1. The Policy
Joe Biden isn’t just a conservative Democrat now. He’s been a conservative Democrat his whole life. He was conservative by the standards of the 1970s. He’s a segregationist who didn’t want “jungle” children mixing with white children and who gave a eulogy for Strom Thurmond. Biden didn’t support women’s rights, claiming Roe v. Wade “went too far” and that he didn’t “think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” He didn’t support gay marriage until– after years of opposition that included voting for the Defense of Marriage act and claiming that both he and Barack Obama were against gay marriage in 2008— he blurted out his support in an interview in 2012, accidentally making it the de facto Democratic Party line. (It was, after all, just eight years prior that George W. Bush won re-election by using gay marriage as a wedge issue to drive evangelical turnout, and just four years prior that in Hillary Clinton’s own presidential run she affirmed that “marriage is between a man and a woman”– a stance in line with both Biden’s own comments and Obama’s position at the time.)
Joe Biden’s history of “reaching across the aisle” that he loves to tout invariably involves working with Republicans to pass right-wing policies that cause more harm toward the marginalized and the victims of systemic oppression– the people the Democrats are ostensibly supposed to represent. His policies and statements toward black people in particular are racist, patronizing, and even regard them as subhuman.
He’s had his hand directly in some of the most harmful pieces of legislation in the last 40 years, including the 1994 Crime Bill and the 2005 bill which made it impossible to discharge student loans through bankruptcy. He’s a War on Drugs fanatic. He’s been the biggest friend to high finance for his entire career; Elizabeth Warren once snarkily referred to him as “the Senator from MBNA.” He was Vice President for the “Deporter in Chief.” He was Vice President when the child cages on the border were built.
He never met a war he didn’t like; his excuse for voting for the Iraq War (which doesn’t hold up to an examination of the historical record) was that he trusted George W. Bush, despite the obvious transparency of Bush’s lies (and the many, many people who didn’t believe them)– and that kind of poor judgment (the same judgment that made him think he could get away with plagiarizing Neil Kinnock’s speech in his 1988 presidential run) hasn’t gotten better with time. He also claims to have opposed the war as soon as it started, another lie.
Joe Biden is more committed to conservative policies than Donald Trump is. Donald Trump is a phony populist, but he understands the need to do what makes him popular enough to win elections well enough to fake it, at least. Allow a friend to explain further:
[F]or what it’s worth, I think that Donald Trump is the lesser of two evils here. Biden is in worse shape physically and mentally. Biden has a worse record on race. Trump is a fascist, but he hasn’t done anything as overtly fascist as The Crime Bill or The Patriot Act. (And as far as that goes, as this crisis goes on we will see if Trump is a True Fascist or a dimwitted reactionary with a big mouth, and if it’s the former you can be sure he won’t give up power just because I asked him to.) Trump is awful on foreign policy, but seems to have an instinctual understanding that wars are unpopular and he shouldn’t do them, while Biden is a committed imperialist. Economically, Trump is a false populist, but Biden is a sincere conservative. You can make an argument about the Supreme Court, but Biden helped put Clarence Thomas there, and voted for Antonin Scalia, and is personally pro-life, so I don’t see why everyone is so confident that his appointees would be much better than Trump’s. I’m really not sure what Biden’s pitch to someone like me is. I imagine a Joe Biden presidency would be a continuation of the Republican agenda with what little resistance the Democrats currently put up, completely hobbled.
Donald Trump’s conservatism is an outgrowth of his ego and self-aggrandization. Biden’s is an outgrowth of a commitment to conservative policies, to maintaining America’s white supremacist order. Trump is a white supremacist, but he’s also lazy and uncommitted to it as a project. Joe Biden is committed. At a time when the greed of capitalists has set the stage for open fascism, when a pandemic and climate change could kill us all, an attempt to return to “the way things were,” a governance that is fundamentally right-wing and capitalist, is nothing less than apocalyptic.
Democrats cannot tout Joe Biden as a return to stability and values in the White House in any sense other than “having a president who is a career politician instead of a career celebrity businessman.”
2. The Person
The Democrats who stump for Joe Biden promote him as a return of decency and integrity to the White House. But nothing in Joe Biden’s history, or recent behavior, suggests he is either of those things. Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings while on the Senate Judiciary committee was execrable, and helped install Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. He’s made horrifically racist comments in the past, and not necessarily the distant past. He has “no empathy” for people who are suffering as a direct result of his policies. In that same speech, Biden cites the Civil Rights movement of his time, pulling a trick Hillary Clinton is fond of (reference, again, Hillary): Namely, insinuating his participation in a righteous movement by mentioning his close proximity to it, and not what he actually did during it— that is to say, clerking for a prominent Republican and then working to get a Republican governor elected, and not actual activism. (The closest Biden came to civil rights activism was confronting Corn Pop.) When he’s not insinuating, he’s just flat-out lying about what he did, a recurring pattern in this article.
This primary, he’s not only lied through his teeth repeatedly about Social Security (among other things), he’s frequently been belligerent and combative with voters, calling them fat, liars, sticking his finger in their faces, and threatening to hit them. (It’s part of a long history of lying and belligerence.) That’s when he’s not telling immigration activists “You should vote for Trump.”
What’s more than that, Biden, who had two brain aneurysms in 1988, appears to be in some form of cognitive decline, one that can’t be explained by his “lifelong stutter.” Increasingly so as this primary has gone on, he makes revealing mistakes, frequently calls people the wrong names or forgets their names, has trouble remembering his thoughts, simple idioms, or other basic information, regularly expresses himself incoherently, and at one point seemed to have no idea where he was on stage. He seems to be out of energy in this clip, like he’s just too tired to go back and finish his thought. He had to be set in front of a green screen of his own home during a recent speech, which raises multiple troubling questions. (Why? Where is he? When was this filmed? Why does he appear to have an earpiece while also reading from a teleprompter? And why did it take a week for Biden’s team to set up a way to broadcast from home?)
He does not seem competent to handle the job– which is plenty troubling on top of his bad policy record and apparent set of values. Compare the above clips to this 2016 clip of him speaking about Bernie Sanders; if he has a “lifelong stutter,” then the clear difference between this clip and his current speech, in just a few years, is very noticeable. For further comparison, watch these clips of him trying to cite the Declaration of Independence, just two years apart. This man is not functioning at the level he was even two years ago.
Most troubling, though, is the rash of accusations of inappropriate conduct with women. Biden has been accused of inappropriate conduct with eight women now– beyond all the clips of him invading little girls’ personal spaces, sniffing their hair, and the like– the most serious, of course, being Tara Reade’s allegation of sexual assault. Reade’s account is detailed and specific, and I believe it; the Biden team and the #VoteBlueNoMatterWho #BelieveWomen Democrats are either pretending these allegations don’t exist (and deleting their tweets about Brett Kavanaugh), cooking up excuses to delegitimize Reade and to not demand justice for her (or at the very least demand that Biden withdraw from seeking the presidency), or outright accusing her of lying, and being a Russian asset— the McCarthyist excuse the Party cooked up on Election Night 2016 so they could avoid any form of introspection as to why they lost. And, of course, harassing women who demand the allegations be taken seriously. In their defense, it’s not like the way Biden speaks about women and girls might indicate he has a troubling attitude toward them, either.
In January, Tara Reade goes to Time's Up, represented by SKD Knickerbocker, and is told that they refuse to fund her allegation against Joe Biden. A few weeks later, Anita Dunn, SKDK partner, is elevated to the top of the Biden campaign, and SKDK paid $800k by the campaign pic.twitter.com/cLFvyqdLIO
— jack allison (@jackallisonLOL) March 28, 2020
As you can see above, Anita Dunn, now running Joe Biden’s campaign, is managing director for SKDKnickerbocker, the PR agency that defended Harvey Weinstein, among others, and represents Time’s Up. Time’s Up told Reade in January they could not pursue her claim against Biden; Dunn then joined Biden’s staff as lead advisor in February. This makes Time’s Up seem like a “catch and kill” operation; one designed to nip sexual assault claims against powerful men in the bud before they see the light of day.
People were wondering why Biden would hire Harvey Weinstein's damage control team.
Well, now you know. He knew what to be prepared for.
— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) March 29, 2020
Joe Biden has done multiple interviews since Reade’s allegations were made public, and as of this article, he has not been asked once about those allegations. Some media even did their best to hide the story.
3. The Primary
Let’s look at what’s happened with the Democratic Primary. Going all the way back to 2017…
There’s a strong movement from Bernie supporters to make Keith Ellison the new head of the DNC. Behind the scenes, Barack Obama puts his thumb on the scale to elevate Tom Perez instead.
Last year, the New York Times reported that a coalition of leading Democrats and their donors were explicitly collaborating to stop Bernie Sanders. Names like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Neera Tanden, Bernard Schwartz, and… Pete Buttigieg were involved!
The Iowa primary was, for no legitimate reason at all other than the DNC insisted, conducted through a buggy “app” that failed to report results properly, and whose developers received funding from the Pete Buttigieg campaign. This allowed Buttigieg to temporarily claim victory while the actual results took weeks to properly sort out (and, arguably, were never sorted out). Sanders won the most votes, but somehow Buttigieg ended up with more delegates.
(Somehow, as the Hillary documentary reminds us, Clinton’s 0.3% win in Iowa in 2016 was called that night, and her team was very confident in the results despite the low margin! Why would that be?)
New Hampshire was so slow to roll out its vote totals that Buttigieg claimed victory when Sanders eventually won. Indeed, in every state Sanders won, some kind of voting irregularity delayed the results, sometimes for weeks. After Iowa and New Hampshire, mass media covered Buttigieg like he had won both states, even though he had not, thus providing him free visibility and a boost in the polls.
Polling stations were consistently removed at the last minute for districts that largely catered to young voters (like college campuses) or Latino voters, the two groups that voted for Bernie Sanders in the widest margin.
Every single state with electronic voting machines had discrepancies from the exit polling well outside the margin of error for what the UN considers free and fair elections. Every single one of these discrepancies, just like every single one of the delayed results, hurt Bernie Sanders’ totals.
Just before Super Tuesday, nearly all the remaining right-wing candidates– most notably Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, who received a phone call from Barack Obama— dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden. Not dropping out: Elizabeth Warren, the candidate most likely to take votes from Sanders. (Warren eventually dropped out, but she still has not endorsed either candidate, an odd stance for someone who professes to hold the beliefs and policy positions she does.)
All of this was done in conjunction with a media that touted Biden’s endorsements to the tune of $72 million in free media, while continuing to ignore his lies, misconduct, and competency– but still finding time to blast Bernie Sanders. (Part of the broader pattern of the Democratic machine’s often anti-semitic attacks on Sanders.) Sanders is consistently held to an impossible standard of conduct which requires deliberate historical ignorance.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DNC not only tried to encourage people to vote in person against the CDC’s advisory— which has already led to poll workers testing positive as a result, to say nothing of how many voters might have contracted COVID by voting in person– but the Biden campaign did the same and accused the Sanders campaign of voter suppression for telling people to follow the CDC’s guidelines.
What’s more, the DNC has threatened to strip delegates from states that delay their primary because of the pandemic, a move blatantly designed to coronate Joe Biden, force the primary to continue under extraordinary circumstances where voting risks the spread of a new and deadly virus. (Andrew Cuomo did decide to delay the New York primary… and guess what? Bernie Sanders is leading in the polls there! I’m sure Cuomo will be heartbroken for New York to lose delegates. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the rumors that Cuomo is being floated as a convention stand-in when Biden inevitably is found unfit to run. The manufacture of consent is already underway, even as Cuomo is cutting Medicaid in the midst of the pandemic.)
In conclusion, the Democratic Party’s primary is illegitimate due to their own methods of conducting it, and if Joe Biden wins it, his nomination will be equally un-democratic, party insiders using every tool at their disposal to force through a candidate. If the Democrats pick another candidate to replace Biden, and it’s not Bernie Sanders, it’ll have been even less democratic, and in any case such behavior cannot be rewarded.
It’s worth noting, by the way, that Barack Obama won the presidency on the strength of his millennial grassroots organizing with Organizing For America. After he won, he immediately disbanded it. He resuscitated the careers of both Biden and Hillary Clinton, when he had no reason to. As a result, despite the fact that young people are moving more and more left-wing– many of whom are because they backed Obama and then his fiscal policy destroyed their futures– the Democrats are insistent on running candidates who are further and further right-wing. The old guard is refusing to give up power, because their entire job is to function as a bulwark to keep a real left-wing movement out of power, as it has been since the days the Koch Brothers-funded Democratic Leadership Council took over the reins of the Party via Bill Clinton.
And isn’t it something that, in the midst of a pandemic, the best Obama can do is post struggle porn? When he’s not parasailing with Richard Branson, getting a show on Netflix– where the spouse of one of his ambassadors is an executive— or releasing his lifestyle-brand list of the best in arts and entertainment of the year.
4. The Pandemic
Joe Biden’s policies are wholly inadequate to dealing with this pandemic. And his presence has been nonexistent.
We are in an unprecedented time right now, with a global viral pandemic spreading without a known cure, and most people being forced to stay at home and minimize social interaction to prevent it from spreading. Our medical system is wholly unequipped to deal with this; Medicare For All and a stronger social safety net, which Bernie Sanders has called for for years, would have gone a long way toward minimizing the spread of this epidemic, if for no other reason than people who actually need testing and treatment could get it, rather than worrying about being bankrupted and waiting until it’s too late. (Of course, there are more reasons than that.) The pandemic threatens to shut down the economy and society in general for months; it is likely that the world that emerges will be vastly different from the previous one.
Joe Biden has been nearly invisible this whole time.
When he does appear, he seems tired and disinterested, incoherent, not taking proper precautions, in heavy need of notes and teleprompters and an earpiece, refusing to offer specifics on handling the problem, refusing to criticize Donald Trump, nearly accidentally giving out his phone number, and forgetting his place in the middle of his sentences. He still claims Medicare For All won’t help with anything, which is about the only consistent talking point he’s been able to remember. He praises Ronald Reagan’s handling of the AIDS crisis, appropriate for someone who presently is doing nothing about a pandemic.
Donald Trump’s approval ratings over his handling of the pandemic have gone up. This despite the fact that he clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing and hops from thought to thought without a concern for how to cure the disease or for anything besides what makes him look good and his personal grievances, really. They’ve gone up because he’s clearly doing something, and Joe Biden is clearly doing nothing. (And the rest of the Democratic leadership is obsessed with means testing, getting millionaires their cut, and proclaiming what they can’t do.)
What will Joe Biden do as president? How will he handle a crisis? The signs this months suggest he is wholly unequipped to do so.
(Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has turned his grassroots network into a means to communicate information and a way to raise funds for COVID-19 relief, and is using his platform and power in the Senate to blast his colleagues and hold out for more protection for unemployed workers. You know, leadership.)
5. The Presidential Election
All of this will come back to haunt Biden if he wins the nomination. Donald Trump will hammer him on “Sleepy Joe“– and will have plenty of footage to work with in his campaign ads, too. Donald Trump will hammer him on Tara Reade’s accusation as well as the other footage of his inappropriate touching. Donald Trump will hammer him on Hunter Biden and Burisma, a blatant example of corruption and nepotism that Democrats are desperately trying to deflect with “It’s not corrupt if you can’t provide proof in writing of a quid pro quo!”
It will not matter that Trump is a hypocrite, because his voters are enthusiastically behind him; it only matters if he successfully depresses voters who are considering voting for Biden. And he will. Because Biden brings nothing to the table: A terrible track record; reprehensible personal conduct; a lack of mental fitness or energy for the job; no solutions to any of the crises we face; and no willingness to fight for them. His supporters are already low in their enthusiasm for him. Even his own wife isn’t that excited about his candidacy. Many Sanders voters will not vote for Biden, either because they were never Democrats, because they recognize that his policies have caused such harm and that he so lacks personal character that he is not a justifiable vote, or because they simply reject the Democratic Party as it has rejected them over and over.
Bernie Sanders is leading in polls with Latino voters and voters under 45 by 50 points over Joe Biden. There is a very strong chance that many of those voters will not only not vote for Joe Biden, but having seen the Democratic Party now twice deliberately maneuver to thwart their interests, to tell them “Fuck off, we don’t need you, and it’s your fault if we lose, because you have to vote for us, and nothing is ever our fault,” would rather let the Democratic Party and its leadership crash and burn, so that an actual party that puts workers first and takes existential threats like climate change and the rise of global fascism seriously, can rise from the ashes of this left-barricading consultancy masquerading as a political party. (Which is fair, since, in reverse, that same leadership would rather lose to Donald Trump than win with Bernie Sanders. Twice.)
They do not see Donald Trump as an aberration, as someone who sullies the presidential brand more than anything, as someone who must be voted out so we can all get back to brunch, as someone who makes us nostalgic for George W. Bush. They see, correctly, that Donald Trump is the product of forty years of increasingly right-wing economic and social policy; of a mass media concerned with spectacle, ratings, and corporate ideology rather than news; and of the bipartisan effort to shave working people, marginalized people, and millennials to the bone:
Following the wipeout 49-state, 512 electoral-vote loss of Walter Mondale in 1984, demoralized Democratic Party leaders felt marooned, between the awesome fundraising power of Ronald Reagan Republicans and the irritant liberalism of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition.
To get out, they sold out. A vanguard of wonks like Al From and Sen. Sam Nunn at the Democratic Leadership Council devised a marketing plan: two middle fingers, one in each direction.
They would steal financial support for Republicans by out-whoring them on economic policy. The left would be kneecapped via “triangulation,” i.e., the public reveling in the lack of choices for poor, minority, and liberal voters.
Young pols like Bill Clinton learned they could screw constituents and still collect from them. What would they do, vote Republican? Better, the parental scolding of disobedient minorities like Sister Souljah combined with the occasional act of mindless sadism (like the execution of mentally ill Ricky Ray Rector) impressed white “swing” voters, making “triangulation” a huge win-win — more traction in red states, less whining from lefty malcontents.
Democrats went on to systematically rat-fuck every group in their tent: labor, the poor, minorities, soldiers, criminal defendants, students, homeowners, media consumers, environmentalists, civil libertarians, pensioners — everyone but donors.
They didn’t just fail to defend groups, but built monuments to their betrayal. They broke labor’s back with NAFTA, embraced mass incarceration with the 1994 Crime Bill, and ushered in the Clear Channel era with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Welfare Reform in 1996 was a sellout of the Great Society (but hey, at least Clinton kept the White House that year!). The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act gave us Too Big to Fail. Shock Therapy was the Peace Corps in reverse. They sold out on Iraq, expanded Dick Cheney’s secret regime of surveillance and assassination, gave Wall Street a walk after 2008, then lost an unlosable election, which they blamed on a conspiracy of leftist intellectuals and Russians.
Still, if you were black, female, gay, an immigrant, a union member, college-educated, had been to Europe, owned a Paul Klee print, or knew Miller’s Crossing was a good movie, you owed Democrats your vote. Why? Because they “got things done.”
Now these people in the latter paragraph (or at least the first half of it) are saying, “enough.” They have spoken as to the candidate they want to see. If the Democratic Party as an institution rejects them and doesn’t get their votes, that’s on the Party.
6. The Presidency
If, despite all this, Joe Biden becomes the President of the United States, he will likely continue the Republican agenda, except with the Democrats completely captured and not even offering the token institutional resistance they do now. If the Democrats install someone else as the nominee when it’s clear Biden is not fit for the job, that person will likely continue the Republican agenda, except with the Democrats completely captured and not even offering the token institutional resistance they do now. In either case, the only policies that pass will be right-wing; the only “bipartisan” legislation will surely be to cut the social safety net and cut corporate regulation– as was the case under Bill Clinton; as was the case under Barack Obama. And the Democratic candidate in 2024 will lose to a much more committed fascist than Donald Trump. Tom Cotton, Dan Crenshaw, Josh Hawley, and Nikki Haley are already preparing their bids, you can be sure.
Joe Biden is a disaster on every level and he will not be president. He is manifestly unfit for the job in every way– morally, ethically, cognitively, policy-wise, leadership-wise, judgment-wise– and the best-case scenario for a Biden presidency is that he does nothing and then a committed fascist likely wins in 2024. The only question is whether the Democrats figure all this out in time to nominate Bernie Sanders– or whether Sanders has the sense to run independently if the Party uses an illegitimate process to sideline him again. It is not just a moral necessity, but a practical necessity, that Bernie Sanders’ name is on the ballot November 3, 2020. I won’t say that will be enough. But if we’re going to take on the crises of our time and the rot in America that has left us unequipped to deal with them, through conventional political means, that’s the bare minimum.