Friday, July 5, 2024

Biden Should Go, So Trump Can Be Defeated

 Today someone posted to Facebook this very impressive list of President Biden's accomplishments:

  • Lowering Costs of Families’ Everyday Expenses
  • More People Are Working Than at Any Point in American History
  • Rescued the Economy and Changed the Course of the Pandemic
  • Rebuilding our Infrastructure
  • Historic Expansion of Benefits and Services for Toxic Exposed Veterans
  • The First Meaningful Gun Violence Reduction Legislation in 30 Years
  • Protected Marriage for LGBTQI+ and Interracial Couples
  • Historic Confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson & Federal Judges of Diverse Backgrounds
  • Rallied the World to Support Ukraine in Response to Putin’s Aggression
  • Strengthened Alliances and Partnerships to Deliver for the American People
  • Successful Counterterrorism Missions Against the Leaders of Al Qaeda and ISIS
  • Executive Orders Protecting Reproductive Rights
  • Historic Student Debt Relief for Middle- and Working-Class Families
  • Ending our Failed Approach to Marijuana
  • Advancing Equity and Racial Justice, Including Historic Criminal Justice Reform
  • Delivering on the Most Aggressive Climate and Environmental Justice Agenda in American History
  • More People with Health Insurance Than Ever Before

I mostly agree with this assessment of President Biden's remarkable record. I also agree with Professor Heather Cox Richardson's framing of Biden as the first president to undo the "Reagan Revolution." Since 1981, "supply-side economics" has been a disastrous norm of domestic policy in which taxes on the wealthy are deeply cut, resulting in the massive polarization of wealth that has done so much to destroy our culture, emiserate our people, and drive the rise of the populist Right and its lawless orange Lumpenfuhrer

But unlike the Facebook poster and, I imagine---though I hope I'm wrong---unlike Professor Richardson, I'm disheartened by the administration's tepid support for Ukraine and Israel. The Congressional Republicans have Ukrainian blood on their hands for their yearlong blockage of necessary weapons and equipment, but Biden hurt the Ukrainians with his refusal to sell them the MGM 140 ATACMS (long range ballistic missile systems), and with his insistence that they not destroy the Kerch Bridge to Crimea, a structure vital to the Russian war effort.

And I'm much more upset about the 9 billion dollars the President sent to the murderous regime in Iran, "earmarked for humanitarian purposes." The earmark was a silly fantasy, typical of American magical thinking. Iran promptly spent that money funding Hamas and Hezbollah for the murder of Jews; paying its Morality Police to execute Gay men and to beat Iranian women for wearing their hijabs improperly; and building more weapons, including myriad rockets and, probably, its nuclear program. The regime is still in power, Israelis are still dying, and the Persian people are still miserable. 

Supposing I were a Gentile and had the luxury of forgetting about the Iran issue, I would be less ambivalent about President Biden's achievements. I would still be just as staunchly against the loathsome Republican nominee, former President Donald J. Trump, a 34-count convicted felon, a thief, a rapist, a compulsive liar, and a nearly illiterate failed businessman who bears all the marks of being a Russian asset whose Project 2025 is an explicit blueprint for the end of American democracy. 

Make no mistake: I am 100% opposed to Trump, and would not vote for him in a million years. 

However... Facebook and Instagram are now flooded with reposted memes and original remarks whose point is to shame anybody who's even concerned about President Biden's fitness for office. Those who see the situation this way are making a leap, from the genuinely apocalyptic danger of Trump's likely reelection, straight to the urgent need to stifle every word of criticism of Biden, and any speculation about his stepping aside. I find this disingenuous, impractical, and self-defeating

I believe it may well lead to the dystopian Trumpistan we Democrats and Independents are trying to prevent. They claim it is "absurd" to reconsider the nominee "because of one hour of debate," as if what we saw last week was not a damning vision of exhaustion and cognitive decline. As if that appalling hour of ineptitude and dissociation somehow doesn't matter. 

But we all saw it with our own eyes, and hectoring us to forget about it feels like gaslighting---a fashionable word for a form of abuse in which the perp uses shame and threats to convince the victim to ignore his own or her own direct experience. 

It does not matter that Joe Biden did much better at his recent State of the Union speech; and at the rally that followed the debate; and maybe even at the next debate (only two this year!) on September 10th. What matters is that he was capable of performing so badly, and that he will be older still as his second term transpires. This is not ageism; there are plenty of men and women older than the President who are far more lucid, intellectually nimble, and vigorous than he. I say this with gratitude for his superb achievements, compassion for him, and respect for his office. 

But as we saw during the nominating process in 2016, 2020, and 2024, the Democratic National Committee has become a ruthlessly cynical, exclusively top-down organization. Its older methods of candidate selection---which involved factional jockeying and favors and threats, with plenty of cynical opportunism---did not completely preclude all challengers. The Kennedy campaign of 1960 may have had a "ruthless" underside, but it was also genuinely idealistic and genuinely insurgent. In 2016, Donna Brazile and Debby Wasserman-Schultz helped Hilary Clinton destroy the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, which offered the population a lifeline to prosperity. Madame Secretary did not even pretend to offer anything more than a brand. The arrogance and hubris and entitlement of the DNC machine was breathtaking. And now they---and we---are paying the price, because that rigid, top-down machine has already produced its candidates, Biden and Harris, who have already shown they almost surely cannot win this election, despite the horrific evil and incompetence of the Republican opponent. In today's DNC, there is no surviving process for a challenger to rise to the top. 

I will not vote for RFK Jr. He has been an excruciatingly contradictory mixture of brilliance and stupidity, insight and delusion, pragmatism and absurdity, charisma and ugliness, idealism and cynicism. He would have electrified the debates had he been permitted to enter them, and he did have the necessary polling numbers---but CNN, the Coalition on Presidential Debates, the DNC, and the RNC had no trouble breaking their own rules to exclude him. I can't vote for him because his judgment has been so bad, making verbal gaffes that were sometimes true but utterly imprudent; because he is too soft on Russia regarding their criminal war against Ukraine; because he let his CIA daughter-in-law run his campaign, after that organization murdered his father and uncle, ruining the country; because his paper-thin gun control policy makes no sense; because his vaccine positions range from the reasonable to the disastrously foolish, and do not fit together; because he gave his VP slot to his biggest donor; and because he thinks the free market, by itself, is enough to fix climate change. 

In his defense, Kennedy alone has focused attention on the urgent issue of regulatory capture, where giant corporations abuse the public, privatizing the profits and socializing the costs, then stacking the government's regulatory agencies with their own lobbyists---effectively neutering the only institutions that have any hope of protecting the public. They poison the food, soil, and water with glyphosate, causing a cancer epidemic; they dump dioxin and PCBs and "forever chemicals," ruining public health; they strip-mine mountains and wreck waterways, until the tap water in fracked Flint, Michigan is actually flammable; they hobble small business, letting Amazon and big-box stores rule with impunity; they allow Blackrock to buy up all the housing until nobody can afford a home. When the injured public sues, the corporations either out-lawyer them, or pay a trivial fine and keep on going. RFK speaks out about this, having fought it his whole adult life in the courts. That is why his inclusion in the debates would have enriched the national conversation and vitalized the election. Some polls indicate his candidacy will help Trump; others indicate it will help Biden. These are just observations. I didn't tell him to run, and I'm not voting for him.

I don't have a solution. A coup is underway, and it includes Trump, Putin, the Russian intelligence assets and mafiosi named in the Muller Report and the ensuing legal proceedings, Manifort, Chesebro, Eastman, Giuliani, Alex Jones, the January 6th rioters, the poisoned Supreme Court of Alito and Thomas and Barrett and, yes, Roberts, Mitch McConnell's utterly disingenuous refusal to allow a vote on Merrick Garland's nomination to SCOTUS, and McConnell's appalling sabotage of the January 6th impeachment trial. It includes the Congressional Republicans' relentless sabotage of the 117th and 118th sessions of the U.S. Congress since 2021. And it includes about 63 million of our fellow citizens, who prioritize "owning the libtards" over equal protection under the law, healthcare, education, women's rights, clean air and water and soil, civility, and any chance of the Earth not burning into a lifeless Venusian inferno.

The DNC has a chance to run someone else. They can try to do it in a thoroughly insulated way, top-down and centralized, or they can try to do it with an open convention, as in the old days of chaos and something more closely resembling representative democracy. But they ought to do it one way or the other, and immediately. I don't have any knowledge of who is electable and who isn't, except that Michelle Obama has just come out on top in a poll that shows her, and only her, beating Trump. She has never held public office, and to me she represents President Obama's politics of neoliberal perception-management, bad-faith virtue signaling that helps nobody, and de facto economic conservatism (so does Gavin Newsom). But I don't know what she would actually do in the Oval Office, and she would certainly be a hundred times better than Trump. 

I wish Jamie Raskin was the nominee, or even the young House Minority Leader, Hakim Jeffries. But it seems to me that the old DNC playbook---pick the guy ourselves, then verbally abuse everyone who asks questions---is a recipe for failure, and with it, endless tyranny. 

We are living through a poignant, ironic, tragic crisis. Waves of unintended consequences are crashing together on our collective heads, flowing from the misguided and contradictory efforts of warring factions, each of whom was sure they had the solution to all our woes. Just when the most dangerous coup since the Civil War is blazing its trail through our ossified institutions, we are stuck with an aging chief executive and his politically inept Vice President, amid several hot wars and a renewed cold one, even as climate change wreaks ever-faster havoc on our cities, coasts, crops, and oceans. This is a nail-biter, full of worry and dread and bitterness. We will need courage, dialogue, and whatever well-being we can give each other in all this upheaval.

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