This piece for members is by David T.S. Jonas.
In explaining his choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate, Joe Biden invoked his son Beau’s long-standing admiration for Harris as a major factor in his decision:
“I first met Kamala through my son Beau,” Joe Biden said on Tuesday during the long-awaited announcement. “He had enormous respect for her and her work. I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign.”
Beau Biden’s name doesn’t always pierce through the presidential media coverage in 2020, but it’s clear his life and legacy are two of the largest influences on Joe Biden and his campaign this cycle.
Many of us remember Beau’s 2008 DNC speech, where he famously said that “we” (meaning Joe and his children as a family) married Jill Biden five years after Beau’s mother Neilia and sister Naomi died in a car crash. As a campaign staffer at the time organizing watch parties, I remember vividly a woman next to me saying of Beau, “That young man is going to be President one day.”
Beau’s trajectory was very much in line with Presidential-level aspirations, even as early as 2008. He had already been elected Attorney General of Delaware in 2006, and he was the clear frontrunner for Governor of Delaware ahead of the 2016 cycle. Just 46 years old at the time of his death in 2015, it’s easy to imagine a world where Beau would have been a serious presidential contender in 2020.
Joe Biden even said so himself back in January, telling the hosts of Morning Joe:
“Beau should be the one running for president, not me. Every morning I get up Joe, not a joke, and I think to myself, ‘Is he proud of me?’”
In many ways, the promise of fulfilling Beau’s legacy is the most resonate, consistent guiding light one can find throughout Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign.
Consider this: Biden has updated his stances after honest reflection, taken criticism for past positions in stride, pulled in a broad array of ideological partners, moved quickly beyond petty intra-party squabbles, and has shown Zen-like patience in refusing to be baited by the antics of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
These are not easy things for a campaign to do, but when viewed through the prism trying to fulfill the promise of Beau Biden, it starts to make sense how they’ve done it. There’s a real moral clarity and power that comes from trying to honor loved ones and their memories. It becomes much easier to forgive trespasses, to ignore taunts, and to open up one’s mission to more and more partners.
Kamala Harris hinted at this dynamic in her first remarks alongside Joe Biden as his running mate:
“I learned quickly that Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves. He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, ‘Where did you get that? Where did this come from?'” Harris said. “He’d always talk about his dad.”
In electoral politics, things tend to quickly get boiled down to raw power dynamics—what will give my team the greatest possible chance of victory?
But Joe Biden and his team have succeeded in 2020 by choosing a different direction—creating a campaign that attempts to fulfill the promise of someone dearly loved, dearly missed, and whose memory pulsates through every decision the candidate makes.Save to Favorites