The independent news organization of Duke University

Joe Biden is a political opioid

roused rabble

I awoke in a cold sweat, the words–“have you voted yet?”–clattering in my head. “Early voting ends October 31st!” My nightmare was the last straw. The scores of oh-so-earnest do-gooders sporting big white “GO VOTE” posters had finally gotten to me. It was time to concede to their pleading and to just go exercise the damn franchise. I’ve voted now, ok? Quit your badgering. 

The choice was easy, too. I chose the man who would bring necessary change to the political leadership of this country. The candidate who would uphold America’s interests and ideals abroad and who would fight, with guts and gusto, for average men and women at home. I voted for Donald Trump. 

My reasons are straightforward. I think this country has been in a state of decline for decades now, even preceding my birth. If we are to recover, if we are to realize this great nation’s potential then body blow after body blow must be delivered to the comfortable Washington consensus and its compromised advocates. So I voted for a Pugilist in Chief. 

Will he “Make America Great Again?” I hope so, but probably not. And I won’t shy from admitting that Trump is largely a disappointment. The potential for change and upheaval that he heralded in 2016 has failed to manifest. He has surrendered to the inertia of establishment Washington and has become a slave to his own vices. Unfortunately, the best argument for the incumbent is that he is preferable to the embodiment of the status quo ante, to Joe Biden–the champion of restoration. 

Trump may be more conservative politically, but Biden is the definitional “conservative” in the race. But even more than simple conservation, Biden seeks a restoration of what once was. Uncle Joe wants to reset the clock, to treat the Trump Presidency as a temporary fever dream and to restore the latter days of the Obama administration. Sadly, I suspect he will be successful. 

Nonetheless, it is telling that Biden’s foremost supporters make few honest arguments about the real ends of his restoration. They know they cannot defend what came before––endless protracted wars, economic stagnation and assaults against civil and religious organizations who refused to kneel at the Altar of Progress. Instead, his supporters pitch the prospect of a Biden presidency as a relieving opiate for the masses. To quote President Obama, “with Joe and Kamala at the helm, you won’t have to think about them every single day… it won’t be so exhausting.” 

Trump is exhausting, but productively so. He is exhausting because he refuses to observe the traditional pieties and sweet lies that shield us from the rotting underbelly of our political reality. Instead, Trump abrasively employs the bully pulpit as a means of revealing that which is deeply wrong with the United States. From disastrous, endless wars, the threat of China’s rise and the lies of the mainstream media to the abuses of big tech and the corruption of the political establishment, Trump consistently exposes the evils of American politics. But, to anticipate reasonable criticism, I concede that he has not substantively addressed some of these issues to an adequate degree. For reasons including his own ineptitude as well as entrenched resistance from both inside and outside his administration, he has struggled to consistently transform prescription into program. 

Yet Biden is worse still. Outside of the conviction that “Trump is bad,” Joe Biden lacks any sweeping diagnosis of what is wrong with America. Instead he relies on pleasant but meaningless pledges to “restore the soul of America.” He won’t acknowledge, much less address, a variety of this country’s pressing problems. 

Biden supports prolonging the longest war in American history. In his guts, he does not believe China poses a challenge to the United States. He is buoyed by the utter allegiance of the chattering classes to his candidacy and so will never reproach them. The oligarchs of Silicon Valley are his patrons and will therefore never be his foes, regardless of the threat they pose to the public square. A craggy creation of the Washington establishment, Joe Biden cannot place a spotlight on political corruption because that would place his own warts in stark relief. In tacit admission of the fact that he is fundamentally not a changemaker, Biden’s advocates bill him as a painkiller, a numbing agent that does not excite in any way. 

View it this way: if one analogized this cycle’s crop of prominent Presidential contenders to drinks then Donald Trump would be a shot of tequila, a raw stimulant that motivates the passions. Bernie Sanders, despite his present pathetic and subordinated state, could be likened to a flask of unvarnished vodka imported from deep within a post-Soviet state. Needless to say, Trump and Sanders differ in key, fundamental ways, but they are alike insofar as they both acknowledge that the situation is dire and that average people must brace themselves for action in order to fix what is broken.  

Compared to those two, Biden belongs in a separate category altogether. He is a warm glass of milk, a soothing palliative sipped while Uncle Joe tucks you in, all the while assuring you, his sweet unschooled child, that everything is ok, that the purported monsters under the bed (like those rudely highlighted by the Orange Man) are a Russian trick and that everything is as it should be. 

Unfortunately, my best judgement tells me that that’s what a majority of Americans want. They want a President who oozes falsehoods and who offers nothing but a pacifying placebo for our collective ills. Shaking off the stupor of late stage decadence is simply too aggravating for an “exhausted” America. Instead, we will resume a comfortable nap, resigned to the fact that this polity lacks the rousing, collective ambition necessary to solve our greatest challenges. 

Reiss Becker is a Trinity senior. His column, “roused rabble,” usually runs on alternate Wednesdays.  


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