Former Vice President Joe Biden in his campaign video.
March 10, 2020
If our current world were a TV show, it would be “The Apprentice.” An untrained, uneducated, unstable apprentice rules a fake boardroom, inciting turmoil and stress and cutthroat conflict—and every week someone gets fired.
People are tired of this show. It’s clear that they’re ready for a change and not one that provides even more conflict. They want something akin to “Father Knows Best” (if anyone remembers that); something scripted, civilized, with clean language and healthy family values and if it’s kind of dull and formulaic and corny, well, that’s OK.
This TV metaphor is not as farfetched as it might seem at first glance. Hosting “The Apprentice” was a truly formative experience for President Donald J. Trump. Its storms and stress drove ratings and as a creature of television Trump governs as though he’s constantly reaching for ratings. This is not conjecture or deduction; it shows up repeatedly in his infamous tweets.
But government is not what we’ll call “unreality” TV. It’s serious business that has enormous impacts on our lives and futures and the state of the nation and the world. It’s partially because of this (among so many other reasons) that Trump has got to go.
Both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden realize this. Now the time has finally come for Florida voters to weigh in.
Early voting in the Florida Democratic presidential primary began on Saturday, March 7. The early voting goes on until next Saturday, the 14th, then Election Day is next Tuesday, the 17th. It should go without saying but every eligible voter should vote.
For many Florida Democrats the choice they’re left with after the early primaries and caucuses is disappointing and uninspiring. Out of a field that covered a wide range of personalities, races, genders, ideologies and ages, they’re left with two old white men and a flaky outlier without much of a chance (Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-2-Hawaii)).
It has always been the position of this author that a media outlet covering politics has a duty to endorse a candidate when choices are difficult. Following candidates and political developments on a regular basis gives journalists insights and knowledge that need to be shared with voters. Whether the outlet is national or local television, print newspapers or even a simple blog, it is the obligation of independent media in a free society to help voters make an informed choice. Any endorsement offends some people but that comes with taking a stand on anything.
As the headline of this editorial makes clear, The Paradise Progressive is endorsing Joe Biden. But as the Declaration of Independence put it, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” requires that the causes of the decision be explained.
So let’s look at some of the big issues in turn.
Democracy versus dictatorship
The overriding issue of this election is whether the United States will remain a democracy or become a dictatorship under Donald J. Trump. It is that stark.
Biden clearly understands the threat and he put it directly and forthrightly in his April 25, 2019 campaign launch video.
“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” he said at the time. “The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America, America, is at stake.”
Campaign videos are in part propaganda intended to sway voters to elect the candidate. However, they also reflect who the candidate is and what he or she most cares about.
In his launch statement and subsequent speeches, Biden demonstrated that he really gets it; he fully understands the risks and the stakes in this election.
“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time,” he said. “But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are — and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”
The launch video drew heavily on events in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and Trump’s reaction to it.
“…That’s when we heard the words from the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were ‘some very fine people on both sides.’ Very fine people on both sides?” Biden said incredulously. “With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.”
He continued: “Folks, America’s an idea, an idea that’s stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It gives hope to the most desperate people on earth, it guarantees that everyone is treated with dignity and gives hate no safe harbor. It instills in every person in this country the belief that no matter where you start in life, there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you work at it.
“That’s what we believe. And above all else, that’s what’s at stake in this election.
“We can’t forget what happened in Charlottesville. Even more important, we have to remember who we are.
“This is America.”
All of this is correct. This election is not really about healthcare, or Social Security or particular policies or who cast which vote on whatever issue way back when. The election is about freedom versus tyranny and Biden fully understands that.
Sanders understands it too but while his crusade for social justice is admirable, he has not focused as much on the fundamental question the way Biden has—or at least he has not articulated his concern with the same focus.
If Biden wins, Sanders has the possibility of continuing to work for the goals in which he believes and even achieving them; if Trump wins, Sanders could be jailed for simply believing what he does. If Trump changes or amends the Constitution in a second term to suit himself (the usual dictator’s playbook) Sanders could lose the constitutional and political mechanisms to keep fighting for the American people and the American people could lose their freedom altogether.
Normality versus upheaval
In addition to the issues, elections are lost and won on underlying sentiment and today more than anything, exhaustion is the dominant underlying sentiment in much of the country.
People are longing to return to “normal”—a time when politics were distant, when celebrity trivialities made headlines, when people didn’t wake up every day to some new outrage or horror to dominate their breakfast conversation. They want a president they can reasonably trust, in whom they have confidence and one who behaves with dignity and good sense. They don’t want to overturn the existing order; that’s what Trump’s done for the last three years. They’d rather be secure and they want reasonable, predictable governance. It’s what Trump calls “boring.”
These are actually not revolutionary times. There’s ferment among some parts of the population, notably younger people and Latinos, but it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans are just weary.
Bernie Sanders is offering revolution while Biden offers renewal. While Sanders and his followers express legitimate grievances and there’s a need for reform, Biden can win vast swaths of voters offended and appalled by Trump’s behavior and madness.
This is the “electability” argument and Biden has shown that he can inspire moderate, centrist Democrats and mobilize them to the polls; presumably he can do this with the rest of the population.
Donald Trump has nicknamed Joe Biden “Sleepy Joe.” But that’s not so bad. After losing lots of sleep over the past three years, we could all use a little rest in the next four years.
The fact is that the next president is not going to be spending his term creating new programs or expanding existing ones; he’s going to be repairing all the terrible damage that Trump has done to the nation, its Constitution, its laws, its government, its diplomacy and its standing abroad. He will especially have to cope with the gigantic deficits Trump has run up. In fact, his most pressing problem will probably be staving off a national bankruptcy and restoring equity to the tax code in order to do it.
This brings us to a third major issue…
Healing versus wounding
When Biden gave his victory speech after Super Tuesday he said, “We need a President who can fight, but make no mistake about it, I could fight, but look, we need this badly, as badly, someone who could heal,” adding as well, “We need a President who can heal the country as well, and that is what I will do as your President. I promise you.”
Perhaps it’s not as eloquent as Abraham Lincoln’s “with malice toward none, with charity toward all,” but the sentiment is there. In fact, Biden is the only candidate to use the word “heal” in a victory speech.
Healing will be another major task ahead of the next non-Trump president. Biden already sees that.
Back in June 2019 when Donald Trump addressed his campaign kickoff rally in Orlando, he inadvertently revealed his real state of mind when he accused Democrats of being driven by “hatred, prejudice and rage.” It was as clear and obvious a case of projection as any politician has ever uttered.
For the 2020 election Trump and the Republicans were setting up a Wagnerian scenario of a cosmic clash between Trumpism and socialism. Like pirates, they were loading their guns with all the hatred, prejudice and rage they could ram down the muzzles and were preparing to fire volleys of vileness and vitriol at all who dared oppose Trump.
It’s as though Biden has rained on all their powder. Trump would love to run against Sanders. One of the reasons that he was so intent on getting dirt on Biden from Ukraine was that he knew that a reasonable, moderate, centrist was his most dangerous opponent.
The answer to hatred, prejudice and rage is not more intense hatred, prejudice and rage—it’s healing, tolerance and calm. That may sound wimpy or weak but it has power, as Biden’s electoral totals have shown. Instead of an apocalyptic clash between socialism and America that Trump could mount like a pale horse to Armageddon, Biden presents the prospect of reason overcoming madness and—to repeat it once again—democracy overcoming despotism.
Biden can ride these currents and he understands the whirlwind.
As of this writing, it looks like Biden will likely win the Democratic primary in Florida and ultimately be the Democratic nominee.
But there’s a lot that will be happening between now and Election Day in November. Not only are we facing a global epidemic but we have a financial meltdown on Wall Street. The Russians will be interfering. Trump may look very weak now but he’ll be fighting back, no doubt using every imaginable dirty trick as well as voter suppression, vote rigging and outright fraud. Hopefully, this will not include a physical attack or assassination. A lot can happen.
Still, Joe Biden represents the best chance of victory in 2020.
It is said that Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line. All Democrats may not love Joe Biden but they can respect him and if they can unite, if they can fall in line, then Americans just may have the last, best hope for a nation that Lincoln called “the last best hope of earth.”
Liberty lives in light
© 2020 by David Silverberg
Coming soon: The hidden story of the Democratic primaries.