Donney Rose: A Mixed Bag of Reactions to Joe Biden’s Presidential Nomination Ending in “Of Course” and “WTF!”
|Apr 18, 2020|
The North Star has dropped its paywall during this COVID-19 crisis so that pertinent information and analysis is available to everyone during this time. This is only possible because of the generous support of our members. We rely on these funds to pay our staff to continue to provide high-quality content. If you are able to support, we invite you to do so here.
Good day, all. We are now at the mid-April mark of what has to be the longest year ever recorded and it is my hope that you’re doing well. Wellness, in all of its iterations, can be a hard thing to come by these days, but it is my sincerest wish that you and your tribe are persevering. Keep these well wishes in my mind as you may or may not need them to avoid throwing your device across the room or cursing my name to hell for what you will read later in this piece. And if you end up reading me to filth, trust that it will not be my first time enduring such a drag. Now that the salutations and pleasantries are out of the way, let’s get into what this writing is all about: which is the WTFness of Joe Biden emerging as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president of these here United States.
After just over a year of campaigning and debates, the Democratic field has been reduced to one presumptive nominee for president, Joseph R. Biden. If you do not hear fireworks exploding in the background or see confetti showered over your heads, you are likely one of hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans who do not see Biden’s nomination as a dynamic close to a crowded primary of prospects. In a period of possibly the most significant public health crisis of our lifetime, it is almost awful symbolism that many American voters believed the cure for restoring America to some degree of vitality was to put their faith in a remedy for governance that at best functions as a mild treatment of symptoms.
Powered by the DNC and assisted by most mainstream media outlets, Joe Biden has been effectively sold as the best option to unseat Donald Trump in November. If Donald Trump’s presidency can be an analogy to the destructiveness of the coronavirus, then Joe Biden’s nomination feels like combatting the virus that is Trumpism with a goddamn Flintstones chewable vitamin. Though there is no such thing as a perfect candidate in a flawed system of democracy, the American left had a wide range of new possibilities to consider. The majority ultimately chose what they considered to be a safety measure and selected a weathered life jacket to protect them against a fucking tidal wave. Let me say right now that it is possible for this decision to work, but if it does not it won’t be surprising at all, and if it does it absolutely may not usher in the progress that many self-identified Democrats desire. Here are a few reasons why:
Joe Biden is a relic of American politics. I am not saying this because he’s old, hell Bernie Sanders is older than him, I’m saying this because in tenor and presentation he embodies an old guard of white ass political representation that in many ways is the antithesis to actual progress. Joe comes from an era when men were men and gals were ladylike, from a time when the milkman delivered containers on American front steps and the narrative that dominated the mainstream perception of America was one of exceptionalism. It is both subtly evident, such as in the way he outfitted himself at debates, and alarming such as the difficulty he has with accepting new norms of physical boundaries with women or the way he often defaulted to a position of don't second guess me, I was vice president goddammit! Of the ‘newfound’ policy stances that he has not in some way co-opted from his former Democratic rivals, the most consistent and original argument he has made has been a call to restore decency to American politics. Undoubtedly Donald Trump personifies all that is indecent, immoral and unethical with just being a human let alone commander-in-chief, but Biden’s call for decency restoration is a high-frequency dog whistle for the maintenance of the status quo and a slightly lower frequency dog whistle for people of color and other marginalized identities to relax on all the dissent and allow cishet Christian white maleness to chart the path forward for an ever changing nation. As if that approach to leadership was never attempted for 44 out of 45 US presidents…
Joe Biden survived the gauntlet of identity politics to come out as his party’s nominee. Despite the praise and admiration often generously heaped upon the Obama administration, American Democrats still believed that the most surefire way to upend Donald Trump was to pit him against the most moderate of white men. This is not to suggest that a candidate’s identity automatically lends them a deeper degree of progressiveness, as there have been countless examples of marginalized politicians enacting and espousing agendas that further disenfranchise their given group. But for the sake of being data driven, let’s run the identity numbers of Biden’s opponents to highlight the diversity his regular degular whiteness surpassed: Out of an initial field of 24 Democratic candidates for president, there were six female candidates (25%), three Black candidates (12.5%), one Latino candidate (0.04%), one LGBTQ candidate (0.04%), one Asian American candidate (0.04%), one Jewish candidate (0.04%) and one Polynesian candidate (0.04%). The rest were essentially cishet Christian-identified white dudes, but of the 24 candidates who initially declared their intent for the Democratic nomination, collectively 75% or ¾ of those candidates do not specifically identify as cishet white Christian males. And although these candidates represented a wide spectrum of ideology from the overly progressive to the pragmatic to the centrist, what cannot be ignored is the identity of who became the eventual nominee and the consistent questioning of how electable his opponents were, often based solely on identity politics and the ability to galvanize an electorate who are naturally inclined to pivot towards ‘trusted’ representation.
A healthy amount of fear mongering and misrepresentation of other candidates tipped the scales in Biden’s favor, most notably when it came down to him and Bernie Sanders. Sanders was often derided as an overly aggressive socialist with a bunch of big ideas and no specific plans of executing them. For the second consecutive presidential cycle, his followers were largely dismissed as either “Bernie bros” or anarchists looking to obliterate the American government. To say that the Sanders campaign did not have a subset of toxic supporters would be disingenuous. There were absolutely followers who felt ‘the Bern’ that got into contentious, bullying and vile altercations with supporters of his rivals online (and sometimes offline). But a lot of his core supporters also represented a wide and diverse sector of Americans who clamored for systematic change and were willing to discuss best ideas even with folks they did not fully agree with. Joe Biden benefitted from a lot of punditry that framed Bernie’s platform as woefully hyperbolic and impractical. Some of the most noted figures in American political discourse regularly questioned the validity of Bernie’s agenda and floated their skepticism for the world to see. While the Sanders’ team was gaining endorsements from outliers such as rapper Killer Mike or the progressive wing of the Democratic Party like Congresswomen AOC, Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar, Biden was acquiring co-signs from “king makers” such as Jim Clyburn and began stockpiling endorsements from former opponents weeks before the Sanders campaign decided to suspend. But before the inevitable showdown of Biden and Sanders, some of Biden’s other opponents faced a steep curve of questioning about their plans that Biden appeared to have been able to avoid outside of the debate stage. Could Elizabeth Warren effectively pitch to moderate voters? What would be the parameters of Andrew Yang’s ‘Freedom Dividend’? To what extent could Kamala Harris’ leadership be trusted? This is NOT to say that candidates should not be vetted, it is to suggest that ‘Uncle Joe’ was often pitched softballs by folks in mainstream media who were either swept up in Obama era nostalgia or who felt that Joe would represent a sturdiness needed to navigate American government back to some semblance of normalcy. The assumed sturdiness is ironic because…
Much has been discussed about the real threat of Joe Biden’s cognitive decline. Supporters often dismiss his gaffes, misremembering and revisionist history as the lasting effects of a stuttering problem. But stuttering impacts speech patterns and vocal delivery, not symptoms of decline like identity confusion. Either Biden deeply experiences confusion about his role in certain moments in history or he is a pathological liar, but neither reality makes for an ideal candidate. It makes for a general election showdown against another pathological liar where a much divided public gets to choose between which septuagenarian offers the clearest, most truthful message. Conventional wisdom would suggest that based on his last four years of performance, Donald Trump should not have an ice cream cone’s chance in hell at being re-elected, but shittier things have happened, like him being elected in the first place. There is this trust that upon being elected, Joe Biden would surround himself with an intelligent and capable cabinet to help him govern effectively. I’m of the belief that if Joe Biden was into making wise decisions, he would have abandoned his campaign the minute he realized that his stamina and mental acuity was compromised instead of moseying along to the nomination spot. But alas, here we are.
The #VoteBlueNoMatterWho crowd has particularly made my ass itch over the last several months and I just had to say that out loud. I understand the sentiment, but I believe that it was that low bar political rationale that has resulted in Biden’s candidacy. Early in the primaries, Joe Biden’s biggest calling card was his former proximity to the White House as Obama’s former VP. He name dropped Barack like a mixtape rapper every chance he got. Whenever any questionable decisions during his tenure as VP were mentioned, he basically shouted down the plausibility of the misstep by reminding his opponents that it was he, not them, who spent time at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. For many Democrats whose sole objective is to defeat Donald Trump, Biden’s minimalist platform of decency and values is enough. For advocates, activists, educators and folks who have stood on the frontline of American injustice and systemic disenfranchisement, a return to ‘traditional values’ is not a deal breaker. To be clear, many folks will undoubtedly tuck their best wishes for a truly progressive government to vote for Biden in order to remove Trump, especially if Biden chooses a transformative option for VP. But Americans, specifically marginalized Americans, deserve a bigger freedom dream than just unseating Donald Trump. This nation is filled with immigrants who came here both forcibly and of their own accord who are long overdue for equity, equality and justice that should be delivered expeditiously and not incrementally. In the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing some of the primary faces of essential labor keeping this country from completely imploding and those faces do not mirror Wall Street, corporate lobbyists or big pharmaceutical companies, and that is what makes settling for the status quo so disheartening. Do I believe Joe Biden can be a better president than Donald Trump? Shit, I believe one of my twin cats can be a better president than Donald Trump, but that’s beside the point. As a voting bloc we have chosen, either through inaction or conditioning to settle for the proverbial “lesser evil”. We had options but convinced ourselves that any blue would do.
And of course, this is where we land as long as we remain tethered to the absolute binary of American politics without exploring the possibility of empowering alternative political bases that may better align with our needs. Still, what the fuck yo?!