Budowsky: Biden wins by heeding Steinem's advice

Gloria Steinem, the iconic feminist who has graced American civic life for many years with her passion and wisdom in support of equal rights, said this in The New York Times on Wednesday discussing recent stories about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris faces pressure to define policy proposals Biden campaign rips 'Medicare for All,' calls on Dems to protect Affordable Care Act Harris voices support for Puerto Rico protesters: 'I stand with them' MORE and women:

“The way out is simple. Our bodies and voices belong to us — that should be the first step in democracy. Just ask before hugging.”


Imagine Biden giving a speech to Democrats and as he walks onto the stage, and is greeted by prominent female Democrats, he asks: “May I give you a hug?”

I will wager that if Biden asks this question on these occasions he would find a lot of takers among women who value his humanity, decency and purpose in public life in what could become a memorable and meaningful moment in American politics.

At this moment I am not supporting Biden or any candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 after the candidate I strongly supported, Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (D-Ohio), decided not to run. For now, I am watching them all, and open to supporting many of them.

Having offered that disclaimer, it is important to consider why most polling today suggests that Biden is the strongest and most electable opponent to President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE in the 2020 presidential campaign, nationally and in key states that gave Trump a narrow Electoral College victory after Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeorge Takei: US has hit a new low under Trump Democrats slam Puerto Rico governor over 'shameful' comments, back protesters Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE won 3 million more popular votes than he did in 2016.  

Joe Biden is a good man. He is an honest man. He is a man of warmth and humanity. He is a family man who treats all voters as members of a great American family. Biden is a man of vast presidential caliber experience. For eight years he stood a heartbeat from the presidency. For a generation he has been a staunch supporter of blue-collar workers, middle-class citizens and poor Americans alike. For decades he has been seen — unlike Trump — as a faithful friend of freedom by democratic leaders around the world.

One symbol of why Biden runs so strongly against Trump is that he is famous for riding Amtrak to offer greetings to the folks back home, not for hanging out at posh resorts greeting questionable cronies and foreign influence peddlers. Many voters know this. Most voters sense it.

The real Biden is the non-Trump, the antidote to a president who bellows insults against countless Americans he treats as enemies and treats politics as a weaponized cesspool of venomous attacks designed to pit American against American while praising foreign dictators and alienating the free world. 

Biden runs so strongly because he is real and authentic at a time when those qualities are hugely valued in American public life. He is honest to a fault. He has never abused the public trust to make money for himself.

The best way for Biden to run would be to let Biden be Biden — with one exception. America has entered the “Me Too” era which calls for unprecedented sensitivity and care. If Biden accepts Steinem’s advice and asks “may I hug you?” some women might say “I’d rather not” but appreciate his asking, while many would say “please do” and happily reciprocate his warmth and generosity of spirit.

In the coming campaign, Biden and all candidates will have an opportunity to demonstrate the qualities that will answer the call of Americans for a politics that embodies mutual respect, and a vision of America as a great community and national family.  

 I will support the candidate who does this best because like most Americans I yearn for a president — like Biden and unlike Trump — who makes us proud and not embarrassed, who speaks truths rather than falsehoods, and whose purpose in politics is to bring our people together rather than exploit fear and hatred to tear America apart.

If Biden takes Steinem’s advice and asks before he hugs, countless women — and men —  would hug him back, while others would be grateful he cared enough to ask!

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.