President Obama had his detractors — some focusing on policy, others for far less admirable reasons — but he did have two qualities that I’m missing dearly right now: First, he was incredibly charismatic, capable of inspiring people; second, he was not merely capable of complete sentences but remarkably well-spoken.
I miss that. I miss it a lot.
“In a triumph of the middling, a nod to mediocrity, and with gorge rising, it gives me great nausea to announce Joseph Robinette Biden – Uncle Joe himself – as your new President. This lapdog of Corporate America is as dull as he is unremarkable, as lackluster as he is soporific. This reversion to the mean, this rebuke to the exemplary, gives hope to the millions unfavored by the exceptional. Joe Biden: Not the worst, not the best, just what we’re stuck with.”
– shamelessly stolen and altered from “The West Wing”
Right now, we could really use an inspiring president. Even Trump, for all his flaws (and he has many!) worked to be relentlessly positive, a near-tireless cheerleader for America — perhaps not a vision of America that most of us share, but even so. Uncle Joe, while a skilled politician and a decent public speaker, is at best a passionate pro waffler.
Don’t mistake me: I am strongly in favor of many of the positions President Biden endorses — “Buy a shotgun!” echoes my own mantra for home defense, for example. Even staunch conservatives approve of infrastructure spending, rightly figuring it as an investment in America that will produce economic returns; passenger rail appeals to conservationists and environmentalists alike. Republicans will voice displeasure over his pro-union stance, but it’s undeniable that, for unions to prosper, so too must the industrial sector that employs those workers.
Less defensible, however, is the Administration’s changes to policy with respect to migrant interceptions on the Mexican border. Failing to halt Trump’s border wall is, perhaps, not entirely unreasonable in that a continuous barrier already existed before Trump, and making up any gaps caused by construction over the past few years just makes sense. However, the natural consequence of Mr. Biden’s humanitarian policy changes on the border was a surge in numbers; to fail to anticipate this is absurd, and to fail to prepare for it is in its own way as inhuman as the worst in deliberate policy under Trump. There has certainly been much made of this by the Republican press, but even in the proper context the truth is far less than ideal.
Personally, I take issue with his opposition to certain oil pipelines on environmentalist grounds; they’re far more eco-friendly than rail or truck transport of crude oil. We can reasonably oppose fossil fuels in general, but unless we do, it seems rather absurd to fight only pipelines and not tanker trucks. Still, it is for him a political necessity, and I can hardly expect someone else to hold the courage of my convictions.
There are few now alive who can remember the November 11th armistice that ended the First World War. One unpleasant truth about it is that the symbolic delay in order to schedule the cease-fire for the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month cost lives — over two thousand on that day alone — when Germany had been prepared for a peace as early as five weeks before. Similarly, our withdrawal from Afghanistan has been delayed until September 11, 2021 for symbolic reasons, and lives will likewise be unnecessarily lost during the intervening time.
In my opinion, the failure of Democrats to make any significant progress either ending the War On Drugs (thus demilitarizing the police) or raising the minimum wage is a result of deliberate midterm election strategy choices made by the DNC rather than the abject failure to prioritize many progressives characterize it as. Even so, action on marijuana decriminalization could have been taken on Day 1 and wasn’t. Legalization, which Biden does not support (despite his campaign promises), isn’t even on the horizon, and we’re one hell of a long way from freeing prisoners. And yet, there would be overwhelming public support for such steps across the aisles; it should be entirely practicable right now.
That failure to negotiate a minimum wage increase that would be acceptable to the Senate is likely a good midterm campaign tactic in no wise removes the moral obligation to do so regardless. Like marijuana legalization, this would be overwhelmingly favorable to the electorate — 97% of the country agrees that action should be taken immediately, even if not to a $15 target. However, no negotiations along these lines are taking place, and it seems evident that the White House does not consider it a priority.
If you’re still reading, you might be reasonably excused for thinking this a partisan hit piece, and that I’m rooting for the Other Side. (Actually, I’d wager very few pro-establishment Democrats are actually still reading, as they’ll have already jumped to this conclusion on their own and moved on.) As it happens, I’m not; I tend to cheer against both sides whenever they deserve it, and loudest when the mainstream press seems to be ignoring something. Curiously enough, it is this latter factor that has thus far prevented me from writing any general Biden critiques; the press has done it for me, and with the vocal aid of many influential voices from the President’s own party.
Check for yourself: Do a search; use your favorite search engine. Select “News” and use the terms “Democrats criticize Biden”. You’ll get hundreds of stories about dozens of different public snubs from congressional Democrats, ranging from the refugee caps, the minimum wage, oil and gas leasing, and airstrikes among dozens of other things. Interestingly enough, shortly after the refugee numbers decision was criticized, the Administration announced a change in policy — which, in my opinion, is the precise reason we should continue to voice our critiques and voice them loudly.
Biden is a politician’s politician. He’s held public office since the ’70s; in that time he’s been Tough On Crime and supported freeing prisoners, for and against military spending, a globalist free trader and an isolationist, pro-union, pro-business, and so on. He’s only ever been consistent in his love for passenger trains and his loyalty to his political party when it suits him. He is the one president we’ve had most likely to listen to public opinion and change his policy accordingly. His favorite food is likely the waffle; his favorite color plaid.
In your average person, perpetual vacillation is considered a character flaw, but do we really want firmness of purpose in a president? Do we really want someone who is unwilling to listen, closed to debate, an autocrat who doesn’t care what the experts say? Because, let’s face it: We just had that, and while the economy boomed straight through a recession, much of the rest of the country suffered a morale crisis the likes of which we haven’t known since Bobby Kennedy was shot. Folks, that’s no way to run a railroad.
Uncle Joe has his failings, and they are many, but at least he’s no Donald Trump. And in a very real sense, it’s his very weaknesses that make him what may turn out to be the best leader we could have right now.
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