You've probably noticed that Joe Biden isn't the vice president anymore. That doesn't mean that he's staying out of public life. Most recently, Biden wrote an opinion piece in
The New York Times, and there's a very good chance that you'll tear up while reading it. Several of the quotes from Joe Biden's NYT editorial represent everything you remember fondly about the Obama administration — while simultaneously reminding you of everything that the Trump administration's not.
In this piece, Biden focuses on
Trump's "America First" foreign policy, which is, as the White House describes it, "a foreign policy focused on American interests and American national security." As many have pointed out before Biden, though, this is a huge change from American foreign policy in the past. Rather than aiming to cooperate with longstanding allies and project an example of a liberal democracy, Trump's stated foreign policy goals revolve around military strength, strong borders, and less foreign aid. Biden takes that and then also emphasizes what Trump is doing at home to set a bad example — his strange habit of complimenting autocratic leaders, his insistence on an "us vs. them" worldview, his repeated defenses of white nationalists in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville.
When you listen to Biden, though, you'll remember that things we're always like this — and they don't have to always be like this in the future.
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images American democracy is rooted in the belief that every man, woman and child has equal rights to freedom and dignity. While the United States is far from perfect, we have never given up the struggle to grow closer to the ideals in our founding documents.
Biden recognizes that this is an idealistic reading of the country's documents, which at the time actually excluded more than half of the population from those equal rights. But he also recognizes the continuing struggle to get closer to the ideals put forward there, and the belief in equality that current social justice fighters have to hold onto and strive toward.
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images The constant American endeavor to live by our values is a great strength that has drawn generations of strivers and dreamers to the United States, enriching our population.
Those strivers and dreamers, the parents or grandparents or great-great-great-grandparents of the grand majority of Americans today, didn't only enrich the population — they created it. Forgetting or ignoring this is one of Trump's greatest faults, and that's saying something.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images Rather than building from a narrative of freedom and democracy that inspires nations to rally together, this White House casts global affairs as a zero-sum competition — for the United States to succeed, others must lose.
This has never been true in the past, and it's not true now. In order to work as peacefully as possible, the world has to work as a giant team. When it comes to building a peaceful planet, success breeds success.
Jessica Hromas/Getty Images News/Getty Images Not since the Jim Crow era has an American president so misunderstood and misrepresented our values.
Trump represents a thankfully bygone era, but he's still bringing dangerous ideas into the forefront of the American political conversation.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images At a time when democratic values are under siege around the globe — from populist attacks that undermine confidence in democratic institutions to leaders who try to bolster their power by closing the space for civil society and rolling back citizens’ rights — the world cannot afford to have America cede the field to illiberalism and intolerance. Trump, unfortunately, embodies some of those illiberal tendencies that Biden mentions and verbally supports leaders whose regimes are antithetical to everything that America is supposed to represent. There are still people — like Biden — who want to stand up for America's commitment to democracy and tolerance, but they're not the ones occupying the White House at the moment. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images Reclaiming our values starts with standing up for them at home — inclusivity, tolerance, diversity, respect for the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of the press. If these are the democratic principles we wish to see around the world, America must be the first to model them.
Trump has threatened each of these values, many of them repeatedly and in multiple ways. Perhaps Trump is being the change he wants to see in the world, and if so, then that's all the more reason to resist more strongly.
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images From the Marshall Plan after World War II to our alliances in East Asia, both Republican and Democratic officials have long embraced a vision of American leadership that fosters a more secure, inclusive and generous planet. That ideal made the world safer and more prosperous — for Americans and everyone else.
People in the United States and across the world disagree about whether America's foreign policy in the past has always been effective or beneficial. But in most cases, the country's policies did strive toward that vision of a more secure and inclusive world. Trump — with the help of Steve Bannon and others — has trashed that idea, and it could end up being detrimental.
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images The United States remains better positioned than any other country to shape the direction of the 21st century. But to succeed, we cannot abandon the tenets that we fought so hard to defend over the past seven decades — ideals that magnified American leadership and produced the greatest increase in global prosperity in history.
Despite the negative situation that we find ourselves in less than a year after Obama and Biden left office, the former vice president still manages to find hope and confidence in the United States' position and ability to succeed — if certain conditions are met.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images You cannot define Americans by what they look like, where they come from, whom they love or how they worship. Only our democratic values define us. And if we lose sight of this in our conduct at home or abroad, we jeopardize the respect that has made the United States the greatest nation on earth.
This is Biden's conclusion, and man, he goes out strong. Trump is undoubtedly already jeopardizing that respect and hurting the country's position in the world through his policies, both at home and abroad. But at the same time, his words are a strong reminder of the vast portion of society that doesn't define Americans by what they look like, where they're from, whom they love, or how they worship. And those people aren't going to disappear any time soon, no matter who's sitting in the Oval Office. Joe is right there with us now, just like he was for the last eight years.