Biden’s bid highlights his contenders’ authenticity problem
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Biden’s bid highlights his contenders’ authenticity problem

If elected, Joe Biden will be one year older on Inauguration Day than Ronald Reagan was on his final day in the White House. After a career marked with political faux pas , two failed presidential campaigns, and countless gaffes, Biden has achieved what could be the apex of any career politician’s public life. Between his grace in the aftermath of the death of his son and earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, Biden ascended to a level of American politics reserved for just a handful of politicians per decade.

And now he’s electing to enter what may be the most ruthless primary in presidential history.

He doesn’t have to do this, but as he laid out in his announcement this morning, he’s doing it to save America’s soul. Maybe this is all just a vanity bid, an eleventh hour attempt to earn the highest prize in American public life, but his earnestness rings true. And that spells trouble for an overwhelming majority of his competitors.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., hasn’t completed one term of office in national politics. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg hasn’t even started one. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., have had more positions than the Kama Sutra, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has proven himself to be nothing more than an empty suit (and possibly a furry). Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is running a campaign in crisis, polling in the single digits and flailing at trying to run to the left of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The Vermont socialist and perhaps Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who has ample Rust Belt appeal and more than a decade in the Senate under her belt, seem like they’re running, for lack of a better term, for the right reasons.

Every bid except for that of Biden, Bernie, and Klobuchar is tinged with self-aggrandizement. Harris, Buttigieg, and Beto run the risk of seeming entitled, Gillibrand and Booker seem to lack stable principles, and Warren’s lack of charisma comes in second only to Hillary Clinton. Bernie believes in his socialist apocalypse in earnest, and Klobuchar has a lawerly appeal, but it is Biden who excels in speaking a language of empathy and humanity. It’s one of the few things that people across the aisle can appreciate, and it puts ample pressure on his competitors.

[ Read more: Biden entry makes 20 Democrats in 2020: The largest presidential field in history]

Biden’s entire announcement centered on the state of the union, not on himself. This was a wise decision to cement himself as the worthy front-runner, but once he does break out his personal narrative, his authenticity will prove even more worrisome for his fellow challengers.

Everyone knows goofy Uncle Joe and Biden, the elder statesman who handled himself grace when his son Beau died. But one only needs to see him discussing the death of his first wife and one-year old daughter in 1972 or him comforting Meghan McCain prior to her father’s passing to understand how formidable his empathy may be in an election devoid of it. He seems like a candidate who’s doing this not for the novelty or fame, but because he loves America.

It’s possible this is all bull. After all, he ran for president twice before, and it’s not as though he’s any less of a swamp monster than his competitors. But in politics, just as in life, seeing is believing, and Biden puts on a show.

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