That’s good enough, voters quickly declared. Biden is the antidote to Trump, a liar and crook and bankrupter who is incompetent to the core.

That’s what black voters in South Carolina and Mississippi, suburban voters in Virginia, rural women in Minnesota and white male union members in Michigan decided. This primary season that started officially on Feb. 3 with the shaky Iowa Caucuses should now come to an end.

The Constitution is under assault. People of color are terrorized. A free press might not stand. The rule of law is on edge. California is on fire, and the Middle East is on the edge of world war.

Democratic voters in exit polls said they agreed with Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the issues: they support universal health care, they think billionaires are stealing the American Dream from the 99%, and they think that the economy needs a complete overhaul.

Mainly, though, they are determined to oust Trump in November.

Coronavirus did not stop voters from turning out in droves to support Biden. They told the exit polls that they think he is best suited to manage just such a crisis. They were rattled by shocks to the stock markets and want the tumult to stop. Despite phony allegations against Biden, Democrats are certain to turn out in far greater numbers — especially in Michigan and even, maybe, Texas and Arizona — for him than they did in 2016.

No doubt down-ballot candidates in swing districts — like Iowa’s — would like to get behind Biden and unify the effort. JD Scholten, for one, was ready for Sanders but likes Biden just fine. Scholten can beat Steve King, but the Iowa Poll reports that he is starting from behind and certainly does not need the extra weight that a protracted national Democratic party fight would add.

Iowans will regret, perhaps, that Biden’s nomination will do nothing to advance the cause of remaining first in the process. Caucuses are dead as of Tuesday. We are 35th in everything but drinking, hogs, corn and education, so we might as well be 35th in the primary order. It will be healthy for our civic culture, but we will dearly miss those moments when Tom Vilsack and Joe Biden remind us what real decency is in the intimacy of an Iowa retail political stop.

The most important thing for Iowa and America is to defend the Constitution and remove Trump from office. He has deeply damaged Iowa’s trade relationships, the economy is crumbling while the Administration fumbles amid the viral panic, and he has stoked fear and spite across the country. Biden is the answer. That has been pretty much decided despite his sluggish start.

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