On Tuesday, former U.S. president Barack Obama announced his official endorsement of his former second in command, Joe Biden. In a 12-minute video, Obama praised Biden’s character and experience, commending him as the kind of candidate that is uniquely qualified to lead the United States through a crisis and focus his efforts on progress for working and middle-class Americans. His endorsement comes one day after Sen. Bernie Sanders offered his own endorsement in an attempt to consolidate a divided Democratic party whose more progressive members remain skeptical of Biden.
“I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now. He’s someone whose own life has taught him how to persevere — how to bounce back when you’ve been knocked down,” Obama said. “The kind of leadership that’s guided by knowledge and experience, honesty and humility, empathy and grace — that kind of leadership doesn’t just belong in our state capitols and mayors offices. It belongs in the White House.”
Obama also praised Sanders extensively for his contributions to sparking a movement in favour of progressive change. "Bernie's an American original — a man who has devoted his life to giving voice to working people's hopes, dreams, and frustrations. He and I haven't always agreed on everything, but we've always shared a conviction that we have to make America a fairer, more just, more equitable society," said Obama.
However, Obama's endorsement comes at a time when Biden is already the presumed Democratic nominee and no longer has any candidates running in opposition to him within the party. Last week, U.S. President Trump questioned this move in a daily coronavirus press briefing. “I don’t know why President Obama hasn’t supported Joe Biden a long time ago,” Trump told reporters. “He feels something is wrong...It does amaze me that President Obama hasn’t supported Sleepy Joe. It just hasn’t happened. When’s it gonna happen? Why isn’t he?"
Despite Trump's obvious jab at both Biden and Obama, the question of Obama's late endorsement remains more prevalent now than ever. This does mirror Obama's endorsement of Hillary Clinton in 2016 after she clinched the nomination, though Biden being his former VP sparked more questions early on in his campaign. When Biden announced his bid for the presidency in April of last year, questions quickly emerged as to why Obama did not immediately endorse him. “I asked President Obama not to endorse,” Biden told reporters. “Whoever wins this nomination should win the nomination on their own merits.”
Despite this, Biden's campaign spent the majority of primary season touting his close relationship with Obama — whether it be in advertising or in debates. Biden's platform embraced the concept of picking up where the former president left off, building upon things like Obamacare.
Others accused Obama's late candidate endorsement on an impediment of Bernie Sanders' campaign. According to a November report by Politico, aides close to Obama believed that if Sanders were to be the nominee, the former president would "speak up to stop him." The New York Times also reported that Obama played a role, albeit behind-the-scenes, in Sanders' ultimate decision to end his bid and endorse Biden. In their report, Obama allegedly wanted to "accelerate the endgame," having multiple conversations with the Vermont Senator before he dropped out. The politicians' storied relationship dates back decades, but in 2012 Sanders was rumoured to have considered a bid against the president's second term. Sanders has vehemently denied this.
Obama's message in support of Biden's route to the White House seemed to promote unity above all else in a time when the party is quite divided. Now, Biden is strategically working to earn Sanders' overwhelming progressive voters and unite the Democratic party. “I know that I need to earn your votes. And I know that might take time. But I want you to know that I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of this moment” Biden said to Sanders' supporters on Twitter.
Biden has already embraced further left ideas championed by Sanders including student debt forgiveness and making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Biden also proposed lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60 which, while a step in the right direction, could seem like a small gesture to those who support a near-complete overhaul of the system to make healthcare accessible and affordable to all.
Obama also lauded Biden as a potential president who would work for the American people rather than his own self-interests, a thinly-veiled jab at Trump whose name was strategically left out. In the video, Trump is portrayed as a leader more interested in making the rich richer rather than pursuing the needs of average Americans even in the midst of a pandemic. Obama argued that the president and Senate Republicans “disregarded American principles of rule of law, and voting rights, and transparency.”
Positioning Biden as a stark opposite, Obama said that Biden will “surround himself with good people — experts, scientists, military officials who actually know how to run the government and care about doing a good job running the government and know how to work with our allies, and who will always put the American people’s interests above their own.”
This video, which already has over 3 million views, not only marks the reemergence of Obama in the political arena, but provides the Biden campaign with a much-needed boost during a very fractured election. "Keep believing in the possibilities of a better world, and I will see you on the campaign trail as soon as I can," Obama said.