#180: Let Biden Be Biden

I have been struggling with this for a while. Clearly, Joe Biden as President is an improvement in many ways over his predecessor, but he is certainly not perfect. In some ways, Trump may have had the right instincts on how to convince voters he could solve their problems, but the execution was dismal to the point that you woke up every day nervous about what he may have posted on Twitter. What Biden brings us all is a sense of better predictability.

Biden’s promise, from the start, was the following: As a moderate, he would vigorously attempt to negotiate between different camps, create a workable compromise and make government predictable again.

Now, this is a tricky position already. If you are putting yourself in the center between opposing poles, you will always make quite a few people unhappy. This is a given. Any moderate knows that they stand in opposition to more revolutionary-minded interests from either the left or the right. It would always be easier to just give in to one side, parrot the most extreme positions and self-righteously bathe in the sunlight of the perfect utopian vision while not getting anything done – which, of course, would then be the mistake of those who would not have achieved the same status of enlightenment. If you think that only the Republican party suffers from that, you may need to adjust your perspectives towards the Democratic party. Both have ideologues, both have revolutionaries, both have self-appointed prophets of the perfect vision for society.

What Joe Biden – with all his faults – represents is the possibility of a middle ground, of a slow but sustainable path towards achieving something instead of nothing. He is the ONLY asset of the Democratic party in that sense – on the Republican side, there may be a few as well, but they are drowned out by the still formidable Trump movement and the few remains of the Tea Party (which, to his credit, Trump was able to almost stomp out).

No matter what you believe to be right for the country, the challenge of politics has been pointed out by Marx as follows: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it” (11th Thesis on Feuerbach). This means, that whatever you may believe to be the right cause of action, you need to pursue a path that actually allows this action to succeed. This is where radicals routinely fail: Their demands – as correct they may well sometimes be! – are typically not matched with a strategy for putting them into action.

How do you get things done? It takes both vision and the ability for compromise: In a divided society (which is almost always (!) the case) you need to convince the respective other side of the merits of your position. Once you win over a bipartisan majority, you can move ahead assuredly, knowing that your basis for making your proposed change happen is a solid one.

What this requires is humility – the recognition that you, yourself, are not in full possession of the truth, that your opponents may have legitimate reasons for disagreement, that the world cannot easily be divided – in most cases – between “good” and “evil”, and that you need to convince others rather than to bully them into submission. This requires the recognition that others have a right to disagree, a sense of respect for your opponent, and a willingness to work against divisiveness rather than to increase it.

This is what Joe Biden has always represented; it is what he has promised to do; it is what he can do if we let him.

Thus, to paraphrase the old line, let Biden be Biden!