I was passionately for Elizabeth Warren for president. To me, Warren exemplified the future of our progressive movement; I had supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 (and did for a brief time in 2020 after Warren dropped out) but felt that this was Warren’s time. Joe Biden was near the bottom for me in terms of the Democratic nominees. Although I appreciated his efforts in supporting President Obama when he was Vice President, I definitely thought his time was up. That first debate in the summer of 2019? I was feeling for the poor guy. He was so rusty at that debate. We need someone to present a vision of progressive policies for America–like Warren. Kamala Harris looked to be puncturing Biden’s long awaited goal of becoming president at the get-go in that debate.
But as many historians have said, the times will pick the person rather than the other way around. In the end, Joe Biden was the exact person we needed to beat President Trump because he had what America needs now: empathy and the will to heal a nation. This became clearer and clearer to me as the 2020 election season progressed. And I did truly believe that the former vice president was right; this was a battle for the soul of our nation. Biden is a person who understands suffering because he has been through it and has persevered. Our country has suffered through so much in the Trump era; the Covid-19 crisis bungling and the Capitol riot were the awful culmination of this administration. The election of Joe Biden and the first election of a woman of color as Vice President, Kamala Harris, is more about an exhale after a held breath of four years. In all of this tragedy, we haven’t even been able to adequately celebrate the way past due election of a woman to the second highest office in the land.
I don’t expect Joe Biden to be able to champion progressive legislation through a narrowly divided Congress. My expectations are rather low in terms of legislation; perhaps on Covid-19, immigration, and infrastructure. If we get some things accomplished legislatively, I’ll be happy. I believe the day for more progressive efforts will come, perhaps under the next president. My only belief is that Biden can help to normalize legitimate presidential leadership again. I believe he can help us to rejoin the community of nations to work for the common good at the international level. And I believe that he can heal people through the power of words—even if it’s only helping us to regain our nervous systems after four years of wondering what was going to happen through a tweet.
Finally, I’m proud and intrigued by all the ways that Joe Biden has been able to show the influence of his Catholicism. I believe his words from his life of rumination on what it means to be Catholic can give us a way to reflect on how we can all build a better nation. The quote from St. Augustine in his inauguration summed this up for me: “Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love, defined by the common objects of their love.” Now we will find out if America can define what we are—if in fact, we will love peace through justice or if we will continue to ignore and paper over the sins of racism, xenophobia, and lack of will to address the structural poverty within our country. I pray we will exercise the first option.
What I write does not mean I will agree with the Biden/Harris administration on everything; in fact, Catholic Social Teaching emphasizes that we advocate for justice when considering issues and the “signs of the times.” But I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want in their heart of hearts to simply help people believe that government can and will help end the Covid-19 crisis and reestablish a more normal republic after Donald Trump. If they can do that, it will be good while we continue to always work for more justice in this land.