The contrast between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is so great that it raises the question of whether endorsements will make a difference to voters. But Tammy Baldwin believes they will.
“There are people out there who don’t think about politics as much as you or I do, or others do,” says the U.S. senator from Wisconsin, who announced her endorsement of Biden today. “They’re just struggling to get by.” Democratic unity behind Biden is a good way to reach those voters, she says: “When Democrats unite, it breaks though.”
Baldwin, a lesbian, was the first out member of the LGBTQ community to be elected to the Senate (in 2012) and the first to be elected to the U.S. House (in 1998) while being out from the get-go; before her groundbreaking win, some House members had come out while in office after being closeted when initially elected. She has known Biden since she first came to Washington, and she says she’s been impressed with his record on issues affecting women, LGBTQ people, workers, and more.
Biden was a senator from Delaware when Baldwin was a first-term House member working on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Biden had introduced in the act in 1990 and saw it passed in 1994; it recognized interstate domestic violence and stalking as federal crimes, created a support network for survivors, and increased penalties for some crimes. “He was a remarkable leader in passing that legislation initially,” Baldwin says. “I just saw his perseverance and sympathy for women and children.”
Later, as Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden championed LGBTQ-supportive legislation such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Baldwin notes. “I saw that leadership,” she says. And famously, he spoke out for marriage equality in 2012 “even before the boss,” as she puts it, the boss being Obama. She also lauds the fact that Biden has said passage of the Equality Act, a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill, will be one of his priorities as president.
While Biden is often characterized as a moderate or centrist Democrat, Baldwin says he is clearly progressive. “Joe Biden is demonstrating very boldly that he’s going to fight for the people,” she says. The endorsement of Biden by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a former rival for the nomination, shows that they will work together for progressive change, she adds, and it further shows Democratic unity. “I do think our party is more unified than ever,” she says.
Baldwin did not make an endorsement in the Democratic primaries. She worked hard to being the Democratic National Convention to Wisconsin; it’s scheduled to be held in August in Milwaukee, if all is back to normal. While doing so, she felt her role should be to back the eventual nominee.
Baldwin’s endorsement is coming from a key swing state, which Trump narrowly won in 2016. “The road to the White House goes right through Wisconsin,” she notes. Biden, by the way, easily won last week’s Wisconsin primary, in which residents had to cast their ballots in person despite the current health situation, and it took several days for votes to be tallied.
In the general election, Trump is the elephant in the room, so to speak. Booting him from office is the paramount concern for Baldwin and for just about any Democrat in the nation, and it’s a driving force for party unity. “Let’s not lose sight of the importance of winning in November and defeating Donald Trump,” she says. “That unites us all.”
Below, Baldwin outlines how Trump’s policies have hurt her home state and why she’s endorsing Biden.