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Dukakis Isn't Worried About Democrats Coming Together Once There's A Presidential Nominee05:02
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Democratic presidential candidates pose in front of a replica of the White House during an Independent Action Roast in Washington on June 23, 1987. Then-Sen. Joe Biden and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis are at left.  (Charles Tasnadi/AP)
Democratic presidential candidates pose in front of a replica of the White House during an Independent Action Roast in Washington on June 23, 1987. Then-Sen. Joe Biden and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis are at left. (Charles Tasnadi/AP)

Joe Biden is officially running for president — again.

The 76-year-old has run for president twice before — and neither campaign went very far. His first run, for the 1998 nomination, ended in 1987 before the primaries even began, amid multiple accusations of plagiarism. And in 2008 he came in fifth in the Iowa caucuses, leading him to drop out and ultimately join Barack Obama’s winning presidential ticket.

Morning Edition spoke with former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who won the Democratic nomination in 1988, about the need for Democrats to settle their differences and unite behind their nominee, whoever that may be.

Dukakis said Biden "has a way to connect with the vast majority of Americans."

Listen to the interview above, or read some of the highlights below.

Interview Highlights

Bob Oakes: In order to beat President Trump, do Democrats need a centrist candidate or do they need a progressive candidate?

Michael Dukakis: I don't know what the difference is. I mean most Democrats I know believe that working Americans, their families, should have decent, affordable health care. They want an economy that's strong and fair. They don't want to see a small number of people at the top of the pile making huge amounts of money while other folks are stagnating. They care about climate change. They care about their environment. And that's essentially where all the Democratic candidates are coming from.

I asked the question because a lot of people see the Democratic Party right now as divided, maybe more than ever, between pragmatism and what some people call radical change. And I'm wondering if there's a danger of being unable to compromise on issues among the Democrats and unite behind one candidate after the primaries and the conventions are over with next year.

I wouldn't worry about Democrats coming together once we have a nominee. I mean, the dislike of this guy in the White House is so strong that whoever wins this nomination is going to have enormous support.

And secondly, let's not exaggerate this left-hand turn. The first president of the United States to propose universal Medicare was Harry Truman in 1945. He was no socialist. He was a guy who believed that all Americans … should have decent, affordable health care. The vast majority of advanced, industrialized countries in the world, including our neighbors to the north, Canada, have universal Medicare.

Good Lord, I mean, we've been debating this thing for the last 60, 70 years and it's about time we got it done.

I know that you're behind Elizabeth Warren in this presidential race and I'm sure you think that she can beat Trump if she's the nominee, but I'm wondering if you think that if Biden ends up being the nominee, that he can beat Trump?

No question about it. Provided we don't get into silly arguments over who's for this and who's for that, you know, respect each other.

In the meantime, guys like me and others are going to work our heads off to get out of this red state-blue state nonsense and to organize this country on a 50-state, 200,000-precinct basis so that we have as strong a grassroots operation as the Democratic Party has ever had.

This segment aired on April 26, 2019.

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