What if we crowned Joe Biden as our queen?
In the metaphorical sense, at least, wouldn’t a post-Trump nation be better off with Biden enthroned as a handsome figurehead, while his high-octane brain trust—led by Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Cuomo, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, and Dr. Fauci (don’t worry, he’ll be fired by Trump in plenty of time to sign on)—does the actual work of making America America again? The team can get the country back on track, while Biden, like Elizabeth II, sits serenely in a secure location, spinning old favorites such as “We’ll Meet Again.”
It’s no accident that many of the countries with the best results in fighting the coronavirus—New Zealand, Germany, Iceland—all happen to be led by women. Maybe it’s because women are used to taking care of a sick family, while also having to focus on their jobs.
Unlike Biden, Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C., isn’t waiting—she has already tapped her own coronavirus advisory council. It includes Michelle Obama; Susan Rice, national-security adviser in the Obama administration; and Michael Chertoff, homeland-security secretary under George W. Bush.
All the more reason for Biden to be a man and step aside to let a woman lead.
He probably wouldn’t even mind. So far, as the pandemic rages and the economy crumbles, Biden has already been acting like a British royal—making brief ribbon-cutting appearances, waving encouragingly at his subjects, and not shaking hands. During a virtual fundraiser on Thursday, Biden reportedly said he viewed himself as a “transition candidate” who would pave the way for younger talent, like Pete Buttigieg.
Biden was finally flushed out into the open on Friday to address a former Senate employee’s charge of sexual assault and held firm—“It never happened.” But it was telling that Biden was better prepared for that damage-control performance on Morning Joe than he was for follow-up questions about how he would handle the pandemic.
Biden has already been acting like a British royal—making brief ribbon-cutting appearances, waving encouragingly at his subjects, and not shaking hands.
If Biden really believes Trump will try to postpone the election, as he told donors at a Zoom fundraiser last week, surely he would have sensed the urgency and announced his choices for vice president and key Cabinet posts weeks ago. By now, his shadow government should be in a virtual war room planning their first 100 days.
If there needs to be a new New Deal—of any color—shouldn’t it already be in blueprint? The former vice president could preside over the daily briefing, flash that gleaming smile, say a few rallying words borrowed, not too flagrantly, from F.D.R., then turn over the substantive talk to a team of rivals who would take us through the Biden Recovery Act, chart by chart, executive order by executive order.
Trump’s not acting like a president, so Biden should.
Here’s the deal. Tap Silicon Valley tech leaders to band together to throw more billions of dollars at speeding up vaccine research. Form a bipartisan committee to devise better ways to fund and direct public health. They say we need 300,000 people to make contact tracing a reality? Plenty of people have suggested a medical version of the Civilian Conservation Corps that would put young, unemployed people to work doing coronavirus contact tracing—the C.C.T.
Recruit progressive economists to devise a more equitable tax system? Fine, if we must.
Nobody, but nobody, thinks Trump is handling the pandemic or the economic paralysis competently, but it would be comforting if the Democrats could show—step by step—how they would do it better. It’s not that we think Biden is useless in this crisis—he was in the White House helping Obama fix the 2008 financial meltdown. But we worry that he may have lost the ability to convey clarity of mind and boldness of vision.
And given how wobbly Biden’s command has proved so far, it might be smart to start signaling now that, following the 2020 election, Biden would act less like a president in normal times and more like a figurehead in wartime. They’ve got this, folks.
It would reassure Democrats—as well as those millions of Republicans fearful of another Trump administration. Global markets might perk up. Biden stepped back for Obama. Now he can do it for the country.