It’s Biden, and It’s War

Joel BellmanBy Joel Bellman

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It’s Biden, and It’s War
From left, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, then-Vice-President Joe Biden, Maj. Gen. Andrew P. Poppas at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Nov. 15, 2016.
“As the November election draws closer, progressives unhappy with Joe Biden and conservatives disappointed in Donald Trump may feel tempted to cast about for alternatives.” That was the lede for my column of August 21, 2020, warning against the siren song of third parties. But they aren’t the major threat this election cycle, unless you think Andrew Yang’s “Forward Party” is going anywhere—a kind of Democratic Party centrist caucus dodging controversial issues for process-oriented technocratic incrementalism. They aren’t. No, my big worries right now are the Democratic electorate and the political media regressing to the mean, a stasis of boredom, inattention, distractibility, and desperate novelty-seeking. And so the press has begun something of a Biden death-watch, with stories practically gloating over his underwater approval ratings, currently at 43.2%-52.4% nationally. A recent AP-National Opinion Research Center poll found that among Democrats only 47% want to see a Biden re-election campaign, and even fewer Americans overall, 26%, support another run. Quick, hit the panic button! We need a new candidate! It’s an old truism in politics that you can’t beat something with nothing, but this year, we actually have something—a scandal-free president with an amazingly successful record of accomplishments and only one significant policy setback, the Afghanistan withdrawal. And the former guy set the table for that by committing us to a withdrawal date a year in advance, giving the Taliban plenty of time to prepare for their takeover. And even then, the Biden administration was able to improvise and mitigate the worst of it. It’s the Republicans who have nothing: their leading candidate is widely considered the worst president in American history. Notable on his CV: he lost the popular vote for president twice; he was impeached twice; he helped incite a failed insurrection to attack the U.S. Capitol and overturn a lawful election; he’s under criminal indictment in New York for faking financial disclosures to protect his 2016 presidential campaign by hiding his bribes to a porn star he slept with while his wife was home with their new baby; he’s facing additional criminal investigations for tax fraud, stealing and hiding classified documents, and pressuring Georgia election officials to corrupt that state’s vote count and thereby steal the 2020 election; and if all that is not enough, he’s the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a prominent magazine columnist who has credibly testified under oath that he raped her in a department store dressing room. Their only plausible alternative, running a distant second, is another “Florida man” whose policy priorities include banning books, bullying trans kids, punishing pregnant women, and launching a culture war against the Walt Disney company, the state’s second largest private employer, which draws millions of tourists to its theme parks and pays more than a $1 billion in taxes annually. So much for business-friendly, limited-government, fiscally responsible free-speech Republicanism. And yet—we hear voices among the chattering classes sounding warnings that Biden is too old and tired (he’s only three years older than his predecessor, and far more fit), even senile (despite any evidence, even as the former guy routinely spews unhinged rants at every opportunity), and that Democrats are headed for disaster unless they somehow draft some other candidate to challenge their own incumbent. This is folly, of course. There is no precedent for a successful intra-party primary challenge to a sitting president actively seeking re-election—much less a victory in November—a fact cynical Republican strategists surely know, even if some foolish Democrats and gullible reporters do not. Republicans would love nothing better than to drag Democrats into a hopeless fratricidal battle that undermines their main opponent, and shifts the news focus away from the travails and demagoguery of their incompetent, corrupt, sexual predator candidate and back to the evergreen media narrative of “Dems in disarray.” The 2016 insurgency of Bernie Sanders—which we now know was exploited by Wikileaks and Russian intelligence to drive a wedge between Democrats and weaken nominee Hillary Clinton heading into the fall campaign—revealed the clear and present danger of such divisive tactics. But this time around, Dems seem to be smarter: the 81-year-old Sanders recently told the Associated Press, “The last thing this country needs is a Donald Trump or some other right-wing demagogue who is going to try to undermine American democracy or take away a woman’s right to choose, or not address the crisis of gun violence, or racism, sexism or homophobia,” adding, “So, I’m in to do what I can to make sure that the president is reelected.” The progressive grass-roots organization MoveOn.org announced that its member survey found 73% support for re-electing President Biden. And the AP-NORC poll I alluded to earlier found that 78% of Democrats approve of the job Biden is doing, and 81% of them will probably or definitely vote for him again. It’s no wonder that Republicans are trying to gaslight Democrats by casting Biden as doddering and demented at death’s door, and trying to turn the 2024 election into a referendum on V-P Kamala Harris, with all the racism, sexism, and xenophobia that implies. As I also wrote in that 2020 column, “It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that the paramount objective [next] November is defeating Donald Trump and roundly repudiating Trumpism and all its enablers.” It’s almost inconceivable that we are still talking about him as a live threat to American democracy, but we are and he is. So it’s “once more into the breach, dear friends, once more,” in Shakespeare’s famous words,“when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood…set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide’’—for like King Henry’s Battle of Agincourt, this is mortal combat in a longer war. We must not falter. We cannot fail.
Joel Bellman

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