“Are there any Muslims in this hospital?”
This was a question my father posed to my mother and myself as we sat by his bedside in the last few weeks of his life.
“I’m sure there are, Dad,” I answered.
It was an odd question, and I wondered if perhaps it was the product of confusion from the stroke that he had suffered just days earlier. But Dad was anything but confused.
“I want to go up to every one of them,” he said, “and apologize on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump.”
My father, former U.S. Sen. Robert F. Bennett, died May 4, 2016, so he did not live to see Trump win the election in November of that year. Not a day goes by where I do not wish that Dad were still here to help us navigate the apocalyptic political landscape in which we now find ourselves. I often wonder what he would do or what he would say.
One thing of which I am certain, however, is that he’d be supporting Joe Biden’s presidential bid. Furthermore, I’m sure he would eagerly vote for the Biden/Harris 2020 ticket, not just as a vote against Trump, but as an enthusiastic vote for Biden.
Joe Biden served in the Senate with my father for 16 years before Biden became vice president. During that time, they became good friends. Partisan differences posed no obstacle to their friendship, and, indeed, more often than not, their discussions focused on religion, not politics.
Dad was a devout Latter-day Saint, and Biden was — and is — a devout Catholic. Biden’s nickname for Dad was “Bishop,” in reference to the time my father had served in that office for his congregation just before being elected to the Senate. Biden got a kick out of working alongside an actual bishop, even though his church’s definition of that office was markedly different from ours.
Several times, I found my father engrossed in a book about Catholic history or doctrine, and I would ask where he’d gotten it.
“Joe Biden gave it to me,” he always replied.
Books weren’t given so much as exchanged, with Dad offering up his favorites about Latter-day Saints. There seemed to be a long-running, good-natured and, ultimately, unsuccessful effort by both men to convert each other. This continued even into Biden’s vice presidency, when my father gave Biden a copy of “Leap of Faith: Confronting the Origins of the Book of Mormon,” a religious book Dad had written in 2009.
The two men stayed in contact throughout the Obama years, and Dad spent hours with Biden at the official vice presidential residence at Number One Observatory Circle. After his first visit, Dad left and got to his car, only to discover he’d left his keys inside. He walked back to find Joe Biden standing on the front porch, keys in hand and a gleam in his eye, saying, “You’re not going to get very far without these.”
None of this is to say that Bob Bennett and Joe Biden saw eye to eye politically. Dad was a stalwart Republican who served in Senate leadership alongside Mitch McConnell, and he was often on the other side of the debates of the day. But for all their policy disagreements, there was never any question in my father’s mind that Joe Biden was a man of integrity and decency, as well as a man with deep and abiding faith in God.
There are plenty of ideological reasons to vote against Trump, who has transformed the GOP into a party hostile to free trade that has piled up more debt in 3.5 years than Obama did in eight. For many reasons, it’s a party Dad would scarcely recognize. But Dad’s example reminds me that ideology isn’t the only thing on the ballot this time around. It’s not even the most important thing.
This year’s election is not a choice between two candidates as much as a referendum on basic human decency. That’s why I’m casting my vote for Biden/Harris 2020. Because it’s what Joe Biden’s favorite bishop would have wanted.
Jim Bennett ran for Congress as the first candidate for the United Utah Party in 2017. He is currently a founding partner of Canonizer.com and a freelance writer in Sandy.