President Joe Biden is a fundamentally good man. He is also far from perfect and appears comfortable with that fact. He is not a messiah; he is a man who can admit when he is wrong. I admire that trait and take it as a sign of maturity and hard-won character.
Biden has suffered great tragedy in his life but maintains a positive view of our humanity and capacity for good. He has committed most of his adult life to public service. He is a patient and loving father. He loves his animal family members. Biden stands by his troubled son and is not afraid to show compassion and love for him even as cruel critics mock him for doing so. He is a loving husband. He struggles with severe stuttering and is a role model for children and adults who have that challenge.
Unlike many politicians – especially his immediate predecessor — I have no doubt that Biden possesses a sincere love for the nation. I disagree with Biden about some of his policies and political positions, both past and present. But I do believe that, at his core, he is guided by what he believes is best for the country.
But Biden has a huge blind spot, a willful one at this point, that is very vexing and frustrating for me and likely many of his other supporters. He is possessed by a nostalgia for a Washington D.C. that no longer exists.
Biden is obsessed with delusions of yesteryear where bipartisanship, comity, decency and respect for the institutions ruled both sides of the aisle in Congress. In this halcyon dream, Republicans and Democrats may have had their differences, but they were united during the Cold War against the Red Menace.
Biden's nostalgia for this past Washington D.C. colors his perceptions of current events. In reality, that version of Washington is dead. The Republican Party, "movement conservatism", Trumpism, Fox News, and the larger right-wing movement killed it. The technical language beloved by pundits, academics and other experts about "polarization" and "negative partisanship" is just a way of prettying up that basic ugly reality. Ultimately, today's Republican Party does not believe in democracy. It is a criminal insurrectionist neofascist white supremacist "Christian" theocratic authoritarian political cult organization. As seen on Jan. 6 and the country's ongoing democracy crisis, today's Republican fascists and the larger white right and "conservative" movement are holding a (literal) dagger at the heart of American democracy – and Biden's presidency as well.
Biden is a good man, a political pragmatist who desperately wants to find opportunities for alliances and "unity" with the Republican fascists with the goal of working together to make the country better.
Here is some real talk: There are very few "good" people left in today's Republican Party. That is true of both the leadership and rank and file. Biden is a good man, a political pragmatist who desperately wants to find opportunities for alliances and "unity" with the Republican fascists with the goal of working together to make the country better. To save democracy, however, there can be no alliance or working together with fascists because to do so strengthens their evil cause.
Moreover, Biden appears to truly believe that today's Republican Party and "conservative" movement are an aberration that can be fixed or otherwise rehabilitated. But as Rick Wilson, Joe Walsh, and other Never-Trumpers have repeatedly explained today's Republican Party needs to be burned to the ground. Biden for whatever reason, appears unwilling to accept that reality.
On Tuesday, the president delivered a speech to a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraiser where he again surrendered to his dangerous nostalgia-driven blind spot. In the context of discussing Trump and the Republican Party's failures abroad, Biden said:
And you think that what would happen is that there would be a little bit of, as we Catholics say, an epiphany in the Republican Party. Well, instead it's been the exact opposite. They've just doubled down.
Look at what the present leader of the Republican Party — a decent man, I think — McCarthy — look — look what he had to do. He had to make commitments that are just absolutely off the wall for a Speaker of the House to make in terms of being able to become the Leader.
Biden then said this about the Republican Party:
So I don't know what's gone haywire here with this Republican Party. But there's two things that I think we have to run on: what we stand for, what we did, and what we need to do more of, and what we're unwilling to do under any circumstances.
And part of that is to make clear to the Republican — to the country that we are not going to tolerate or put up with these MAGA Republicans, these Republicans in — you know, more than just — the Trump Republican Party. Thirty percent of that — 30, 35 percent of that party is Trump's party. And he has a very different view. …
And there's enough Republicans in the House of Representatives now who, on very critical things, will vote with Democrats when they start talking about the really crazy stuff. But we can't take our eye off the ball. We can't take our eye off the ball.
Who is this "decent man" Kevin McCarthy? What of this Republican Party that Biden believes is somehow distinct from Donald Trump and the MAGA movement?
The truth is Kevin McCarthy is an insurrectionist who supported Trump's coup attempt on Jan. 6. McCarthy has given the "Freedom Caucus" de facto control over the House of Representatives by appointing conspiracists, white supremacists, fascists, and other political evildoers to key positions. McCarthy and the Republicans in Congress have promised to impeach Biden although he has committed no "high crimes" worthy of that or any other such punishment, and to conduct kangaroo court investigations into Nancy Pelosi, and other leading Democrats for their "crimes" and "treason," i.e. daring to support democracy by opposing the Republican fascists and their movement.
Meanwhile, McCarthy and Republicans will continue to do whatever they can to protect their Dear Leader Donald Trump and themselves from being investigated or held criminally responsible for their role in the Jan. 6 coup attempt and attack on the Capitol. They are also escalating their war on American democracy by amplifying the Big Lie and supporting right-wing terrorism. They do not believe in science, rationality, empirical reality and have a gross disdain for learned expertise and intellectuals.
Across the country, the Republican Party is suppressing free speech and free thought by enacting thought crime laws. As part of that anti-democracy campaign, the Republicans and the larger white right are feverishly working to enact a new American apartheid that limits the voting and other civil rights of Black and brown people. McCarthy and the other Republicans in Congress support legislation that will further take away women's reproductive rights and freedoms and turn them into the chattel and property of their husbands and other men. The Republican Party is in thrall to Christofascists and other White right-wing Christian extremists who want superior "rights" for people like them as they take away the human rights of LGBTQ people and other targeted groups.
McCarthy and the Republicans in Congress are holding the country's financial well-being hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling as part of a plan to further gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the social safety net more generally. If enacted these policies will kill millions of Americans. Yet they want to give more money to the plutocrats and other gangster capitalists by imposing a national sales tax that will disproportionately impact poor and working class people.
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Biden's speech was crafted to fit his audience. They largely agree with Biden's nostalgic vision for an America and a return to "normal" where the Republicans are "responsible" partners in governance. These beliefs and sentiments reflect the deeper systemic problems and legitimacy crisis that spawned Trumpism and the Republican fascist movement. The DNC and the other corporate-controlled "centrists" in both parties (and the American news media and political elite class more broadly) will not acknowledge that "normal" was not that great for most Americans.
There is also a convergence of interests among the Democratic Party and Republican Party donor class and other funders. Yes, they may be ideologically opposed to one another on many issues. But in the end, they are more alike than they are different.
The American people know that something is very wrong with the country's politics and society – and leadership class. But the DNC and other elites are too often unresponsive to those concerns and demands. President Biden is a good man who could be a transformational leader. But if he continues to worship at the mantle of an America and D.C. politics that no longer exist then he risks becoming just a footnote, little more than a trivia answer about who the president was between Trump's first term and his neofascist successors.