Robert L. Fried: Who the Democratic Party (and the country) needs – and where to find him

  • Joe Biden applauds while watching a video at the Vital Voices Global Partnership 2013 Global Leadership Awards gala at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington on April 2, 2013. AP file

  • Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 2012 AP file

For the Monitor
Published: 8/9/2018 12:14:44 AM

Will Rogers famously said, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” His remark rings true today, as adherents of the Bernie and Hillary wings of the party continue to refight the 2016 primary.

Does America need a push to the left or a return to the center? Is now the time for progressives to champion those policies and politicians that are the darlings of their base? Or is it the time to push for candidates who ride horses and carry guns in hopes of winning over former Democrats who defected to Trump?

The Democratic Party – not for the first time – has an identity crisis.

This is not only foolish, it is potentially disastrous. It’s not just the Democratic Party – our very democracy is at stake.

The Trump regime, with its stream of falsehoods and retrograde policies, its denial of science, its war against a free press, against immigrants and people of color, its making the judiciary into a conservative monopoly, and its honeying up to tyrants and dictators, constitutes a real and present danger to the foundations of American democracy.

In response, we’re being urged to simply vote for any and all Democrats in this fall’s midterm election. That’s understandable. But it’s not enough. The phrase “necessary but not sufficient” comes to mind.

Most Americans are sick and tired of partisanship. They want leaders who are positive and forward-looking, which is why they elected Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to two terms each. We Democrats have to be for something, not just against Trump.

What our nation needs is a healer, a normalizer – someone to help bring us back from the brink; someone to help us overcome the paroxysm of partisanship that threatens to ruin yet another Thanksgiving dinner this November; someone to reach out to working-class and middle-Americans who feel betrayed by “coastal elites,” whom they blame for pushing “identity politics” and esoteric causes over the interests of those who see their futures and those of their children bleak and getting bleaker. Yet our nation also needs someone who deeply embodies the basic tenets of fairness, of reason and reasonableness, of kindness, and of social progress that give us all a chance to vote for something besides self-interest and revenge.

We don’t have to look far to find this person. He is Joe Biden, our former vice president and the one person who can most quickly and effectively restore our institutions of good government and our position of leadership in the world on behalf of democracy and humane values.

Horrific damage has been done in the two years of the Trump presidency. The need for restoration after that damage exceeds all other political considerations.

Yes, Biden is an old man – but many world leaders are “old men” and “old women.” A young, vibrant, vice presidential candidate would help. No, he has not run brilliant campaigns in the past, but he doesn’t have to be brilliant, just be himself. Yes, he may speak awkwardly at times, but Trump has set the bar so low it won’t matter if he utters a gaffe or two. But he is the one decent, thoughtful, experienced, grounded, bipartisan, genuinely good person we Democrats have got. And if we were to unite behind his leadership, we could stop wasting our energies on intra-party squabbling and focus on the real enemy: Donald Trump’s desecration of the America we thought we knew.

(Robert L. Fried of Concord is a retired educator who is now a writer, gardener and tinkerer. He can be reached by email at

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