Here’s what Joe Biden knows about burying the hatchet.

If you’re going to do it right, you’re going to need a horse.

Then a hatchet.

Then you will need the opponent who’s been trading barbs and rude nicknames with you for the entire campaign.

This is how elections have ended in Delaware for centuries. Two days after the election is Return Day, when everyone heads to Georgetown, Del., for a party. Winners and losers ride together in horse-drawn carriages and everyone meets to cover a hatchet in soil and sand collected from the four corners of Sussex County.

Best to do it right after the election. The state is only three counties long. You and your opponent won’t be able to avoid each other forever.

“It really provides a moderating, a civilizing effect on the tone of the debate,” U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., told the Wilmington News Journal at Return Day a few years ago. “Because you know from Day One, when you file to run for whatever office it may be — treasurer, congressman, governor, senator — you know you’re going to be in Georgetown, maybe riding in the carriage with your opponent and your opponent’s family. And I think it tends to tone down, to temper, the nature of the debate.”

America was still counting the votes for President-elect Biden on Return Day 2020, last week. But the tradition continued, with pandemic precautions. No parade, no big crowds, but the leadership of the state Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Independent parties masked up and joined together to bury the hatchet in its decorative wooden box.

I’m not saying America needs a Return Day. After a year like this, and with the defeated president still refusing to admit defeat, there’s no telling where people might bury that hatchet.

Minnesota is a state with a divided government in a nation with a divided electorate. The next president of the United States will be someone 1.8 million of us voted for and nearly 1.5 million of us voted against.

If you’re one of the 1.5 million, there’s not much I can say to console you, especially not while the 45th president of the United States is still refusing to accept his mathematical defeat by the 46th.

But Biden, who has buried an armory of hatchets over the years, made it through an entire victory speech this weekend without hurling a single insult at anybody.

I think most of us can agree that was a nice change of pace.

And if we can agree on that, maybe we can agree on a few things more. Maybe we can agree that not every issue has to pit rural against urban, DFL against GOP. Maybe we don’t have to choose between saving your grandma from COVID or saving your business from COVID. Maybe if we work together, we can save both.

I used to cover Biden back in the mid-aughts, when I had the Delaware beat at Gannett News Service in Washington and he was a U.S. senator, eyeing a second run for president. There were no other Delaware journalists in D.C., so I was basically the only reporter on the campaign trail for much of his second presidential run.

You would not believe how many times I’ve heard that Seamus Heaney poem.

He’s not a perfect politician, but none of them are. He’s just what he seems to be on TV. Decent, compassionate, blurty.

If you met him, you’d probably like him. If you met him, he’d probably like you.

 

jennifer.brooks@startribune.com

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @stribrooks