Biden and the Common Sense Voter

Last Friday, on the PBS News Hour’s weekly review with Mark Shields and David Brooks, Judy Woodruff posed a question about Joe Biden’s response to what was happening in Minneapolis. David Brooks, the New York Times’ conservative columnist, visibly shaken by the events of the week declared: “I want to see more outrage. I want to see outrage at a president who’s grown more contemptible by the day, including his tweets about what happened in Minneapolis. I want to see somebody addressing the underlying issues that lead to the inequalities in places like Minneapolis and all around the country. I just want to see a more aggressive Democratic challenger, who’s really got broad arguments for collective change, structural change. I want to see a candidate who is as angry as he ought to be, to be honest.”

As I sat there watching this episode, I wondered that if we have reached a point that Biden’s prosaic comments, and the incoherence with which he delivers it, perturbs a conservative columnist, what should such banality do to the progressives of this land? When David Brooks talk about “collective and structural change,” what kind of responsibilities do that generate for those of us who have inherited that desire from successive generations who have been demanding those changes since the beginning of the so called “American experiment?”

Time has come to end this crooked charade of electoral politics that has perpetuated the hegemony of a corrupt two-party system and think about the real possibilities of a radical democracy–a democratic system that is built on the foundations of social justice. The vicious circle of voting for the Democrat’s candidate, no matter how corrupt the party and its nominees are, needs to end. We are always told that the time is not right. Yet, we never hear what the right time would be and when would it arrive. Under what circumstances does one vote her conscience?

If there were any doubts that powers that be will not allow the realization of any meaningful choice in the presidential elections, those doubts should have put to rest after the Clinton-DNC staged a coup against Bernie Sanders during the last presidential campaign. Any genuine examination of how Donald Trump ended in the White House, must have interrogated the DNC conspiracy to sabotage Sanders’ campaign rather than the wild goose chase of the Russian interference, true as it might have been. The DNC handed the presidency to Trump. And they will end up doing it again.

The early success of Sanders’ campaign in 2020, alarmed the party again and made its leadership visibly concerned about the possibility of a contested nomination process. President Obama came out of his long silence since he had left office to assure the party leadership that he would speak up to stop Bernie Sanders nomination. Through a combination of the old party patronage system, disenfranchisement, fear mongering, and campaigns of misinformation, the DNC pulled Biden from the bottom of the list and crowned him on the top as the “presumptive” nominee. A man who could not articulate a thought without meandering sentences and bouts of forgetfulness that alarmed many observers about his mental fitness, became the one who is now to rescue the country from the rising tide of fascism.

The same party leadership who utterly failed to understand that the fault lines of the last presidential election was a vote for or against the establishment, and rallied behind Hillary Clinton who epitomized all that is wrong with the existing order, is now counting on the loyalty of the hardcore democrats to take back the while house with Biden. I am not here to say that Biden cannot win. He might. Trump might have alienated enough people with his vulgarity, diseased mind, nefarious heart, and devious personality that would cost him the presidency. But that cannot vindicate the misdeeds of the DNC and absolve the corruption at its heart.

The Left cannot afford and should not give another pass to the DNC oligarchy. The party has shown time and again that it is incapable of foundational transformation. What today people on the streets of Minneapolis, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, and many other major cities in the country are crying out is not to bring to the office a kinder, gentler, corrupt politician who opposed the necessity of “collective and structural changes” in American society. The Left has given enough carte blanche to the Democrats, time has come for real accountability.

Biden is corrupt. Not once during the entire House investigation of Trump’s abuse of power in looking into Hunter Biden’s lucrative seat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, any Democrats eyebrows was raised about what actually he, the son of the then Vice President of the United States, was doing on that board making hundreds of thousands of dollar a year for doing absolutely nothing. Yes, Trump abused the power of his office and asked foreign entities to abet his presidential campaign. But that does not exonerate Biden. Is there any doubt in any one’s mind that Hunter was sitting on that board because he was Biden’s son? The time for bringing back the old corrupt machine is over.

I know that many people believe that the next presidential election is about ending Trump’s presidency by all votes necessary. Biden only stands as non-Trump and for that he deserves our vote. Both from pragmatic and ethical standpoints, this position is problematic. Pragmatically, Biden is perhaps the least electable candidate who could run against Trump. Trump and his advisors did their best to assure that Biden will win the nomination, he was the weak link in that crowded pack of nominees. He, similar to Hillary Clinton, is vulnerable to charges of corruption and representing the old corrupt machine. He is the candidate of business-as-usual. Again, I think he might even win on that kind of ticket, but I do not think in that case he wins the election, rather, it means that Trump loses it. Also, in his earlier years, Biden gained the infamy of making off the cuff comments about things that he later regretted or turned out to be lies. Indeed, that always was one of the reasons that he had to drop out of the party’s nomination races. Today, he lacks spontaneity and struggles to maintain a clear head in debates and conversations. Trump has banked on this. He will have a sizeable return on that investment.

Ethically, the Left will not be responsible for a Trump second term. If Biden loses, all responsibility goes back to the party leadership and those oligarchical networks that work to undermine and sabotage the possibilities of real changes in American political order and economic system. It is abundantly clear that even if Biden wins, the Left and progressives will be kicking this can down the road, the can that has been opened and its fascist warms with their poisonous venom are crawling out of it. A Biden presidency will allow this mode of resentment against the system grow in popularity and return with a more vengeful force that can then be more easily appropriated by supremacist, misogynist, and xenophobic forces. So, even if Biden loses, the progressives still can win. The Left needs to offer and rally around alternatives that will attract the downtrodden and the disenfranchised. Trump is not the end of the rise of fascism, it is its beginning. The more the progressives align themselves with candidates and alternatives of the establishment, the greater the space for the fascists to mobilize the disenfranchised.

The progressives need to assert themselves and force Biden’s campaign to accommodate, in a meaningful way, their demands and run on a structurally transformative platform. Otherwise, a vote for Biden is a vote against the principles of democratic participation. Vote your conscience!

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi is an Iranian-born American historian, sociologist, and professor.