Sunday, July 19, 2020

Biden's Strategy: Keep it Boring

NY Times:
But if Mr. Biden hopes to maintain his advantage as November draws near, Wisconsin Democrats like Mr. Zimdars have some advice, akin to the famous medical principle of “do no harm,” or the cautionary words of the hit HBO series “The Wire”: “Keep it boring.”

Being politically milquetoast is Mr. Biden’s appeal, they said, driving his ability to attract progressives in Milwaukee, moderates in suburbs like Waukesha and more rural voters in places like Adams County, one of the 22 counties in the state that voted for Mr. Trump after backing President Barack Obama in 2012.

They don’t lament that Mr. Biden is not a historic candidate like Mr. Obama or Hillary Clinton, or that he lacks bumper-sticker progressive policies like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — they’re grateful for it.
This doesn't offend me with Biden in the way that saying nothing might with other candidates, because if you want to know what he thinks and what he might do he has a fifty-year public record you can check on. I don't think he has to say anything for anyone who cares to know what his administration would be like. For me, the big plusses are his decades-long work to expand health insurance coverage and his consistent dislike of foreign wars (he repeatedly urged Obama to pull out of Afghanistan immediately.)  

The negative is that he has essentially followed the shifting preferences of the suburban, north Delaware votes who elected him, for example in opposing school busing and turning very "tough on crime" in the 80s and 90s. This leads people like my sons to say that he "doesn't believe in anything."

But maybe it means that he believes in democracy. Isn't it the job of representatives to do what their constituents want? If he had taken a strong stand in favor of busing or against mandatory minimum sentences he just would have lost his seat to a Republican, and how would that have helped?

Because of these conversations with my sons I have been thinking about this exact issue a lot lately. I believe strongly in democracy, and as an instinctual moderate I am not necessarily moved by strong, contrarian stands. If the people want something, who are politicians to stop them? On the other hand I am also not much impressed by the many empty suits in American politics who really seem to believe in nothing except themselves. And sometimes the people want pretty terrible stuff.

Where I end up is admiring men like Obama or George Bush I, who were moderates mainly interested in getting things done but did have a consistent tendency across their careers; they were found near the center, wherever it was, but always on the same side of it. I think Biden has generally been like that.


David said...

I think he may be an ideal president, at least for one term, for a deeply-divided, stalemated, unhappy land with an aging population. I'm reminded of what Henry IV said after his accession brought the French Wars of Religion to an end. "France and I," he said, "need a rest."

Almost everyone who isn't a Trump cultist or a leftist ideologue seems to agree he's unquestionably decent and benevolent and possessed of a basic fondness for humans and for his fellow Americans as a group. I think everyone expects that under Biden there would be more masks and COVID tests, less ICE brutality, more of taking science seriously, and a less-grudging spirit when it comes to helping people. For me at this point, that basic decency counts for a lot.

I am a little concerned about say-nothing as a campaign tactic. A column I read recently pointed about that saying little was one reason Dewey lost in 1948. Biden & co. may need to turn things up, at least somewhat, starting in about mid-September.

JustPeachy said...

He doesn't seem to be in good shape, mentally. Do you worry that by electing him, you don't really know who will be running things?

G. Verloren said...


We've already got a mentally unstable president in office, whose entire administration is so inept that you can scarcely say anyone is in charge.

However bad Biden might theoretically be or end up, he will at the very least have a cabinet and administration full of competent people. That's automatically a vast improvement over the other possible outcome.

Besides, we've already got the precedent of when Reagan's mind really began to slip, and his administration picked up the slack. Heck, some might argue the country actually ran better when Reagan wasn't well enough to decide things on his own.

Shadow said...

In Chris Wallace's interview with Trump that aired yesterday, Trump called the two world wars beautiful world wars. Never . . . He then went on to justify the waving of the confederate flag on the grounds that if we stopped waving it we would forget the civil war. And he's bragging about passing a test that is a test indicator of Alzheimer/dementia. It's not an intelligence test. Who brags about that? He says stuff like this every day. He's a long running joke, truth to the lie that the presidency is the most important office in the world. Because if that were so, we wouldn't still be here. I can't help thinking of the co-pilot who locked himself in the cockpit and rammed the plane into the ground killing himself and all the passengers.

I guess I should thank the powers that be that the decisions my local zoning board make and my HOA make affect my daily life more often than the decisions the president makes most of the time.


I worry about Biden's health and age. He's at an age where declaring him healthy today says nothing about his health tomorrow, and this will be truer and truer with each coming day and each coming year. And Trump is only three(?) years younger than Biden. That's what we've opted for by voting for all these septuagenarians. Somebody needs to be mean and say, "No, damn it, you're too old. Go home and sit on your front porch. Well buy you a rocking chair."

David said...

I have and always will find Trump utterly horrible. He once said that he could murder someone on Fifth Avenue, and his supporters would still love him. My corollary is that he could raise someone from the dead on Fifth Avenue, and I would still hate him.

My only requirement in his opponent is that the opponent win.

David said...

Thinking about it, hate may be the wrong word for what I feel for Trump. I hated Bush II and Cheney. I hated them for their unprovoked war on Iraq, their embrace of torture, their fantasies of empire, and their attitude toward the citizenry, which I would sum up as, "We'll decide what's what. You children run along and play." I confess I've shared in some of the forgiveness for Bush himself; I tend these days to think of the evil as mostly the doing of Cheney and his congeners. Perhaps I am mistaken.

Trump has been a poison to our body politic, and he's utterly unqualified and incapable as an officeholder, a vile excuse for a human, and an all-round disaster. But I must concede that at bottom what he has mostly done is bring out in us is a set of ills that were already there, at least to some large extent. Part of why I loved Obama was for keeping those ills tamped down. All good things come to an end, I suppose. And some things seem to have been decided that I'm glad for: as far as I can tell, Ryanesque objectivism, neoconism (as well, I pray, as liberal "problem from hell" interventionism), and at least the Clintonian extreme of neo-liberalism are all dead, dead, dead.

JustPeachy said...


Do you appreciate, at least a little, that Trump hasn't got us into any excitingly stupid new wars, and that he's made an effort (sharply resisted by both parties!) to get us out of our current entanglements?