Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at...

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a NBC town hall at Pérez Art Museum Miami on Monday. Credit: AP / Andrew Harnik

America is in peril. Our nation is buffeted by crises, and the warning lights are flashing red. We need a president with experience and character, someone who can extinguish the flames and rebuild the foundation.

America needs Joe Biden.

The former vice president believes that we can find our way back from the precipice, that progress can be made, and must be made, by working with the other side. That’s essential to solving our baseline crisis — the way our nation is being torn apart by our differences.

Biden’s promise to work with Republicans, a hallmark of his 36 years in the U.S. Senate, should be celebrated. Our politics are rancid, festering with division and confrontation on nearly every issue. Finding some semblance of bipartisanship will help us deal with other problems. Failing to do that will doom us. Biden repeatedly promised to represent every American, not just those who voted for him.

It takes two to collaborate, of course, but Biden’s optimism that he can bridge this gulf fosters confidence. He doesn’t boast that he alone can fix the problem — he knows no one person can — but that together we can make it better.

His faith in America and Americans is inspiring, and it’s a message that’s right for these times.

As a nation, we face a host of epochal problems. The health and economic impacts of the coronavirus. Rising economic inequality. Racial disparities in criminal justice, health, education, the environment and the economy. The existential threat of climate change. The rise of authoritarianism around the world, and a dangerous surge at home in the belief that government is the oppressor and individual freedom is an end in itself.

These are complex problems. Some demand fundamental changes. Some beg for a return to the values that long guided this nation. In this regard, Biden is much more than the candidate who is not Donald Trump. He brings a skill set and a big toolbox forged by a lifetime of experience.

Biden, the 77-year-old Democrat from Delaware, has been here before. As vice president, he and President Barack Obama inherited the Great Recession and guided the country on the long road back. Their stimulus plan helped spark 78 consecutive months of job growth, producing 1.5 million more jobs in their last three years than in Trump’s first three years. The unemployment rate dropped from 10% to less than 5%.

Now as then, Biden is promoting a big infrastructure initiative to get Americans back to work. This time he is smartly marrying his $2 trillion plan to clean energy and climate change, whose effects threaten Long Island with rising seas and flooding.

Biden, who also helped successfully handle the Ebola epidemic in 2014, including the preparation of a pandemic response playbook ignored by the Trump administration, has been rightly critical of the president’s response to the coronavirus. Biden would encourage mask mandates and social distancing, develop a strong trace-test-isolate program, and institute new lockdowns if necessary. And he would let science and scientists determine whether a vaccine is effective and when it can be distributed.

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Biden believes in the capacity of government to do good. He would restore and maintain the norms of democracy and decency that have allowed this republic to function for 240 years. And he would criticize and hold to account the world’s worst strongmen as necessary.

Biden would act to restore the credibility our nation has lost as a world leader, using his deep knowledge and myriad overseas relationships to shore up alliances that have worked for decades to promote order and keep our enemies in check. He would put America back in the Paris climate change agreement and the World Health Organization, and he wants to confront China and Russia with an American-led coalition instead of ineffectively going it alone against the Chinese and coddling Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Beyond policy, Biden offers the decency America craves. His inclination is to empathy; by putting himself in someone else’s position and feeling their pain and frustration, he finds the commonality that leads to real change. He will consider facts carefully and calmly, seeking out analysis on all sides of an issue before making a rational decision grounded in reality.

His career is a study in avoiding extremism. We see that now in debates over health care, racial justice, and the Supreme Court, among others. That’s what our inflamed system needs — someone to turn the temperature down, not up.

Biden has faith in America’s potential, its ambition, its ability to achieve amazing things, its wide vision and wide arms. He highlights its strengths, not its shortcomings, its dreams, not its divisions. And he wants us to support one another. He’s not looking at some gauzy and unrealistic version of our past but the bright contours of our future.

Joe Biden believes in America. And America needs that now more than ever.

Newsday endorses Joe Biden for president of the United States.

— The editorial board