A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

The meaning of Joe Biden's big week

As Democrats close ranks ahead of the November election, party leaders are pushing a perhaps unlikely message: Big government is back.

Jim Young/Reuters/File
Joe Biden and Barack Obama speak prior to a presidential debate at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, April 26, 2007. Mr. Obama recently became one of a string of Democratic leaders to endorse Mr. Biden's bid for the presidency.

Dear reader:

 Joe Biden has had a pretty good week. On Monday, his erstwhile competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed him, saying, “We need you in the White House.” On Tuesday, his old boss President Barack Obama endorsed him, releasing a 12-minute video that sung Joe’s praises and tried to prep Democrats for the campaign ahead. And on Wednesday, another ex-presidential aspirant, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (yes, you guessed it) endorsed him.

 “When you disagree, he’ll listen,” Sen. Warren said.

 One thing we’ve learned from this endorse-o-rama is that the Democratic Party seems a lot more organized in 2020 than it’s been in past presidential cycles. Somebody made some discreet phone calls to put this all together – as somebody did to push Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg to drop out of the White House race and endorse Mr. Biden just prior to Super Tuesday.

 And by “somebody,” we mean, “the Democrat elected most recently to the presidency in their own right.” Mr. Obama may not actually have been the person who phoned folks and made the ask in these situations, but it’s become pretty clear that he’s been much more active behind the scenes in the 2020 race than many people realized.

 “The real lesson here is that Obama has been pretty involved in politics for a past president,” said Marquette University political scientist Julia Azari in an interesting FiveThirtyEight politics chat this week.

 The other takeaway may be the one word these Democrats, and by extension Mr. Biden, are using at this point to summarize what they think the campaign is going to be about.

 No, it’s not “Trump.” (At least, not yet.) It’s “government.”

 “Government” was the biggest word highlighted on screen in Sen. Warren’s endorsement video. Mr. Obama, in his, used it over and over.

 In 1996 then-President Bill Clinton famously said “the era of big government is over.” In 2020 the novel coronavirus pandemic, with its trillions of dollars of U.S. economic interventions and lockdowns and hospital equipment needs, has turned that saying on its head.

 “This crisis has reminded us that government matters,” Mr. Obama said.

 Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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