Coons says Biden’s record should matter more than his identity

Coons says Biden’s record should matter more than his identity

After Joe Biden announced his 2020 presidential candidacy on Thursday morning, Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons was one of the first members of Congress to offer his endorsement.

“We need leaders who will bring us together instead of tearing us apart, who will focus on the real issue facing American families, and who will restore the United States’ role in the world as a force for stability, freedom, and human rights,” Coons said in a statement. “Joe Biden is that leader, and I’m proud to endorse him for President of the United States.”

It wasn’t surprising — Coons, a centrist Delaware native who filled Biden’s old Senate seat in a 2010 special election, is close with the former vice president and has been optimistically talking about his campaign for weeks.

In an interview with CNN earlier this month, he indicated his support was a given even before the former vice president officially said he would run.

“I look forward to campaigning with him and supporting him,” Coons said.

During that interview, the senator also pushed back on some of Biden’s critics, who argue he does not represent the younger and more diverse elements of today’s Democratic Party.

Coons praised the party’s recent strides in electing people from a wider range of social and economic backgrounds to Congress, but he contested the notion that Biden wasn’t progressive enough and that his status as a 76-year-old white man should be viewed as a liability in the 2020 race.

“It would be (a liability) if he’d made no efforts at changing over 40 years. The actual record of Joe Biden — what he’s done, where he’s invested his time and heart, the issues he’s tackled — he is exactly in the right place for our country,” Coons told CNN. “If by identity politics, you mean people can only represent a Democratic constituency if they happen to be, check six boxes of diverse types, I don’t agree that that’s what identity politics means.”

“What I think our party is trying to do is to advance policies that genuinely create opportunity and inclusion,” Coons continued.

“And if you look at what the Obama-Biden administration tried to do and accomplished, he’s got the strongest record of anybody who is running or who could be running on LGBTQ inclusion, on access to affordable quality health care, on combating climate change, on reining in Wall Street,” he added. “You’ve got a lot of people who give brave speeches on college campuses, but who do not have a record that matches his of actually doing things in these fields.”

Critics, such as Justice Democrats, the progressive group that helped secure New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ascent to Congress, argue Biden’s policy positions during his time in Congress should be disqualifying.

The group tweeted on Thursday that Biden was “out of touch with the center of energy in the Democratic Party today,” pointing to a number of past positions that have drawn criticism from the left, such as his support of the Iraq War and bankruptcy reform and his opposition to same-sex marriage. He has since reversed course on some of the issues in question.

Biden is the 20th Democrat to join the crowded presidential campaign.

He racked up multiple endorsements in the Senate quickly after his announcement Thursday morning. Joining Coons were Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, fellow Delawarean Tom Carper, and Doug Jones of Alabama.