Thursday, January 03, 2019

Open Letter To A Great Public Servant

Dear Vice President Biden,

I'll get right to the point: Your time is now.  Because you are the best, most qualified person for the job, I ask that you please end the speculation and declare your intent to run for President of the United States as soon as possible.  The trauma of the past three years has left our country needing a collective reset; and emerging from the decades-long shadow of the Clintons has left the Democratic Party needing a collective purpose.   Your good-natured optimism and historical perspective on the role of government can provide both.

Why You

Whether it's your working-class roots in Scranton; your dedication to the people of Delaware in the United States Senate; the example you set as the grieving father of an American war hero; or your loyalty to President Obama and work in his administration, the choice to live a life of public service has earned you a particular kind of credibility with Americans from many different backgrounds.

Unique among the field of Democratic candidates, your campaign could demonstrate to young Americans that there is nothing wrong with the process of earning the support of voters across the political spectrum and turning them out on a district-by-district basis; that motivating people to action is a skill set necessary for a President of the United States to be effective at his or her job; and that Donald Trump has failed to do any of those things.

Unique among the field of Democratic candidates, you have decades of experience guiding bills through the United States Senate and into law.  When the Majority Leader uses parliamentary tricks and political pressure to prevent the passage of legislation to improve the lives of our fellow Americans, you will know best how to use the "bully pulpit" power of the presidency to counter the cowardice of Senator McConnell.

Unique among the field of Democratic candidates, you've witnessed firsthand how the GOP has devolved – from Reaganism's pragmatic, flexible approach to funding our government and expanding America's workforce; to Trumpism's perpetual trillion-dollar annual deficits and short-sighted ignorance, bigotry, and irrational hatred of immigrants.

Unique among the field of Democratic candidates, you understand the role that our Department of Defense plays in securing and maintaining peace and stability around the world.  Without America's leadership, authoritarian regimes are currently free to kill at will.  But with the eldest son of Joseph Robinette Biden as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, wannabe despots like Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, and Mohammed bin Salman al Saud will know those days are over.

Why Now

I recognize that campaigning can be a real drag, and that you have nothing to prove to anyone.  At this point in your life, it would be understandable for you to view the self-aggrandizement and self-promotion as unseemly – especially in a primary where you'd be put in a position to have to speak ill of people you like and want to see succeed.  Candidly, your fellow Democrats shouldn't make you go through that; and I believe it can be avoided entirely if everyone knows you don’t intend to seek re-election.  This voluntary term-limit has the added benefit of providing a five-year window to allow other aspirants to the office to fill in any gaps in their resumes, much the same way that former First Lady Hillary Clinton served as the junior Senator from New York and Secretary of State before seeking the nomination.  It will also help restore some much-needed seriousness to the office of the President of the United States, now occupied by a guy whose previous job was fake-firing washed-up celebrities on a reality TV show.

Of course, you don't need me to tell you that experience and readiness to serve are critical qualities to consider when choosing a President – or that it took the endorsements of people like yourself and the late Senator Kennedy to help allay those concerns about then-Senator Obama.   I mention experience and readiness only because those questions about Barack Obama were well-founded; and the same can be said about any candidate who doesn’t have a presence on the world stage, or has never served in the Executive Branch.  Unfortunately, it appears as though the takeaway for a number of ambitious or neophyte Democrats is to view the Obama '08 campaign as some sort of template demonstrating that, for the right candidate, experience really doesn't matter.  This may be true, but to paraphrase the late Senator Lloyd Bentsen in his 1988 debate with Vice President Dan Quayle: You know Barack Obama.  Barack Obama is a friend of yours.  Among this group of candidates, there is no Barack Obama.

What’s Next

The critical first step for your 2020 campaign will be to get the Obamas on-board.  There are quite simply no better surrogates than the former First Family, and no better recruiters to convince people like Senators Warren, Klobuchar, Brown, Booker, and Harris to take a look at where they might serve in a Biden Administration, and how that might help them prepare their own presidential campaigns.  That will also help you to identify potential White House staff, Cabinet Members, a Council of Economic Advisors, and a Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  And once you have those boxes checked, your fellow Democrats will be compelled to preface any comments about their own aspirations by saying they’d be happy to serve in a Biden administration if asked, and that they will only seek the nomination if you don't.  They will defer to you out of respect, Mr. Vice President, which you most certainly have earned.  Because the bottom line is that among this large and growing cluster of candidates, you are objectively most qualified, subjectively most deserving, and the clear best matchup against the GOP nominee.  And given the Democratic Party’s history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, any Democrat who can't find a way to get behind your candidacy lacks the good judgement required to serve in the office.

By coming out early, with the support of the Obamas, and with the basic structure of your administration in place, you can unite the Democratic Party around a candidate, a vision, and a legislative agenda.  You can (mercifully) eliminate the "horse race" aspect of the primaries while shifting the coverage away from petty partisanship, and toward public policy and the impact it has on people.  This broadening of the political conversation is vital because in our current two-party system, so many topics – from reproductive freedom, to climate science, to the definition of family, to gun ownership – seem to be off-limits.  The parties themselves have become caricatures; with the GOP seen as gun-toting, Bible-thumping tax cheats who don't care about women, black and brown people, or the LGBT+ community; and the Democrats are seen as a collection of minority groups trying to grab their unearned piece of the pie – free stuff that comes at the expense of the majority.  But with a voluntarily-term-limited President Biden in the White House and a planning-for-transition Speaker Pelosi leading the most diverse House of Representatives ever seated, those perceptions could change over the course of a single Session of Congress.

For your party, this approach would have the added benefit of turning the upcoming Democratic primary campaign (which begins in just six months) into an extended preview of the 2020 general election. It would also force the GOP and the Trump administration to have to respond right away with more appealing policies and better organization, something they have never demonstrated any ability to do.  The net effect could be a five-year period of collective reflection about what kind of country we want to leave for the next generation, followed in 2024 by the largest and most consequential election in American history.

In Conclusion

Whether or not we want to acknowledge it, our country is in a state of undeclared civil war. The institutions designed to preserve and protect our way of life are in peril. Our legislature, courts, military, law enforcement agencies, intelligence community, and our free press have all given way to the pressure of partisanship. On the streets of cities like San Diego, Charlottesville, Orlando, Charleston, and Bloomington, our fellow Americans are already killing each other over their political differences. In the halls of Congress, there are still some who would sacrifice other people's blood and treasure in order to better secure their own families' futures. And in the Oval Office, there sits a traitor to our cherished American ideals: We the people, domestic tranquility, and a more perfect union.

Your beloved Senate is under the control of a coward, the presidency is in the hands of a morally corrupt tyrant, and our great nation is on the verge of chaos. In the America you and I aspire to, that can no longer be tolerable. This is your moment, sir, and you could be our republic's Cicero. I call on you to step up and be the brave and excellent man America needs at this critical time in our history.


Kenny Mack
Brooklyn, New York


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