Outside the faux-barn event space in Fairfield, Iowa, the sky was foggy black, and rain had turned the long gravel driveway to mush. But despite the weather, several dozen Iowans showed up on the Saturday before New Year’s to hear from the man they believe offers a bright beam of sunlight for these rainy times.
What’s attracting these supporters to Joe Biden are his rose-colored glasses. The central allure of the former vice president’s campaign—the promise undergirding it all—is that he can unite a historically polarized nation, one whose divisions may now be further amplified by the crisis with Iran.
Biden has repeatedly suggested that, as president, he’d get members of both parties working together again to churn out legislation. Earlier this week, Biden even said that he’d consider choosing a Republican running mate. His is a gauzy vision of a bipartisan America, one that has led progressives to dismiss Biden as a naive old man yearning for a return to a past that never was. But some voters want to go back in time too. “He’d bring the country together a lot more than it is,” said Melinda Johnson, who lives in Fairfield and plans to caucus for the first time next month for Biden.
The dominant narrative says that Biden is a formidable force in 2020 because of his supposed electability—the confidence Democratic voters have that he is capable of beating Donald Trump in a head-to-head contest. But his vision of a post-Trump America was an even bigger factor for the voters I spoke with in Iowa. These supporters care about winning, but they also believe that a Biden presidency really would lessen the anger and vitriol in American politics, bringing about a return to decency and civility. Fundamentally, his voters’ sentiments underscore the choice many Democrats think they have to make in the 2020 election: Should they push for a post-Trump revolution, or simply a return to normalcy?