Living Large In Carson City: The Politics Of Fear Edition

I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth.       Hunter S. Thompson

As far as weeks go, this has been a doozy even for Donald Trump. He has at different times during the week led the country down a dark, twisted path to a near all-out confrontation with Iran that would have thrown the Middle East into even greater chaos. The downing of an unmanned drone by the Iranian army was the flash point that set the plan in motion aided by two of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Mike Pompeo and that neocon madman, John Bolton. While Trump maintains that he called off the attack to avoid killing civilians on the ground, his rationale for the last minute decision seemed dubious to some and an outright lie to others. For whatever reason, his decision was a good thing, however, the entire debacle smacked of the president, yet again, creating a problem then miraculously stepping in to save the day by backtracking on everything he said earlier. The result was he made America look weak and confirmed in the minds of many (allies included) that he is bat shit crazy, and the world should be afraid . . . very afraid.

His threat to begin mass deportations of undocumented immigrants (read millions) caught most of the nation off guard, including his own enforcement arm of Homeland Security – ICE. Once the scope of the mass deportations planned came to light, reality stepped in with  hard, cruel facts that there was no chance that a plan of this scale could be pulled off in a matter of a few days regardless of his highness’s mind farts. The line this morning is that he delayed the deportations at the request of the Democrats for two weeks. During this time, what? Congress is going to come up with a viable Immigration policy that will make everything better? Of course as USA Today and others noted, the announcement of the deportation program came just hours before Trump’s reelection party in Orlando which was surely not lost on the Republican base who live for red meat like this tossed at them. Coincidence?

Rounding out the top three debacles of the weekend, Trump is again a passenger on the sexual deviant roller coaster after prominent advice columnist, E. Jean Carroll, accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a dressing room at the Bregdorf Goodman department store over 20 years ago. The allegation comes from a forthcoming book by Carroll in which she chronicles the abuse by prominent men she suffered over the years. Trump denies knowing Carroll, yet New York Magazine posted a picture of Carroll and Trump taken at a party which contradicts his denial. The one outstanding difference that separates most of the other 15 women who have already accused Trump of sexual misconduct is that Carroll claims Trump actually penetrated her, thereby, constituting rape, not just the pawing, kissing, or other sundry attacks he is noted for in the past.

So, over the course of several days, the president had two major policy snafus and a credible accusation of sexual assault. A lesser man wouldn’t be able to overcome the public humiliation or bureaucratic backlash of any one of these three events. Yet, Trump abides as his base and other Republicans stand ready to defend him regardless of how egregious the events or accusations levied against him. Which brings me to the topic of this post.

For far too long, the Democrats have huddled on the sidelines keeping their heads down waiting for Trump to self destruct with little hope of eclipsing his out sized personality and numerous blunders on the national and international stage. Now, the Democrats have found a voice and are speaking out . . . not against Trump . . . but Joe Biden.

For the record, I think Biden is probably a good man. Barack Obama thought enough of him to make him vice-president after all. He comes off as a quintessential avuncular type who everyone would love as a grandfather or trusted adviser. He seems relatively intelligent, well-spoken, and possesses a long track record of public service and loyalty to the party. And that is the problem.

A vote for Joe Biden would be a vote for and a regression to old line party politics and all that entails. Think Hillary Clinton but more likable. His record is not without controversy either. Let’s just say Joe has a lot of baggage and not all of it good. In an article by Paste Magazine, writer Walker Bagman writes in an article “The Case Against Joe Biden”, detailing the non-progressive stances Biden took on many major issues of the day. As a Senator from Delaware, he spent 36 years in Congress, served two terms as vice-president, and toed the party line as would be expected from a loyal “company man”. He was, and probably still is, on the wrong side of just about every issue progressives are pushing for in 2020. And that is not good.

Oddly enough, his past service is also what is fueling his rise in the polls. People are so worn out by the spectacle that Trump has made of the presidency, older, more entrenched Democrats, see in Biden a respite from the wild shenanigans that Trump revels in on a weekly basis. He’s safe in that way that others like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren are not. Judging from how his mainstream supporters have jumped on the bandwagon, he may be hard to beat. A good example is the morning talk show, Morning Joe, and how Biden has taken on an almost mythical persona who Joe and Mika literally fawn over while gloating at Bernie’s slip in the polls. It’s a little disgusting.

The issue I have with Biden is his inability to grasp the fact that Donald Trump has changed American politics forever. Republicans have sold their integrity down the river to bask in the power that Trump brings to his presidency, and his lack of shame over what he will do or say to get his way. Biden rightfully takes offense at this but seems to miss the point that it’s not just Trump who has changed. It’s the entire party.

Americans saw Biden’s blind spot chronicled in an article in Daily Kos earlier this month titled “Delusional Joe Biden thinks Republicans will totally work with him if he’s elected president”. In a Tweet supplied by Sam Stein, Biden said,

“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change. Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Or worded differently, when Trump is gone, common sense will return to the Republican Party and government will return to normal (whatever that is). Biden is being naive here if not downright boneheaded. Where does he think all of Trump’s supporters come from in the first place? They are the constituents of the very same people Biden is referring to who are now serving in government. Not only do the Republicans owe allegiance to their base and the radical ideas that they hold, but the Republicans are themselves indoctrinated with the same undemocratic beliefs that they find every time they return home.

In another much ballyhooed misstep, Biden referred to his ability in the “old days” of being able to work with hardcore segregationists (racists) to get things done like major civil rights reform. On this point, I understand why Biden said this. He was trying to show his experience dealing with difficult factions to overcome differences to achieve meaningful legislation that led to change. That was then. This is now. Trump’s supporters are no longer principled dissidents, but frightened people who fear marginalization and loss of the privilege they have known all their lives. It is a frightening prospect for them to contemplate not being in charge or losing the power they have relished throughout most of the nation’s history.

Strangely enough, it is fear that is fueling Biden’s rise in both the polls and the hopes of many older Americans that he will be able to “fix” the chaos Trump will surely leave behind. It is the fear of change that the country so desperately needs that will push Biden through the campaign season and possibly into the White House. Fear will lead many voters to see Sanders as a socialist, Warren as too strident, Harris as an angry prosecutor, and all the rest as threats to the change they do not want and will not support. They want safe, not revolution.

For many Americans, safe is better than even one day of a Trump second term, which is hard to argue against. The question remains, however, is Biden the candidate of “safe” when America needs a candidate of change? Trump and his minions have worked to systematically dismantle a plethora of hard won social and governmental accomplishments dating back well before Obama came to power. On the environment alone, America needs a leader who will face up to the challenges Trump will create over the four years he is in office.

Biden hearkens back to a time that older Americans relate to in their own lives. They understandably want a return to civility and a positive course forward. The problem remains will Biden be up to first winning the primary and then the General Election? Will he ever get the chance to demonstrate his “ability” to work with a disgruntled and weaponized Republican Party across the aisle? Right now at this early date, the verdict is still out.





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