When former Vice President Joe Biden began his campaign for President, not a single one of my liberal friends wanted him to win the Democratic primary. It was candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who received floods of Instagram posts and retweets expressing a revived sense of optimism and a novel attitude of political engagement among young voters. After Biden received the nomination, I, as well as my classmates, were struck with an aggressive wave of disappointment; disappointment at his age, disappointment at his submergence in establishment politics, and disappointment in the absolute lack of surprise at his nomination. However, as the radically unexpected events of 2020 have unfolded, Biden’s embodiment of vanilla politics might be just what Americans need.
Perhaps the most dangerous repercussions of President Trump’s four years in office have been the rise of extremism among both the right and left, and our consequent acceptance of this extremism. Trump’s unabashed use of colloquial rhetoric, often offensive or unprofessional, has enabled the more frequent adoption of similar belligerence among the right, while also resulting in a complete dismissal of individuals on the opposite side of the aisle by those on the left.
Trump’s character is that of hyperbole, and would be laughable if not for the gaping division he is leaving in his wake. In 2016, Trump referred to the Mexican immigrants crossing the border as “rapists” bringing drugs and crime. He described Haiti, El Salvador, and a number of African countries as “shitholes.” Following the Charlottesville white supremacy riots, Trump claimed that there were “fine” people on both sides of the protest. Trump’s tactical use of overt racism has left liberal Americans expectedly repulsed by his insolence, and subsequently, many have become desperate to find politicians who are wholly good. This renders compromise very difficult.
In attempting to enact reform on various levels of the American political system, some of which include health care, climate, and the police force, many on the left have resigned themselves to conversations in extremes. Polarizing words like “defund,” “abolish,” and “nationalize” are used with regularity to thoroughly distinguish from the abhorrence that is the Trump administration, but I find this counterproductive. In refusing to create room for discussion, not only do we silence those on the other side of the political spectrum, but we silence ourselves. There exists no politician nor political proposal who is perfect, but in our search for one that is, liberals have fallen for Trump’s ploy: that of completely dismantling the possibility of unity in the American political system.
Many liberal Democrats have found themselves believing in a world that is good and evil because Trump is so obviously representative of the latter. Longing for someone who can restore justice and save the left — but only the left — is, however, both unrealistic and detrimental to the survival of our republic.
Biden is not galvanizing. When I watched him on stage at Thursday’s debate, all I could think of was how, if he were up against literally any other candidate, his loss would be inevitable and, honestly, warranted. He is not eloquent by any means, his one-liners are never as good as he thinks they are, and he is very obviously 77 years old. His mediocrity, however, might be our only hope at restoring a sense of normalcy to this country. We are no longer surprised when Trump says things like “I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience,” after claiming immunity to the coronavirus. Because Biden is so emphatically ordinary, the extraordinary will be made surprising once more. The regaining of perspective and return to civility is of utmost importance for the preservation of our professionalism as a country, which wanes every day.
Biden is no villain and is likewise no beacon of idealism. He is merely a family-oriented Pennsylvanian with a stutter. In other words, he is just a man. This is what we need: the return of a human being to office, whose flaws we can recognize and attempt to reform. With Biden in office, the left will, hopefully, no longer strive for perfection at the expense of compromise, and the alt-right will no longer feel comfortable in their explicit expression of white nationalism in a much more temperate political climate.
The only positive byproduct of Trump’s presidency is the involvement of young people in national politics — the institution as a whole has become so outlandish that it is hard not to have a vested opinion in the happenings of the White House. While Biden’s election could lead to the resurgence of apathy among voters, I have confidence that his malleability and occasional lack of conviction will communicate to the voting public the very real potential for change.
If Biden gets elected, there will be no revolution, but four years of respite is something to look forward to and something upon which we can build. We cannot make America great again because it never was, but we can make America vanilla again, which is all one can really ask for.
Andi Grene is a first-year from Manhattan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.