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Democrats: Dump Biden Now

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Listen up Democrats: dump Joe Biden; dump him now.

I implore you not as one of you, but as someone who considers voting for Republicans unthinkable, and who nearly always does vote for Democrats for want of better alternatives.

Ever since Ralph Nader’s campaign twenty years ago, I have always voted for the Green candidate in presidential elections and whenever else I could. When Nader ran and again in 2016, I did think that it might be possible to make something of the Green Party. I realize now, though, that all I was doing was casting a protest vote. That has not been a bad thing to do in the circumstances, but it has led exactly nowhere.

Blame for that lies with our semi-established and effectively impregnable duopolistic party system and the culture surrounding it. It is so deeply entrenched that it is all but impossible nowadays in the Land of the Free for a third party to be good for anything more useful than enabling protest voting, except perhaps at a local level in some jurisdictions in rare cases.

I am not proud of it, but I confess that I am registered as a Democrat. I have to be in order to vote against the worst of you, the Clintons and Bidens and others of their ilk, in primary elections; and also to be able to vote for anyone running as a Democrat in those primaries who might actually be worth voting for.

Opportunities for that have always existed, but they were few and far between before 2018. You corporate Democrats are now doing your best to make them few and far between again.

I am cautiously optimistic, however, that your efforts will fail. However, I must concede that, even if all goes as well as it is reasonable to hope that it will, changing the Democratic Party fundamentally from within – making it a force for good, not just for holding the greater evil at bay – will not happen without a protracted struggle fought out over many years.

You are that dug in; your power is that deeply entrenched. Frontal assaults on your power are therefore bound to fail. But times are changing. In a well-fought war of attrition, you can and will be defeated.

I strongly suspect that a lot of the people who vote for you agree with me, a lot more than you think. But even if I am right about that, and right about what the future has in store for you, I know full well that the chances that you will dump Biden now are practically nil.

Still, asking you not to make him your nominee may not be entirely a waste of time and effort; some good could come of it. Republicans are beneath contempt, but not all of you are; many, maybe most, of you can, in rare moments, when pushed, transcend the muck in which the actually existing Democratic Party wallows.

I therefore entreat you, almost but not quite certainly in vain, to dump Biden now while you still have a chance, before his nomination is formally secured.

Dump him not because he won’t beat Trump, but because he will.

**

Beating Trump is a good thing, of course, but the ability to do that hardly distinguishes Biden from any other nationally prominent Democrat. Trump was defeating himself even before the Trump-exacerbated corvid-19 pandemic broke. By the time Election Day arrives, the process should be so far along that not all the morons in America will be able to put Humpty Dumpty Donald’s prospects back together again.

The problem with Biden being the Democrat voters will have to vote for in order to send Trump packing is not just that you had him win out over far better options.

With Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, you even had the opportunity to go for a candidate who is better in kind, not just degree, than all the rest.

Even the other moderates were better (less bad) than the one you went for. By “moderate,” I mean a defender of your party’s old regime, and of the interests of the reactionary segments of its “donor class.”

The problem with Biden is that with him, more than with the others, you will be reproducing the conditions that made Trump and Trumpism all but inevitable. With those conditions restored, Trumpism is bound to return eventually. When it does, the next figure in the Trump role is bound to be more capable than Trump himself — how could he (it is bound to be a he) not be? — and therefore more dangerous.

Therefore, by putting Biden in the White House, you are asking for it. To be sure, the risk would be clear and present with any moderate, but with a less preposterous one, the country might be able to stumble along long enough for conditions to change in ways that would mitigate the danger to some extent.

With Biden, there is little chance of that – unless he is content to be mainly a ceremonial figure, letting others, perhaps a capable Vice President, do most of the governing for him. But that is a slender reed upon which to hang a hope. This is why it is urgent that you dump Biden ASAP.

Urgent, but extremely unlikely – because you will only do so if you absolutely must, and although you likely will find yourselves in that position sooner or later, it is far more likely that it will be later than soon enough to salvage the opportunities you are now so intent on squandering.

Meanwhile, all we can do is indulge in idle fantasies – of, for example, Biden having “senior moments” too blatant to ignore, or of the anybody-but-Trump Democratic ladies who have given him a pass on credible charges of sexual harassment and worse, suddenly becoming principled and consistent.

But such things are unlikely to happen on your watch.

Sadly, tragically, you corporate Democrats have cowardly hearts and minds; and in the face of determined, principled, and well-organized opposition from (small-d) democrats in earlier stages of this nearly two years long electoral circus, you worked hard to insure that you would be calling the shots still. That required considerable skullduggery on your part, and many months of strenuous effort.

It would therefore be quite a letdown if, after all that, you didn’t get your way. And so, no matter how much sense it would make, you are not likely to change course now.

After all, Biden is your man, and while doing the right and honorable thing is not exactly your thing, there are ways in which you could convince yourselves that dumping him now would be the wrong thing; that it would be downright Trumpian, disloyal and cruel.

Also, it is only human not to want to own up to mistakes, especially colossal ones.

Make no mistake, however; that is what this is. It was a colossal mistake to secure the nomination for him in the first place, and it is a colossal mistake to keep him on board now.

These mistakes follow from your determination to scuttle the Sanders insurgency. That too was a mistake, perhaps the most egregious of all the many you’ve been made.

It was well executed at a tactical level, however; you coordinated with your media flunkies well, especially the ones at CNN and MSNBC (MSDNC), and with their co-thinkers at The New York Times and The Washington Post and on NPR. In these Trumpian times, competency anywhere for any purpose is a joy to behold.

Moreover, where Sanders is concerned, reasonable people can reasonably, or not too unreasonably, disagree.

But that you would fall in behind Joe Biden, with all the other choices available to you, and that you would stand by him still, in a plague year and as Trumpian thuggery mounts, defies understanding.

That you haven’t realized this yet, that you are instead digging in your heels, makes me wonder just how reasonable you are.

I have faith, though, that, unlike your duopolistic rival, you are not hopeless. The Trump party, formerly known as the GOP, has the market cornered on that.

I am therefore confident that, in due course, many of you will come around to the view that dumping Biden would have been by far the wisest course of action for you to take at this point in time; and that those of you who do see the light will regret your dumb obduracy for the rest of your lives.

At least you will not have it on your conscience that you got Trump, the worst president ever, reelected. By making Biden his rival, you did indeed enhance the likelihood that Trump would win a second term. But you have not, indeed you could not, change the probabilities nearly enough for that actually to come to pass.

It is thanks to Trump himself, not to you, that, if anything like a free and fair election takes place this November, Trump will lose both the popular and the Electoral College vote.

Therefore, assuming that power transfers peacefully – something we could previously take for granted, but no longer can – Trump will be a goner even before the pandemic he has so spectacularly mismanaged stops sickening and killing us and turning our world upside down.

Therefore, the problem with Biden has nothing to do with electability. That was supposed to be his strong suit, but it is actually among his weakest. But, no matter – because electability is not the issue people used to think it was, back when Trump’s base seemed glued to him at the hip.

The difference is not that there is more awareness now of how wrong the conventional wisdom on the different Democratic candidates’ electability had been, but that awareness of Trump’s ineptitude is doing what awareness of his buffoonishness, ignorance, vileness, and stupidity so far had not; it is sowing seeds of defection within his base.

Thus, the most compelling reasons for ditching Biden have hardly anything to do with the November election itself, but everything to do with what he will do after he is installed in office.

Liberal pundits have said, only slightly facetiously, that Trump cannot see beyond the current news cycle. You corporate Democrats are myopic too; you cannot see much beyond Inauguration Day.

Too bad for you, because, once Trump is gone and Biden installed, you will find yourselves having to contend with an unhappy rank-and-file, awash in voters’ remorse, holding you, not themselves, accountable.

Needless to say, they are culpable too, even if only for believing your propaganda, but what is the consolation in that? How will it make you feel any better when you find that your victory over insurgent (small-d) democrats turned out to be more of a Pyrrhic victory than a way for you to hold onto power for another protracted spell.

***

It may not be literally true that anybody would be a better president than Trump – probably not those armed, suicidal maniacs who want the economy opened up right away, and not Mitch McConnell – but no Democrats in good standing at the national level and maybe only three-quarters of the Republics would be worse. Biden would not be worse; not by a longshot.

Bad as he, a doofus staring senescence in the face, would surely be, he would be a whole lot better than Trump, if only because, unlike that living, breathing, walking argument against the idea that human beings are, as Anne Frank put it, basically good, he has some inkling of his own limitations.

Also, Biden would probably let more competent people with better politics than he do most of the actual governing.

Now that it is completely obvious, thanks to the pandemic raging around us, that health care ought to be a basic right, it is even conceivable, if his minions would explain the situation to him properly, that he would stop fixating on Obamacare and move closer to “Medicare For All.” I wouldn’t hold my breath, but it is possible.

In thinking along these lines, I realize that I am grasping at straws, but what else can I do? Thanks to you, corporate Democrats, and thanks to gods who are stingy with miracles and seldom benevolent, Biden is our future. Sensible people who live in “battleground states” will therefore have no choice but to vote for him and encourage others to do so as well.

I feel a little bit guilty that I do not to have to face that imperative – because my state’s 2020 Electoral College votes might as well have been counted years ago. Nevertheless, if I believed in God, I would thank Her profusely for not putting me in a position where I would either have to vote for Biden or else be flagrantly irresponsible.

Not being a believer, I will just thank my lucky stars that I can write in whatever I want, and still be a responsible citizen; that even if only for the seconds it takes to vote, I will not have to cross over to the Dark Side.

But no matter where one lives or what one does on Election Day, the truly responsible thing here and now is to point out how Biden is more of an enemy than a friend of emerging left alternatives within the Democratic fold, and how the larger the role he will play in his administration, the worse off we all will be.

The problem with him is not just that he personifies the neoliberal and liberal imperialist politics that made Trump or something like him all but inevitable. All you corporate Democrats, not just the Clintons and their cronies, are guilty of that. Barack Obama was guilty as sin, and so is the nauseatingly solemn and prayerful Nancy Pelosi.

The deeper problem is that, beyond his politics, Biden is more like Trump than the Democrats currently falling all over themselves to back him would care to admit.

Trump lies, so does Biden. Trump is a vulgar, artless womanizer; Biden is, to put it kindly, a tad too hands on as well.

Trump has publicly admitted to and even boasted of “pussy grabbing,” and he has been credibly charged with rape. He may not have quite as many victims as there are stars in the sky, but he comes close.

Biden has victims too. Most of them accuse him of nothing worse than obnoxiousness, but there is at least one brave woman, Tara Reade, who claims, more credibly than not, to have been “pussy grabbed” too – Trump style, one must assume, by that self-declared paragon of virtue and defender of women’s rights that you corporate Democrats have foisted upon us.

Trump lies constantly – in ways that are transparently obvious and often inconsistent with other lies that he tells. He is a compulsive – some would say “pathological” – liar.

Biden is more truthful by many orders of magnitude, but he lies too – about his positions on the Bush family’s Iraq wars, his support for social security and other entitlement programs, his positions on the incarceration of black youth and on the criminal justice system generally, and, worst of all, his support for the financial depredations of the corporate and financial interests that have, over many years, turned the state of Delaware, Biden’s state, into their favorite off-shore-like tax haven.

It was his dishonesty that earned Biden the name “Plagiarism Joe” back when he first eyed the White House back in 1988, and it is his Trumpian oafishness and sense of personal privilege that makes “Fingers Biden” an appropriate moniker now.

Shame on those bourgie Democratic ladies like Kirstin Gillibrand who were so quick to go after far worthier political figures on much more dubious evidence – people like Al Franken and even John Conyers – and who are now so intent on believing Biden, Tara Reade be damned.

Even if it turns out that they are right, that Biden kept his fingers to himself – on that question, I frame no hypotheses – their hypocrisy and their servility to their party’s old guard is appalling. Nancy Pelosi isn’t the only one who talks out of both sides of her mouth.

Unlike Trump, though, Biden does have a capacity for empathy and a moral compass, and he probably can be prevailed upon to do the right thing, to at least some extent. The fact that no one really enthuses over him – that his support is mainly a misguided expression of understandable anti-Trump sentiment — is a plus too. He has no base to speak of; if he goes, hardly anyone will mind.

And even if you don’t believe, as I do, that, running against Trump at this time, so far from enhancing a Democratic candidate’s electability, “moderation” actually diminishes it, you corporate Democrats can take comfort, along with everyone else, in the fact that Trump is now mishandling the pandemic crisis so blatantly that some light is bound to shine through even the thickest of Republican skulls.

It might be different if, as Trump himself seems to believe, it is only black and brown people who have been and will continue to bear the brunt of his increasingly malign indifference to the lives of the people he is supposed to protect.

But, as covid-19 disease increasingly devastates white rural communities north, south, east, and west — and cities, towns, and farms smack in the middle too — it should become clear, even to many of Trump’s most ardent supporters, that President Bone Spurs, our self-declared War President, could care less about keeping them, his “warriors” and their families, alive and well.

Philosophers go on about how “ought” implies “can”; in other words, how no one can be obligated to do what they cannot do. The late Sidney Morgenbesser famously quipped that the basic principle of Jewish ethics is: “can” implies “don’t.” That is a basic principle too in most religious traditions, including Christianity in both its Catholic and Protestant versions, notwithstanding the laxity of the many white Christian evangelicals who have taken lately to granting indulgences to Trump himself.

But there are times when abiding by that principle is a mistake, even for individuals deliberating about what to do.

In politics, the situation is usually more complicated than it is at the individual level because there are institutional and historical constraints that affect what it is or can become possible or, more precisely, feasible in different times and places.

However, the case at hand is not all that complicated. Dumping Biden is eminently possible (feasible), even if you corporate Democrats don’t or won’t see it that way.

All the pertinent moral, political, and logical considerations are in accord; when the issue is whether or not to substitute someone else, almost anyone else, for the presumptive nominee, “can” implies “do.” No amount of stubborn recalcitrance on your part can change that.

But since you corporate Democrats are impervious to such niceties as compelling arguments whenever your interests and concerns, or rather what you mistakenly take them to be, are involved, this hardly matters at all.

For my part, it is small consolation that you will someday regret your obtuseness; and it is, of course, disheartening to plead in vain.

But because your choice of a nominee at this critical conjuncture is of paramount importance, I will say it yet again: go for it, Democrats, be bold and be wise, dump Biden, send him back into retirement, back to pasture — dump him now.

More articles by:

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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