In the age of identity politics, it’s all too convenient to assume that voters will be most comfortable supporting someone who looks like them. In 2008, President Obama was able to rely on that goodwill once he proved his political viability with the broader electorate. But in a crowded, historically diverse field of little-known Democratic candidates, there’s a good chance Biden’s long track record will prevail over a slew of lesser-known challengers with relatively thin resumes.

But Biden’s stature as the experienced hand, uniquely capable of unifying a broad Democratic coalition, will be threatened if he decides he needs to go on an apology tour for his past sins against progressive orthodoxy. Already, his long-ago opposition to busing, nuanced views on abortion rights, support for Bill Clinton’s bipartisan crime bill, and treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings are being unearthed to raise questions about his standing in a fast-evolving Democratic Party.