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EDITORIAL: Time for Joe Biden to emerge from basement, take his case to American people

YORK DISPTCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in more than two months on Monday.
  • Biden stopped appearances in early March in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Biden is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
  • Biden, 77, is trying to unseat Donald Trump, 74, for the presidency.
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, arrive to lay a wreath at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park, Monday, May 25, 2020, in New Castle, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Joe Biden finally came out of his basement on Monday.

As the COVID-19 pandemic eases, it’s time for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to do that more often.

His presidential aspirations depend on it.

Biden made his first in-person appearance in more than two months when he marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a veterans park near his Delaware home.

Biden marks Memorial Day at veterans park near Delaware home

Since abruptly canceling a March 10 rally in Cleveland at the onset of the pandemic, Biden has waged much of his campaign from his home in Wilmington. When Biden emerged Monday, he wore a face mask, in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has refused to cover his face in public as health officials suggest.

Biden should be commended for wearing a mask. That is the prudent, and presidential, thing to do.

If Biden eventually wants to be president, however, he will have to take his case directly to the American people — in person.

Some Democrats rightfully worried: Biden has adjusted to the coronavirus era by building a television studio in his home, which he’s used to make appearances on news programs, late-night shows and virtual campaign events. Some of those efforts have been marred by technical glitches and other awkward moments.

Some Democratic strategists have rightly worried that Biden is ceding too much ground to Trump by staying home. The president himself has knocked Biden for essentially campaigning from his basement.

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Biden’s advisers say they plan to return to normal campaign activities at some point, including travel to battleground states.

Time is now: Well, Mr. Biden, that time is now. The election is less than five months away and you’re not going to win the presidency by staying home and hoping to win with an “I’m not Donald Trump” attitude. That wasn’t enough for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and it won’t be enough for you in 2020.

There’s little doubt that Trump has generated more excitement among his base supporters than Biden has on the Democratic side.

Biden aims to move left without abandoning centrist roots

The centrist Biden must figure out how to change that. He especially needs to get the progressive side of the Democratic party to come out and vote for him in November. If he can’t, we’ll get another four years of the Trump presidency. Biden isn’t going to sway those progressives and unify a fractured party from his home.

Biden also must prove that, at 77, he’s fit enough, both physically and mentally, to handle the world’s most demanding job. He must publicly display the "fire in the belly" necessary to win a national election.

Finally, Biden must forcefully confront the Tara Reade sexual assault allegations head on.

Biden can’t effectively do any of that from his basement.

Some risk: There will be some risk for Biden. He is among the nation’s senior population thought to be especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. But so is Trump, who turns 74 next month, and that hasn’t kept him from making various public appearances.

Biden, of course, should take all reasonable health and safety precautions while campaigning in public. That will stand in stark contrast to the cavalier attitude displayed by our current president. It will also serve as an example to the public at large.

There’s little doubt, however, that the time has come for Biden to emerge and strongly take his case to the American people, in person and in public.

His presidential aspirations will depend on it.