The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
In his Sept. 1 op-ed, Leonard Pitts asserts that former Vice President Joe Biden “misreads the needs of the nation at this juncture.”
I profoundly disagree. Biden is not promising a return to the past, as has so often been asserted, or a return to the Obama-era or even to the nostalgia of his time in the Senate.
This is not a kumbaya moment. What I think Biden stands for is decency and that is never out-of-date or out-of-fashion.
Let’s think about the qualities of leadership that have been demonstrated recently: By former President Barak Obama: cerebral, aloof, intellectual, principled, deliberative, respect for process, cautious, disengaged, largely ineffective for building coalitions and making policy.
President Trump: brash, irascible, erratic, chaotic, unreliable, secretive, vengeful, no respect for people or process, impulsive, divisive and untruthful, effective only by using executive orders.
What are some leadership qualities that are needed starting with the election of 2020? Someone who is genuine, approachable, trustworthy, able to embrace multiple “truths,” respect for people and process and, yes, someone who will come down to the halls of Congress, greet old friends and make new ones and yes, again, will restore the governing principle of compromise and incremental governing, including time to evaluate outcomes rather than just adopting singular ideologies.
We need someone with integrity, who will consult with experts and stakeholders, rather than govern by fiat. We need a president who can delegate because he knows the right people for the job (no acting heads of departments or constant turnover). We need a leader who will be accountable. Who understands that what might have been true and acceptable once, is no longer, but, who is not just reactive to public pressure.
There are probably other important qualities that you can think of, like creativity and innovation … and/or who has the ability to work with those who have those big ideas.
If you use these qualities as a kind of checklist when evaluating the pronouncements of Democratic candidates, you are likely to land on Biden. Biden, I believe, will quickly restore our relationships with allies, revive treaties and reestablish our rank of leadership worldwide; no on-the-job lag time required.
Being a restorative leader does not negate the ability to also move our country forward, of supporting cutting edge policies.
The truth is that all those visionary policies cannot be planted in the toxic soil that Trump will leave behind. You can’t just ignore the damage done and press ahead, using executive orders to undo all the damage that he has done to our soul. Real leadership requires a buy-in and willingness to revive and genuinely model our American values by taking us “forward to where we ought to be (Pitts again).”
Of course a President Biden will tackle climate disaster, have policies that address student loans and quality, affordable child care, and treat health care as a universal right. Our culture is too much “either-or” and not enough “both-and.” I think that Joe Biden can be a “both-and” leader and that is exactly what is needed.
Finally, as we have sadly learned, without the Senate doing its constitutionally mandated job, no Democratic President will stand a chance.
So, while focusing on the Presidential election is vital, re-taking the Senate is essential to any President’s success. Getting rid of Mitch McConnell needs to be a clearly stated strategic goal; that is not an ‘either-or’ or a ‘both-and’; that is a MUST DO if we want to move forward.
Rita Pollak is a collaborative lawyer, facilitator and mediator.