Less than a week ago, national pundits declared Joe Biden’s presidential campaign dead. Many noted the lack of a clear moderate front runner as well as Bernie Sanders’ resilient campaign. They intensified their scope on Biden’s inability to mobilize moderate voters into a common coalition and his faux pas leading up to the South Carolina primary.
Then February 29th happened. After securing the key endorsement of the honorable Rep. Jim Clyburn, Joe Biden went on to win the state of South Carolina by 28.9% more than his second-place opponent—and garnering 48.7% total. Why did this happen? Simply put, Joe Biden has and always will work hard for Americans—and they know that.
I will admit, I am sure many of the readers of this do not share the same ideology or beliefs as former Vice President Biden. However, not recognizing what he and his campaign have done within the last five days is overlooking one of the most significant political comebacks of any candidate of any party for decades. While Mr. Biden was not viable in meeting the threshold of the minimum percentage to gain delegates in New Hampshire, he then went on to win every single county in South Carolina.
Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. has always been a fighter. Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he spent much of his childhood attempting to overcome his stutter. He often remarks that it is one of the only remaining disabilities that viewers continue to laugh at when they witness it. I can attest that this is true. Similarly to Mr. Biden, I was born with a total underbite, resulting in six years of orthodontics and years of speech therapy. Still today, much like Mr. Biden, I slip or struggle to push a word out at times from the congenital disability I was born with.
There was a recent article published in The Atlantic about how he handles and has lived through his stutter. The article begins “His eyes fall to the floor when I ask him to describe it.” One cannot understand how debilitating it is to not be able to successfully say a simple word—analogous to a strikeout at tee ball as an adult. It feels like betrayal of tongue and mind of the highest degree and it often results in even your friends and family cracking jokes about how you speak.
With any public figure sharing their personal battles, there is a lesson to be learned. Personally, I felt empowered to publicly discuss my disability after Joe had been repeatedly attacked from forces on both the left and right about his stutter. Secondly, after the 9-year-old Australian, Quaden Bayles, was bullied to the point of suicidal thoughts over his dwarfism. I do not seek to act as if the two disabilities are comparable, rather, to highlight the complete breakdown of fundamental humanity in the way we treat one another.
I remember witnessing one of my high school teachers that I admired completely breakdown in the classroom over a student in my graduating class who committed suicide. A successful, respected, and grown man completely brought to tears over the fact that his student did not feel valued and took his own life—a feeling the teacher admitted to having once contemplated in his earlier life. I have been bullied before, for my speech impairment and for my former weight. It caused me to strive to do everything possible to make myself “more normal.” I never wanted to feel less of or to endure the pain and grief bullying creates so I worked to change that myself, but this should not be conflated with the idea the victim should have to try to escape bullying—it shouldn’t happen to begin with.
All of this is something Joe Biden understands. American families have gone through a lot, and Joe Biden is no exception. From his stutter to burying his wife and 1-year-old daughter weeks after winning his first Senate campaign to watching his youthful son, Beau, physically fatigue and pass from his battle with brain cancer. Mr. Biden has often remarked that it should be Beau running for president. This speaks to his empathy and grace. It has never been about Joe Biden, it has always been about the people he has cared, fought, and advocated for over his career—as a father, defense attorney, and U.S. Senator and Vice President. No one is truly empathetic if they don’t show vulnerability; Joe lives in vulnerability.
On Super Tuesday—a day in which many still after South Carolina believed would not be great for Mr. Biden—he ended up with the most delegates allotted from the primaries and will most likely also secure the popular vote. On track to win 10 of 14 states, Joe Biden has undeniably steamrolled his remaining opponents and regained the title of the Democratic frontrunner after garnering the endorsements of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg and arguably knocking Mayor Michael Bloomberg out of the race.
After it was clear Joe was the winner of the evening, forces began attacking his record—one I fully admit is not perfect—for compromise and moderation. However, I wonder if they suffer inherently from wishing for political purity and cannot see that potentially Joe Biden is fundamentally built the way he is from his interactions as a child with a stutter to losing his family. Take Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, born into a family that ended up living in a remodeled gas station with no toilet or electricity for two years—a staunch moderate as well. These values were shaped through her life experiences and should be celebrated. We are made by our past and attacking individuals for their moral character and beliefs which are built from these life events solely over policy disagreements is despicable and cowardly.
I admire Joe Biden not only for his overcoming in life but because I see myself in him. A person of empathy, compromise, and integrity. A person not afraid of admitting when he has messed up or voted the wrong way. A person who gaffes and will continue to do so. And a person who has been to hell and back and hasn’t given up on us yet. I enthusiastically await the day to say the words, “President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.”
Dylan L. Page is currently a Political Science and Public Policy Analysis dual major and Economics minor at The Ohio State University. He is an active member in OSU College Dems, a central committeeman on the Executive Committee of the Fayette County Democratic Party, and an Eagle Scout.
Writer’s Note: I would like to personally thank Ms. Pujara for being a supportive friend and phenomenal editor for this piece. Especially in the turnaround time it required. Thank you, Hinal.