What is Joe Biden running for? I don’t mean what policy goals he hopes to achieve, as much confusion as there is on the point. Rather, I mean “for what office is Mr. Biden campaigning?”
You probably think he’s running for president. He probably does, too. But Mr. Biden is running for a job more akin to a European prime minister. His purpose has become to serve as an avatar for a confused and tenuous Democratic alliance.
Presidents lead their parties. They start with a theory of why their idiosyncratic mix of policy aims is right for their country. Then they deploy deep reserves of charisma to drag their parties, often kicking and screaming, behind them.
Prime ministers such as Angela Merkel or Boris Johnson serve a different function. In constitutional systems that lack a strong executive, a prime minister represents a temporary and often brittle agreement within a ruling party. Even when, as in Mr. Johnson’s case, they seem revolutionary, the leader still has to step lightly around various unvanquished internal foes.
Which of these two models do you think Mr. Biden is following?