May 15, 2024

Joe Biden, Political Pinwheel

Biden has tried to be everything to everyone — and has ended up as no one to anyone.

Joe Biden is not a person of principle or character. He is a lifelong politician who has spent decades shifting his positions on nearly every major issue. If one had to define Biden’s political worldview, it would be simply this: Follow the Democratic herd, and desperately attempt to place yourself dead center in the middle of it. Joe Biden is, in short, a political pinwheel, taking note of the prevailing winds in his own party and seeking to channel them in his favor.

This strategy made Biden a career also-ran. After all, who wants to follow a follower? Biden never achieved any level of national popularity on his own: His presidential runs imploded in embarrassing fashion in 1988 and 2008. His saving grace was, in fact, his blandness and inoffensiveness: Thanks to those peculiarly counterintuitive qualities, Barack Obama made him his vice president. There, Biden thrived as a vice president who presided over little actual policy but happily floated trial balloons for the administration and acted as a rah-rah cheerleader for his more popular boss.

Obama himself had so little faith in his vice president that he passed him over in 2016 in favor of the widely reviled Hillary Clinton. After Clinton lost, Biden threw his hat in the ring — and thanks to the extraordinary incompetence of some of his opponents (Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar), the extraordinary dilettantism of others (Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg), and the befuddled racialism of still others (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) — he prevailed by simply fulfilling two conditions: First, he was alive (barely); second, he wasn’t any of the other clods.

So Joe Biden became president.

He posed as a political moderate. But there is a difference between principled moderation and simply bobbing, corklike, about the eddies of internal Democratic politics. Moderation sometimes requires a Sister Souljah moment — a moment when you push away the radicals and embrace the mainstream. Acting as a political pinwheel encourages no such strength. In fact, it encourages the opposite: caving to every interest, at all times.

And thus, Joe Biden has tried to be everything to everyone — and has ended up as no one to anyone. Biden has zero passionate fans, because his positions are all ersatz; he barely even has passionate enemies, since so few of his opponents believe that he believes anything he says in the moment. His constant waffling has earned him little loyalty and no victories of note (and no, spending trillions of dollars on wasteful boondoggles isn’t a victory; it’s just the way government is now done).

Biden’s waffling has cost Americans dearly. Stuck between a Modern Monetary Theory left and more fiscally moderate liberals, Biden has halved the baby, opting for big spending and interest rate increases. Trapped between a post-American left and traditionally interventionist Wilsonian liberals, Biden has hedged between militaristic support for Ukraine and slow-walking aid. Caught between an Israel-hating left and Israel-supportive liberals, Biden has declared his support for Israel in its goals of extirpating Hamas and then pressured Israel to leave Hamas in place by promoting Hamas propaganda and embargoing critical weaponry.

It turns out that the presidency is a bad place for pinwheels. The closest thing to a pinwheel president we’ve had over the past few decades was Bill Clinton — but even Clinton knew to pursue a course once the course had been charted. Biden flips radically between positions — even from day to day — leaving the rest of the world confused and discombobulated.

Americans don’t like it. In fact, they don’t like it so much that polls show that Joe Biden would be a one-term president if the election were held today — and that he would lose to the man he declares a threat to democracy. Why? Because there is one character aspect on which Donald Trump outpolls Biden by leaps and bounds: leadership. As it turns out, there’s no substitute for leadership.

And Joe Biden has never been a leader.


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