I’m sure plenty of you are here thanks to the hate-click headline, but I’m making a serious case based off of Joe Biden’s own words. There are three core tenets to Trumpism, and Joe Biden is playing the liberal tunes to them all.
1. A Startling Lack of Policy Detail While Simultaneously Embracing Major Capital
Trump loves to make generic platitudes. He’s actually a pretty good salesman when it comes down to the basic nature of the profession. Biden is too. In 2016, Trump hammered away at the notion that trade and immigration had hurt the American worker, and “I alone can fix it,” yet each and every day we learn that all of Trump’s policies to “fix it” can basically be traced back to his personal bank account.
Joe Biden is similarly deceptive about what his actual plans are, as he recently “went light on policy, heavy on emotion” to Politico, saying “I don’t have time to completely lay out all the details” on his health care plan. Vox noted that Biden has really not told anyone what he thinks about health care (while his record proves he is almost surely very anti-single payer). Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren is pumping out detailed, comprehensive policy damn-near every single day, so you have to wonder what Biden has been doing with his time (attending fundraisers with the health insurance industry, Comcast, and plenty of GOP donors).
Speaking of Elizabeth Warren knowing lots about policy and Joe Biden knowing diddly squat about what does and does not actually work, let’s take a trip back to 2005.
I spent a year working in the merchant services industry, I can promise you that the credit card companies are not the good guys here. Elizabeth Warren is right, history proves that “Joe Biden is on the side of the credit card companies,” and he is still taking their money. While Biden is not like Trump in outright bumbling fraud (and thanks to the New York Times, we’ve learned that literally no one is), the “bipartisan” kumbaya centrism he preaches has a convenient habit of consistently falling in line with the agenda of the major donors in both parties.
2. The Desire to Return to a Past which Never Existed
There is a vast generational split in Democratic politics. Poll after poll proves that millennials and Gen Z are far more liberal than our older cohorts. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could even be considered something of a centrist in the context of your average millennial’s politics. We simply look at the political system through a fundamentally different lens than our parents and grandparents do, as demonstrated by this stark contrast in a recent poll question from Quinnipiac about what we all really want in a politician:
If you had to choose, which is more important in a presidential candidate: a candidate who you think would be a great leader, or a candidate who you think has great policy ideas?*
Age 18-34: 38% great leader — 54% policy
Age 35-49: 57% great leader — 39% policy
Age 50-64: 55% great leader — 39% policy
Age 65+: 54% great leader — 38% policy
*all generalizations about the “over and under-35 crowd” made from here on out are made acknowledging that these are nowhere close to defining majorities…but they are consistent…until they’re not…that’s significant.
Biden believes that Trump is “not the Republican Party” (according to Gallup, 91% of Republicans currently approve of Trump), and “history will treat this administration’s time as an aberration” (a new study confirmed—again—that sexist and racist resentment, not economic attitudes, was the main cause of Obama counties in Iowa shifting to Trump in 2016).
Trump is not an aberration, and history has actually proven he is the logical conclusion of the Republican Party’s actions and stated intentions since at least the days of Richard Nixon. Like Trumpism, Bidenism is rejecting reality in favor of an idyllic period that never existed. The under-35 crowd is dragging policy to the center of the Democratic debate, and the fact that Elizabeth Warren cannot gain much traction gives you something of an idea about how well policy plays amongst the over-35 crowd. It’s difficult to see polling on policy flipped like that as anything but a rebuke of previous generations (and The West Wing). That naturally creates resentment. No one likes to hear that people think they’re wrong.
The over-35 crowd largely values an amorphous definition of “leadership” over tangible policy matters—hoping that the lack of detail in their plan will be made up for by the wisdom of someone definitely not being treated like a demigod—and their children are mostly rejecting their Biden-esque politics for something more resembling Bernie Sanders’. The so-called “personality cult” around Bernie is an exercise in psychological projection, given that is how Democrats have mostly chosen their candidates throughout the entirety of the under-35 crowd’s lifetimes. If Bernie came out tomorrow and said “I love billionaires and insurance companies,” his millennial support would collapse in an instant. Biden has said horrible things in the past that have been reintroduced back in to the news cycle, and his support has only gone up since. How Trumpian.
For example: Read the following Biden quotes in Trump’s voice.
You can see Biden’s fantasy world take shape (and the biases which informed it) in this shocking answer in 2007 to a question about why schools in Iowa are performing better than those in Washington D.C.:
”There’s less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with.”
Before the Biden-defenders tell me how that quote is actually sympathetic towards the victims of the inherently white supremacist American infrastructure which has systematically impoverished and subjugated black Americans throughout this country for centuries, read this 2006 quote and try to explain how the racial stereotyping baked into it is any different from his quote about Washington D.C. schools:
“You cannot go into a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. Oh, I’m not joking.”
Or this one from the 2008 presidential campaign while talking about then-candidate Obama:
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
Or this at the All-American Presidential Forum in 2007.
3. Resentment of a New Era
This is really what much of the Biden appeal is about. It’s not just a return to a more comfortable time, but a rejection of our current era as well. It’s not just Trump that the Biden ethos opposes—as you will see in my final Biden video below that is sure to be interpreted differently by different generations.
At its core, all politics is primal, as we are limited by the confines of our animalistic nature. Every generation has expressed its resentment towards generational change through its politics (back in my day, etc…), and there is no doubt in my mind that when millennials and Gen Z reach our older years, we will also curse the youths—doing kickflips and wheelies or whatever on their hoverboards while flying above the scorched, unusable farm land that used to be known as the Midwest, all while making a living by throwing parties in underwater Miami—meanwhile, we will all still be texting each other, pining for a simpler time where memes were a widely-understood form of conversation.
The last 40 years have conditioned folks to think of politics as a morality play—where we can create a metaphor for the America we imagine by simply banding together for Common Sense Bipartisan Solutions. That’s a fantasy, no different from Trump’s promise to Make America Great Again (Medicare, the Civil Rights Act and the New Deal were all shoved down an intransigent opposition’s throat by a liberal majority in Congress—their passage was anything but bipartisan). Politics is a battle for power and resources, pure and simple. That’s what history tells us time and time again. That’s why we find ourselves in a moment where Republicans have most of the power and resources, because they understand this fact far better than Biden-era Democrats do.
Younger folks have internalized this more fatalistic and cynical view of the political system embraced by the GOP, as our adolescence was defined by the Iraq War and the 2008 financial crisis where no major decision-makers were put in jail for a Vietnam-like debacle and an event that wiped out at least 40% of middle class wealth. There is no justice, only power, therefore the only justice we will ever get is through taking power. Plus, we simply just don’t trust the system—nor the system’s allies like Joe Biden. Folks like me graduated college into the worst job market since before Joe Biden was born, and yet, he said this last year while hawking his book:
In 2016, two years before Joe Biden told millennials that he “has no empathy” for us, Stanford released a study which found that “young people entering the workforce today are far less likely to earn more than their parents when compared to children born two generations before them.”
$&#% Joe Biden
Joe Biden is clearly resentful of a new age which demands he answer for his crimes of a less civilized time. No one running for office utters such a demonstrative phrase in public like “I have no empathy” unless they mean it. This is Biden’s appeal: screw the complaining young folks—they’ve got it easy—us boomers had it real tough going to college while working 10 hours a week at the library to pay for it, just before the government threw a house at us at age 24 as we entered the economy during one of the most robust periods of wage growth in recent U.S. history. Those were the truly difficult years—besides, it’s not like these kids have to deal with the end of the world or anything.
While this is a column clearly defined by righteous generational outrage towards Biden’s righteous generational outrage, I must point something out: Trump won. Biden can win too. In fact, Biden should win (I don’t think he will, but I do admit that I am getting a bit nervous that my take will blow up in my face). Biden is leading the polls by a wide margin right now. He has better name recognition than anyone (the #1 determinant of electoral success in a country with a 90% reelection rate for a Congress with about a 20% approval rating) largely thanks to the fact that he stood next to the most popular politician in America for eight years in a row. He has the support of major Democratic donors and institutions, as well as a diverse base of supporters.
But just because he can win doesn’t mean he’s the best candidate—lots of these candidates can beat Trump. Democrats should give everyone a chance before falling into the “electability” trap that almost always leads us in the direction of a boring old white man.
In 2016, the Democratic Party lost to Donald freaking Trump—and so we should do anything but repeat what we did last time—and repeating the Clinton campaign’s playbook is basically Biden’s entire sales pitch. No one who has their lives together loses to a second-tier carnival barker who can’t stop talking about how badly he wants to date his daughter. The only logical conclusion you could arrive at the day after Trump’s election is that the Democratic Party is the most pathetic mainstream political party in the western world, and it has been incredibly encouraging watching most of us on the left learn so quickly from our mistakes in 2016, empower our grassroots, then win one of the biggest midterm victories in U.S. history in 2018. I mean, who loses to Donald Trump?
Most of the infrastructure supporting Joe Biden, that’s who.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.