Donald Trump’s presidency has often been compared to a reality show. But Joe Biden’s former rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination embraced the concept during the closing night of the Democratic National Convention when they gathered onscreen to participate in a hallowed tradition familiar to any fan of, say, “The Real Housewives” or “The Bachelor.”
“You could think of this like ‘Survivor,’” said New Jersey senator turned reunion show host Cory Booker, reaching for another TV analogy. “The [exit] interviews of all the people who got voted off the island.”
The content, scrubbed and sanitized for primetime politics, was slightly less colorful than your usual reunion-show fare. No clawing, no cursing, no crying. But there were moments of drama.
“Why does my girlfriend like you more than she likes me?” Booker asked Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at the outset. (Booker’s girlfriend is actress Rosario Dawson.)
“Because she’s smarter than you,” Sanders cracked. “That’s the obvious answer, right?”
Onscreen, all of the other former candidates chuckled: former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in his signature tie and shirtsleeves; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a purple jacket; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, his blue button-down not soaked with sweat for once; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
The point, of course, was not to joke around, or even to relive their whirlwind experience on the campaign trail. The point was to erase any lingering memories of primary-season animosity and help Biden get elected.
So there was no mention, for instance, of the sharpest elbows thrown during heated debates. (“There are a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling,” Booker said during an interview with CNN after the third Democratic presidential debate in Houston. “Can he be someone in a long, grueling campaign that can get the ball over the line?”)
Instead, Booker asked Klobuchar to share a memory of what it was like to serve with Biden in the Senate. She recounted a time when she delivered a floor speech to an empty chamber and wondered whether her mom was even watching on C-SPAN. Afterward, she got a call.
“And you know who it was? Joe Biden,” Klobuchar said. That shows “how much he cares about our government. … Even when he’s home at night, he’s watching.”
“But Amy, we all want to know,” Sanders interjected. “Did you mother watch the speech?”
Buttigieg went on to recount a moment in Iowa when Biden pulled him aside and told him that one of Buttigieg’s campaign staffers — someone Biden knew — had “gone through a family tragedy.”
“He said it was important for me to know about someone who was working with me,” Buttigieg explained. “Over time I learned that’s just basic to who he is.”
Referring to the car crash that killed Biden’s daughter and first wife, Warren testified to how she saw Biden “clearest” as “the parent who had lost a child” and “the man who had lost a wife” when he spoke on the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. O’Rourke said that “Joe and Kamala are listening” to the “young people” who have spent the summer protesting racial injustice and “incorporating their ideas and urgency into the campaign.” Sanders set his aside his ideological differences with the former vice president to praise his character, saying Americans should support Biden “whether you’re progressives, whether you’re moderates, whether you’re conservatives.”
And Yang hinted that the gang might be reuniting again, in one form or another, should Biden win the presidency.
“He wants to build the best team,” he said. “Let’s do it together!”
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