Magnificent Obsession: a plea to Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren to support Joe Biden

Photo:, August 19, 2017

Hear me out. Please.

If there’s one thing Americans can agree on it’s how divided we are. Theories abound as to why, mostly in the form of finger-pointing. Solutions from government officials, media consultants and civic leaders are bantered about like intellectual sport. The anger is palpable. 

I’m no politician but, as a former Army Behavioral Health Officer with 25 years clinical experience, I do know people. Every day I help them turn their lives around, replacing self-defeating choices with productive solutions. I know what this country needs and it’s not another heated election. 

Published in 1929, Lloyd C. Douglas’ book, Magnificent Obsession, heralds selflessness and charity as divine pursuits. Inspired by the Gospel of Matthew, it is a story of personal redemption through private sacrifice. There is no greater passion than the kind that needs no audience to matter. I thought about this as I worked through my weariness and fear.¹

I don’t need to remind you what’s at stake. We have already seen an erosion of independence in Congress, the Justice Department, State Department and Department of Defense. For the first time since the Civil War, our democracy is in peril.

Think about someone important in your life, someone for whom you’d take a bullet: a child; spouse; parent; sibling. Suppose I could guarantee, if you took that bullet, you’d survive, but, if you chose not to, there was a possibility your loved one would die. What would you do?

None of the Democratic Presidential candidates can guarantee a win in November, but there is a way to ensure a Trump defeat – if you’re willing to take the bullet. I ask you: after months of accusing Republicans of being self-serving, are you  prepared to put the needs of the country before ambition? When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suspended his 2016 presidential campaign, he urged fellow candidates to rally around one opponent in order to beat Donald Trump. Unfortunately, they were too selfish to heed his advice.

What I’m proposing is a collaborative campaign. The Democratic candidates would make a joint announcement they’re suspending their presidential bids to campaign for Joe Biden. In exchange, Biden would agree to serve one term. The group would establish a unified platform and policy agenda. Proposed Cabinet positions would also be a group decision. Imagine the boost this would have on our collective malaise: politicians defying expectations of cynicism and distrust to heal the nation. A grand gesture of unprecedented selflessness! I think the country’s worth it. Don’t you?

I make this plea not as a voter, but as a mental health professional. While some characterize a Biden presidency as going backwards, I see it as a return to normalcy, a coming home after an odyssey of Ulysses proportions. While some resent efforts to court voters who’ve been unfaithful to the Democratic Party, we would be no better than Republicans if we chose indignation over forgiveness.

Biden has established relationships with Members of Congress and foreign leaders. He is competitive in states Donald Trump needs to win. His personal history is one-part everyman and one-part inspiration. If Joe can overcome such personal adversities, so can we.² He is also deeply religious and can speak credibly to Christian Americans who are equally so. Despite Biden’s various titles, there’s a reason Americans still call him “Joe.” It’s a testament to his approachability, empathy and candidness.

Joe is everything Donald Trump isn’t: thoughtful where Trump is impulsive; seasoned where Trump is naïve; healing where Trump is incendiary; and, most importantly, beloved in a way Trump will never be. In this regard, Joe Biden has already won. He doesn’t need to prove himself. He’s running because the circumstances call for it and many of us beseeched him to. It’s as though Joe’s entire life – the accomplishments and the tragedies – have prepared him for this moment.

Yes, you’ve promised unity by the August convention, but that’s too little too late. There’s no magnanimity in resigning to defeat. A Soldier who joins the Army after war is over is appreciated but not admired. No, the sooner you commit to one candidate, the greater the sacrifice, the more powerful the message. 

No doubt Republicans will continue to engage in fear-mongering and division. Meanwhile, you’ll have won the hearts and minds of the American people. They can choose hate. We choose love. In the process, we’ll remake history. 

¹ Douglas, Lloyd C. Magnificent obsession. New York, Willett, Clark & company, 1929.