The least consequential news of this or any other day is getting the most attention:
Former President Barack Obama has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president. Whoop-de-doo!
This is being treated as a major development in the 2020 presidential race, even though the people providing all this massive coverage know it’s nothing of the sort.
The only thing Obama has done here is follow a pattern long established by former presidents and incumbent presidents not running for re-election.
It works like this: A whole bunch of people compete for a party’s nomination. Within that party you have at least one or two living former presidents. You might also have a two-term incumbent president who can’t run for re-election and is thus not part of the race.
As the primary race goes on, all kind of speculation will ensue about who Former President This or Sitting President That wants to win, but no answer to the question will come.
In the 1988 race for the Republican nomination, most people assumed President Ronald Reagan was rooting for Vice President George H.W. Bush, but didn’t give an endorsement until Bush had wrapped up the race on his own.
In 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore had to run against Bill Bradley for the nomination. Everyone knew then-President Bill Clinton backed Gore, but he made no formal endorsement until Bradley exited the race.
Many people remember the awkward joint appearance and handshake between then-President George W. Bush and John McCain after McCain clinched the delegates to win the Republican nomination. The two men didn’t like each other, but the endorsement of the incumbent president for his party’s presumptive nominee was customary at that point.
It would have made more news if they hadn’t done it, even though Bush probably didn’t want to endorse McCain and McCain probably didn’t want Bush’s endorsement.
It was a box they had to check.
All Obama is doing by endorsing Biden is checking a box. It’s not a big deal that he didn’t endorse Biden before now, because former presidents and sitting presidents never make endorsements until primary seasons are over or there is only one candidate standing.
But it’s also not important that Obama did endorse Biden. Of course he’s going to endorse the nominee of his party. What else would he do?
It’s more meaningful that Obama didn’t encourage Biden to run in 2016, and instead urged him to step aside and clear the way for Hillary Clinton. Hillary may have been the worst major party nominee in the history of this country, and Obama knew her well. Yet he still didn’t think Joe Biden – his own vice president – would have been a better choice.
I question whether endorsements really matter much at all. Hardly any newspapers endorsed Donald Trump in 2016, even the ones who usually endorse Republicans. He still won. People aren’t persuaded by other people making endorsements. They’re persuaded by their own thinking and their own impressions of the candidates.
All you have to do is watch some of Joe Biden’s recent videos to get a sense of whether he’s up to the job of president. Whom do you believe? Barack Obama or your own lying eyes?
In all likelihood, the Democrat Barack Obama thinks should be president is Barack Obama. But that’s not an option, so he checked the box everyone knew he would check, and knew he had to check.
It means nothing, and it will matter for nothing. But congratulations on finally getting your former boss’ endorsement, Joe! It came four years too late. And I suspect it will be the best thing anyone will have to congratulate you for.
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