During the long campaign season, in which the answer for many has been to grab a drink or three, the stars of the show—for all of their differences—share something in common: an avoidance of alcohol.
In a New York Times story, former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump came to their decisions similarly. The two “share some similarities in character and background,” according to biographers and others who have observed them over the years.
“They each grew up in families shadowed by the specter of alcoholism—Mr. Trump’s brother died from it, and one of Mr. Biden’s favorite uncles, whom he lived with growing up, was a heavy drinker.”
Biden has talked about the influences. “There are enough alcoholics in my family,” Biden said in a 2008 interview as Barack Obama’s vice-presidential running mate.
American presidents who didn’t drink include Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln and William Taft. Jimmy Carter had only the occasional glass of wine.
Both Trump and Biden have likely deduced that, in a competitive political environment, there is no real upside to drinking. In the New York Times story, Biden biographer Evan Osnos and Trump biographer Timothy L. O’Brien say it makes increasingly good sense to avoid alcohol as very public people.
“These are two intensely competitive men who made a judgment early in their careers that their path to success is going to be willing themselves into the positions they wanted,” Osnos said. “That did not leave much room for getting drunk.”
Nor is the social scene particularly attractive.
“I don’t think he cares,” O’Brien said of the president. “He’s never been someone who enjoys going to a party and socializing. His ideal night is sitting in front of a TV watching a sports event with a cheeseburger. That’s his bottle of wine.”