By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Leading up to the 2020 president election, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin studied the field of eminently qualified candidates to represent the Democratic Party and knew he could only choose one to support.
Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator; Cory Booker, the New Jersey Senator; Kamala Harris, the California senator; Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend; Joe Biden, the former vice president were among considerations.
Woodfin publicly endorsed Biden in December, 2019.
“I saw a candidate that could be the bridge for the various generations that make up the Democratic Party, which is a big tent,” Woodfin said in an interview Sunday. “When you consider who he is as a person of character I felt he was the one candidate who could move all of the demographics – I’m not just talking race, which is black and white, also older and younger, also zip codes, urban, suburban and rural – I just felt that because of who he has always represented himself as a bridge, as a connector, and he’s been pretty consistent in that.”
Biden was elected president of the United States on Saturday, defeating President Trump. Biden, who will become the 46th president, secured 273 votes from the Electoral College after Pennsylvania was called for him.
The Biden victory “didn’t boil down to Republican or Democrat or urban versus rural . . . it fell into two categories: good versus evil,” Woodfin said. “Character mattered.”
The mayor said his early support for Biden came down to a Democratic nominee who would have a chance against an incumbent with a bully pulpit.
“You consider it’s been [almost] 30 years since an incumbent president has been unseated,” said Woodfin, referring to 1992, when Democrat Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush. “You needed the strongest most viable candidate within that pool [of Democratic challengers this year]. It doesn’t take away from any of those other candidates. There was always one person and that was Joe Biden.”
Given the divisiveness the country has been through over the past four years, Alabama U.S. representative Terri Sewell said Biden was made for this moment.
“Not only does he have the character and the integrity but he’s had the years of experience working across the aisle – working on both sides of the aisle – to try to get things done and if ever we need someone who will bring us together as a country, willing to work across the aisle to get things done for the American people, now is the time,” Sewell said.
The Congresswoman pointed out that Biden didn’t waste any time addressing some of the major challenges facing the country shortly after being announced president-elect on Saturday morning. By that evening Biden began addressing serious issues facing America.
“We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and he’s already announcing his 12-person coronavirus task force which will be led by scientists and doctors,” Sewell said. “He and [vice-president-elect] Kamala [Harris] were made for a moment such as this. Our country is so deeply divided but [we] have a person in his first major speech as a president-elect talk first and foremost about unity, about uniting us, not as blue America versus red America, but as the United States of America.”
Both Woodfin and Sewell said they were not surprised to see the outpouring of elation seen across the country after Trump’s defeat.
“I think what we see out on the streets is that good won,” Woodfin said. “I can say it like that, and feel that way because Joe Biden talked about the soul of the nation, but the plainest way to say that is character matters. Our country’s character was literally in jeopardy, our character as Americans and good beat out evil. I don’t care how you splice this.”
“[Biden-Harris’s] message of restoring the soul of this nation captured, at so many levels, the feeling and sentiment of the majority of Americans who had been worn down by the loss of respect and dignity internationally [of] America – the preeminent country that we are – losing our shine because we have in the White House someone who does not respect our democracy.”
Biden won over a lot of support long before assuming becoming the 46th president. That happened when he named Harris as his running mate, the first woman, and first woman of color, on a winning presidential ticket.
“It’s good to see a country that prides itself on opportunity, that a position that has been white men after white men since the inception of this country” is now occupied by a Black woman, Woodfin said. “ . . . that glass ceiling was not just shattered by a women it was shattered by a Black women.”
Sewell described Harris as an asset to Biden, “down to earth and humble and at the same time, just a force of nature.”
“I also truly believe that you have to ‘see it to be it,’” Sewell said. “We will now have ascending to the vice presidency a strong woman, a woman of color, a black woman, who’s not afraid to claim her ethnicity . . . that’s a part of who she is. She will be such a wonderful role model for all women and young girls, but especially Black girls.”