For the presumptive nominee of a party—which is what Biden is very close to becoming—there is a point where reaching out to unify the party crosses over into appeasement. Something like that almost happened in 1980, when Ronald Reagan came close to offering former president Gerald Ford the vice presidential slot on his ticket. Emissaries for Ford, including Henry Kissinger, were busily negotiating a range of duties for Ford that would have amounted (in Walter Cronkite’s words) to “something of a co-presidency”. It would have been a confession of weakness, a signal that Reagan doubted his own capacity for the job of chief executive. Luckily for the Gipper, the deal fell apart.
Biden should recognize the spirited campaigns Sanders has run, the passion of his followers, and his achievement in forcing the Democratic Party to confront the nation’s yawning inequality, which requires major repair. And he should highlight his own ideas about increased taxes on the wealthy, criminal justice reform, and an ambitious health care plan that address some, but not all, of concerns of the Sanders’ supporters.
But Biden also needs to act in a way that reminds his party and his country who is winning the most votes from Democrats and who will almost surely prevail when the convention assembles in Milwaukee.