Vox Conversations
Vox Conversations
The Joe Biden experience
1 hour 8 minutes Posted Nov 7, 2020 at 9:18 am.
Download MP3
Show notes

Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States. And — counting the votes of people, not just land — it won’t be close. If current trends hold, Biden will see a larger popular vote margin than Hillary Clinton in 2016, Barack Obama in 2012, or George W. Bush in 2004. 

Commentary over the past few days has focused on the man he beat, and the incompetent coup being attempted in plain sight. But I want to focus on Biden, who is one of the more misunderstood figures in American politics — including, at times, by me. 

Biden has been in national politics for almost five decades. And so, people tend to understand the era of Joe Biden they encountered first — the centrist Senate dealmaker, or the overconfident foreign policy hand, or the meme-able vice president, or the grieving, grave father. But Biden, more so than most politicians, changes. And it’s how he changes, and why, that’s key to understanding his campaign, and his likely presidency. 

Evan Osnos is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now, a sharp biography of the next president. Osnos and I discuss: 

  • The mystery of Joe Biden’s first political campaign
  • Why the Joe Biden who entered the Senate in 1980 is such a radically different person than the Joe Biden who ran for president in 2020 
  • What the Senate taught Biden
  • Biden’s ideological flexibility, and the theory of politics that drives it
  • The differences between Biden’s three presidential campaigns -- and what they reveal about how he’s grown
  • The way Biden views disagreement, and why that’s so central to his understanding of politics 
  • How Biden’s relationship with Barack Obama changed his approach to governance
  • The similarities — and differences — between how Obama and Biden think about politics 
  • Why Biden is “the perfect weathervane for where the center of the Democratic party is.” 
  • Biden’s relationship with Mitch McConnell
  • How Biden thinks about foreign policy
  • Why Biden has become more skeptical about the use of American military might in the last decade 

And much more.

Book recommendations:

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

The Field of Blood by Joanne B. Freeman

The Ideas That Made America by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen 


Producer/Audio engineer - Jeff Geld

Researcher - Roge Karma

Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas.

New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere)

Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices