Joe Biden should endorse Pete Buttigieg

New London had a gay mayor even before South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg came out, so in some ways I had already seen close-hand, as we roll deeper into the 21th century, how little voters seem to care.

I thought a little about that in February, when I got a fragment of an email blast from a friend, Kenneth Bleeth, professor emeritus of English at Connecticut College, urging people to donate to Buttigieg's campaign for president, suggesting it would help someone with such striking achievements — magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, Rhodes Scholar, Navy veteran — meet donation fundraising thresholds to secure a spot on the stage for the first of the Democratic debates in June.

Bleeth was on the Buttigieg bandwagon early enough to now look prescient, as his candidate has since rocketed to the top tier of Democrats in polls. He's not only going to be on the debate stage but now seems positioned to dominate it.

Still, Bleeth appeared realistic then about the prospects of a little-known 37-year-old Indiana gay mayor running for president, calling him "a huge long shot."

It turns out some of the things I thought then that made him a long shot are probably some of what's helped propel him to the front of the pack, like his youthful enthusiasm and optimism and razor-sharp ambition. Mostly I think it is his winning combination of charm and brilliance.

He'd gone from "adorable" to "plausible," he told a CNN anchor Tuesday.

What I should have accounted for early on, having seen a young unknown lawyer named Daryl Finizio dazzle his way into the mayor's office in New London, that being gay was hardly a handicap, maybe even an appealing novelty at this moment in a large number of the nooks and crannies of politics in America.

That makes me happy.

Now that I've seen the wisdom of my friend's choice of candidates, I'd like to see Democrats begin to narrow the too-wide field as soon as possible.

If choosing a Democratic candidate is all about finding someone sure to beat Trump, the news Monday brought fresh evidence of what a better president Buttigieg might make, in even very small ways, and how much more appealing his candidacy might be.

Asked by a French television reporter to comment on the fire in Notre Dame, Buttigieg offered condolences to the people of France, speaking into the camera, in French.

Trump, on the other hand, tweeted a criticism about the way the fire was being fought, suggesting they might use flying water tankers. The French Civil Defense Agency later pointedly noted that the use of water tankers could have led to the collapse of the entire structure.

One way to narrow the field of Democratic candidates would be to discourage more people from entering.

The person who comes to mind in that respect is Joe Biden, who is at the top of polls before even officially entering the race.

But while Buttigieg certainly has more room to go up in he polls, as he continues to introduce himself to America, Biden seems poised only to go down, as Americans are prodded to relive years of sometimes unfortunate decision-making.

Do we really need or want to revisit the way Anita Hill was treated by Sen. Biden's Judiciary Committee? Do we want more debate about whether it is appropriate for him to put his hands on a woman's shoulders and kiss the top of her head?

Buttigieg has encouraged conversation about his age and whether he is too young. He is, after all, running to be president of the United States of America.

I think a discussion of Biden's age is appropriate, too, and I think he is too old. Saying that for any other job would be ageist, I agree, but there aren't many jobs where you get to stay on for four years, no matter how infirm you become and how trying and stressful the job may be.

If we are going to debate age, I'd like to do it with Buttigieg and Trump on stage together, bookmarking the wide spectrum.

Joe Biden has run twice before for president, with lackluster results. If the time were ever right, it was when he was still vice president. Is the third time for a run at the presidency, at the age of 76, going to be the charm?

I think Buttigieg is right when he suggests it is time for new leadership from a new generation, to begin a new era in America.

Wouldn't an endorsement of that transition be a grand finale to Biden's political career. Wouldn't it be great if he got on the Buttigieg bandwagon and helped Democrats shake off the cobwebs for 2020.

If history is any judge, Connecticut Democrats won't have much say in the matter by the time the 2020 Democratic primary rolls in to town here on April 28.

That won't stop people like Bleeth from getting behind a candidate long before then. I don't know him to have been that politically active in the past, but I gather the prospects of a Buttigieg presidency might change that.

He was one of the first grassroots volunteers to bundle more than 10 donations and already has participated in a conference call with the candidate. He told me he is going to a Buttigieg fundraiser in New York City later this week.

Bleeth is my new go-to political crystal ball.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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