In the October issue of ‘The Atlantic’ Mark Bowden provides a political puff-piece about Joe Biden entitled ‘The Salesman’ (pp.93-105).
While the article’s title might mislead you into thinking that Bowden is going to be making some sober critical analysis, the text itself is primarily one long fax from the Biden PR flaks, who have stayed up all night trying to put this former car-salesman in the best light and pre-emptively spin his clearly undeniable weaknesses and failures in such a way as to seem like ‘good things’.
This piece comes as no surprise.
The Dems are in trouble. They have screwed a whole bunch of stuff up and their master game-plan of the past 45 years has come a cropper. (Which is not at all to say that the Republicans as presently constituted offer any useful solutions or political alternative.)
Biden is going to be gussied up as Mr. Progressive-Feminist for the ‘base’ and as Mr. Common-Man for that not-yet-extinct life-form that for some decades now the Dems had imagined would soon be extinct but as it turns out isn’t and – the hellhot ironies – the Dems now need the votes of.*
Sometime after 1965 the Dems decided that the New Deal electoral coalition of Jim Crow South and Northeastern Industrial was doomed because of the (very impressive) first-phase of the black Civil Rights movement. But then came the second and ‘revolutionary phase’, with much more dubious and questionable policies such as affirmative action**.
They then stumbled upon the reality that the postwar American economic and industrial primacy was coming to an end as, by 1970 or so, Europe and Japan were recovering and the Third World nations were starting to develop. Hence they calculated that the Northeastern Industrial demographic was going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo, and that therefore they needed to literally INVENT new demographic elements on the American electoral playing field.
Hence they went whole-hog for Youth, Women (as defined by the radical-feminists, anyway), Immigrants, and ‘Minorities’ generally (and also the Israeli Realm in order to rope in the American Jewish vote and its financial clout). Whatever ‘ideas’ justified these political gambits, whatever ideas justified the ‘demands’ of these ‘Identities’, were adopted with no elite thought as to Consequences and with no serious public debate allowed. (In 1965 Herbert Marcuse, refugee from the Nazis in 1933, had proposed, conveniently enough, that a ‘liberal’ state had to be intolerant of oppositional ideas in order to retain its liberal nature … and thereby introduced the toxic idea that a liberal state must be illiberal to stay liberal and that a great many ideas would therefore ‘not deserve’ to be discussed publicly – and Dr. Goebbels could not have put the dynamic more succinctly.)
The impatience and inexperience of callow Youth and the subsequent mockery of ‘maturity’; the Revolutionary Content (Deconstruction) and Method (imposition by vanguard elites) of the radical feminists and the subsequent declaration of the Constitution as ‘quaint’; the forced injection of huge numbers of individuals possessed of no working familiarity with the traditional ethos of the American democratic republic; the truckling acceptance of latter-phase Black separatist and Black Power demands; the wholesale politics of suspicion and hostility introduced by the Marxist roots of Identity Politics and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”; the wholesale abandonment of any ideal of wide and deep and rational public deliberation and consensus and instead the ‘valorization’ of a politics of feelings and a politics of ‘emergency’ that refused to stop and look at consequences and costs … all of these the Dems (soon joined in their own way by the Republicans) loaded onto the nation’s buffet plate.
With nary a thought as to Costs and Consequences. And here We are today.
Sure enough, in 1971 Nixon had to abrogate the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1946 and take the country off the gold standard; economically, the 1970s were a queasy roller-coaster of shortages and assorted ‘-flations’ (stag-, de-, in-) even as the military reeled from its failures in Vietnam and the domestic polity was riven not only by the toxic whackeries enumerated above BUT ALSO by the Red-Queen Political Correctness that required all of the bubbling problems to be considered ‘progress’, ‘reform’, and ‘liberation’. The entire country became Alice’s Wonderland; by the time Bush-Cheney’s Deputy Mad Hatters launched their Iraq party, the country had been living in cloud-cuckoo land for quite a few years.
Rather than try to preserve the living standards that had made American workers the envy of the world, the Beltway (led by the Dems) decided on a sleazier strategy: they would collect votes from the Idenitites in exchange for pandering to every ‘demand’ and ‘agenda’ pushed their way; and at the same time they would collect cash from the corporations through PACs (Tip O’Neill’s shrewd legalization of the Gilded Age midnight bags stuffed with cash) for letting the corporations and the Wealth that controlled them do whatever they wanted to pursue ‘best returns’ around the planet.
Thus Wealth got to Outsource industrial jobs and facilities and so undercut Labor while the Deconstruction of the White, Male, Industrial (and Sexually Violent and Oppressive) culture made it seem like the most modern and ‘progressive’ of ideas.
Meanwhile, Reagan borrowed cash (the US became a ‘debtor’ rather than a ‘creditor’ for the first time on his watch) to keep Americans thinking that financially the country was still Number 1 and to keep the Identities happily burbling that Yes, you could have ALL THIS PROGRESSIVE CHANGE and still be Number 1.
When the borrowing ran out, there was under Clinton a wholesale selling-off of national productivity assets and the 1990s business vision was one of maniacal ‘downsizing’ (= getting rid of workers and jobs); the business of America seemed to be nothing more than shuffling papers .
And when THAT was done, then the Bubbles began.
And then the last of the Bubbles burst with a blast that did more damage than the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal could have managed.
And when the Dems took over as Bush sank into history, they were now so indentured to their Identity ‘bases’ and the corporate PAC-masters that they couldn’t take any corrective action without upsetting one or the other.
Thus they are now in trouble.
Thus, especially since the hoary victory-symbolism of a ‘black’ President only appeals to the still-ponytailed, Biden is being put forth as the Man for All Demographics.
To which I say Feh, Frak, and Phooey.
His “unique skills and attributes may prove ever more crucial to his administration’s success”. (p.93)
Note the weasel-word “may” – to keep the magazine from looking too foolish if nothing in this piece turns out to be true.
I suppose if he had three arms THAT would be characterizable as “unique” – but so what? ANYbody’s background and traits might be said to be “unique”.
He was elected when he was just 29, in 1972, ousting a veteran politician in that Boomery age when nobody over 30 could be trusted and – it was widely trumpeted – anybody under-30 was by nature possessed of the skills to successfully lead into the glorious future.
“Back home they compared him to Kennedy” (p.94) BUT shrewdly the piece doesn’t say WHICH Kennedy.
He is a “survivor”. (p.94) Of what? Of rape? Of cancer? Of the ever-useful play-dough concept of 'abuse'? Or just a 'survivor' of experiences that Life brings in its train? It doesn't matter - so long as you can tick off that 'box' as the Compleat Postmodern Person for All Seasons (and for All Voters). It's a step below 'victim' but THAT status would maybe make the Joe-ster look a little too un-masculine, so he'll settle for Survivor (although, as the military might say, without ribbons).
Impressively (at first glance), the piece tackles the fact that in his abortive 1987 presidential bid Biden had said to a reporter that he would never accept a vice-presidential slot: “Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, Shermanesquely, no. No. No. I would not be anybody’s secretary of state in any circumstance I could think of, and I absolutely can say with certainty I would not be anybody’s vice president. Period. End of story. Guaranteed. Will not do it”. (p.94)
Bowden asked the Salesman about that rather clear statement in preparing this piece. In response the Salesman “shrugged”: “That was absolutely positively true when I said it. I swear to God. Ask anybody. I never, never, never, never aspired to be vice president”.
But that was then, apparently.
Bowden expands on Biden’s background and heritage as a car-salesman, exemplified in one of his trademark statements: “Here’s the deal”.
But that’s one of the most glaring problems – deficiencies – in American politics nowadays: there’s all this strategizing and all these ‘deals’ and yet no serious Vision or Plan, nor any of the thought or seriousness that would have to go into sustaining such a Vision or Plan. It’s all been a make-it-up-as-you-go-along sort of thing, and rely on your media contacts to ‘spin’ whatever you spew out as world-class mature political leadership and statesmanship.
Part of this goes back to Saul Alinsky’s “Rule for Radicals” – where that hugely popular 1960s Marxist figured you could take revolutionary Technique and deploy it in any ‘good’ cause – why let the Stalinists have such a great tool all to themselves? Thus, especially through the efforts of the radical feminists, revolutionary Technique was deployed in American politics AGAINST the American polity and ethos.
Of course, Alinsky didn’t imagine that revolutionary Technique would be deployed here in the service of revolutionary Content – that his own ideas would be blended in the radical-feminist kitchen with French Deconstruction in order to create a Universal Acid that would eat away Tradition, Ethos, Virtue, Reason, Maturity, Balance, Prudence, and Seriousness.
But that’s what happened and it was the Salesman approach – the ‘strategy’ of accepting whatever was on the table and trying to cut a deal acceptable to everybody who could elbow their way to the table – that destabilized and ultimately derailed American politics. And it was Biden’s generation of politicians, and Biden himself, that instituted this corruption and this treachery (there, I’ve said it).
From a high-school civics course (perhaps already “quaint”) you might imagine that in those new smoke-filled rooms, that Beltway ‘table’, The People would be represented there by the elected legislators. But no. The generations of pols going back to Biden – and surely the Dealer himself – aren’t going to be concerned for The People or the ‘common weal’ because all that is ‘abstract’ and actually have no ‘vote’ that an enterprising and play-dough flexible pol need be concerned about.
But then too, Saul Alinsky said in 1971 that there are no ideals and they shouldn’t ever be allowed to play a role in politics because – really, said Alinsky – ideals are simply rhetorical covers for ‘interests’ and there is no honor or idealism in politics or in the species (humans) that created politics. Nothing is on the level and the realistic Advocate must accept that or betray the sufferings, interests, agendas, and concerns of his/her chosen oppressees.
I cannot imagine a more poisonous and frakkulent assurance to give to a politician. And Alinsky (my Post on him is next on my list) gave that assurance not merely in the Machiavellian sense that one had to adapt to realities but rather in the Prophet’s sense of a fundamental and indisputable insight into the ultimate nature of human affairs and the human beings who generate those affairs.
Hence Our entire national politics has been corrupted and corroded: not only by the French Deconstructionists (building on the Marxist-Leninist corpus of wisdom, adopted whole hog by the assorted Identities, especially the radical-feminists) but also by Alinsky – who himself took his cue from the Marxist-Leninist playbook. Khrushchev turns out to have been right all along, though he envisioned the wrong modality by which he would be proven accurate: it was not the actual Soviet State that buried Us – it was the adoption of its whackulent and frakkulent ideas by IMPORTATION (the radical-feminists and assorted Black Power radicals) and by EMBRACE (by the vote-addled Dems who put the entire weight of the government behind them).
At this point what difference does it make whether Tweedle-Dum or Tweedle-Dee is elected President? Our very politics is so corroded now that nobody can survive the election process with any efficacious Vision intact. And if anybody were to … well, I think of JFK: in the course of a year or so he turned brother Bobby loose on the Mob; told the military that it couldn’t start World War 3 by backing up the invasion of Cuba by the Cuban ex-pats; told the CIA that had planned that invasion that he would like to break up their organization “into a thousand pieces”; and told the new Israeli premiere (in a July 5, 1963 official letter), that he would not stand still for an atomic-armed Israel in the cauldron of the Middle East … and a couple of months later he was killed by a ‘magic’ bullet fired, impossibly, as part of a fusillade by one lone whacko who managed to be both in front of and behind the limo at the same time and got off more shots with more precision than Rambo (who always used automatic weapons in the ‘spray’ mode), and Sergeant York (who took his time picking off his targets), and James T. Kirk (whose fazers didn’t even have aiming-sights and were simply fired point-blank). Yah.
We had stepped through the looking-glass and into the realm of ‘magic’ 50 years ago. And have simply been digging Ourselves in deeper ever since.
I don’t’ know whether Biden’s being “on the fringe” of Obama’s advisors is the way the Joe-ster wants it or whether Obama’s flaks now have to explain how a man whom the President has kept at arm’s length is now suddenly spun as co-president and trusted adviser. Bowden takes the line (p.95) that the Joe-ster didn’t want to be a “pain in the ass” to the Prez, so he “carved out a dynamic role” for himself … Yah.
“Joe Biden doesn’t just meet you, he engulfs you”. (p.95) Readers of a certain age will recall that this was precisely the M.O. of LBJ, whose bottomless confidence and bonhomie turned out to mask both a ruthlessness and a capacity for manipulation that created far far more troubles for the nation for any good that they did. And again, a democratic deliberative polity doesn’t require elected officials who ‘engulf’ nor a ‘politics of engulfment’ – but, revealingly, that’s precisely what We now have: citizens are continually bethumpt and engulfed by this and that ‘outrage’ and ‘emergency’ and stampeded into supporting (or, increasingly) merely accepting this or that Beltway initiative.
Bowden admits – decently enough – that Biden “is a confident and skillful public speaker, to be sure, but he is best at rousing the converted”. (p.96) This puts the Joe-ster right up there (or down there) with Teddy K, the Great Trumpeter (as in elephant). It is precisely this appeal-to-the-base approach that has suppressed consensus-building, persuasion, and reasonable debate in American politics, and replaced them with nothing but emotional outpouring whose extreme expression is somehow supposed to be a functional substitute for careful thought and discussion. The essence of Crapulence erected into a Plan.
Nor can it be anything but puffery to assert that “Biden’s special talent isn’t speaking, but talking”. (p.96) To ‘speak’ requires a serious vision and plan (nor does Teddy’s ‘dream’ approach the required heights), while ‘talking’ is something you can do about any old thing and kill time pleasantly enough while keeping folks feeling good and happy. Which, come to think of it, has been the Democratic political approach for quite some time.
In a stunning example of the chutzpah of contemporary spinmeistering, Bowden then says that “Though plenty smart, Biden is not an intellectual … An indifferent student at the University of Delaware and Syracuse University College of Law – he describes the latter as ‘boring’ – Biden got by with prodigious cramming sessions. Today, by contrast, he is described by Tony Blinken, Biden’s national-security adviser, as a compulsive studier who likes to be over-briefed”. (p.97)
To which one can only respond politely: “Ovvvvvvvvvvvvvvv Courrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrssssssse.”
How is anybody supposed to trust the word of a hired hand who owes his entire status and paycheck to his boss? That’s like asking a military judge if he’s truly ‘independent’.
And since in the very next paragraph Bowden (no doubt prompted) intuits that “As a senator, his proudest legislative accomplishment is the Violence Against Women Act of 1994” then you can see just how deeply connected the Biden-bored-with-law is to the frakkulently anti-constitutional legislation about which EVEN BIDEN HIMSELF ADMITTED “it may be a bad law but it sends a great message”.
THIS is precisely a clarion indicator of Biden’s personal inadequacy as an attorney and his official insufficiency as a legislator: being at heart nothing more than a Salesman, he is interested only in the ‘deal’ and not in any larger issues of Validity, Workability, Consequences or Costs.
Teddy K at least had that frakkulent and whackulent ‘Dream’; the Joe-ster merely has ‘the deal’ – cut in the PC-era’s version of the old ‘smoke-filled room’ among demanding Identities and professional ‘advocacies’, entrepreneurs with an eye for wherever the Beltway was going to spend its cash, and civil servants looking to make sure their board was Correctly positioned for the coming Wave.
Unsurprisingly, that Act of Biden’s initially ran into some negative Supreme Court review. But what survived judicial review was frakkulent enough: the queasy distinction-without-a-difference between ‘civil’ and ‘criminal; the deployment of police power within the theretofore Constitutionally sacrosanct realm of the Family and the Citizen’s Home&Hearth; the deployment of that police power on the single-party, ex-parte say-so of a complaining individual; the removal of any police discretion as to whether they could or should deploy that police power; the technically shrewd but substantively repugnant gamesmanship of loosening evidentiary rules by claiming that the Domestic Violence(DoVi) procedure was ‘merely civil’ while simultaneously enshrining any court’s Order stemming from an eventual Hearing as ‘criminal’; and in many States the maintenance of a DoVi registry, EVEN IF the male (almost always) was found innocent by the Court at Hearing.
And so the accurate descriptor that the Act “broadened law enforcement’s tools to protect women from abusive partners” is grossly insufficient, and probably not accidentally so: as with a city broadening a downtown avenue, the space to do such broadening comes from demolishing buildings along the street. Protocols governing the entrance of the government police- power into the domestic area were regressed back to a more primitive era when the Sovereign authority could enter the home of the subject; rules of evidence designed to protect the Citizen against the arbitrary deployments of the Sovereign authority and to narrow and refine the scope of any such authority – all were regressed in order to make room for this ‘broadening’.
Thus, in order to create the required ‘space’ within the American political, social and Constitutional ethos, much of the existing ethos had to be demolished – which is precisely what the philosophical policy of Deconstruction is designed to do.
Worse, in the name of ‘emergency’, the ancient demon of ‘delation’ was resurrected: the word of one person would be enough, unsupported, to trigger the police-power, as happened in both the Soviet and Nazi regimes. (It is inconceivable to me how so many of these truly frightening policies can be accepted by so many as ‘progressive’ when, in historical truth, they are actually profoundly ‘regressive’.)
In defense of the Act against substantive objections, Biden himself made the stunningly revealing comment that “It may be a bad law, but it sends a great message” – which is and shall ever remain a glaring indicator of how the American legal system AND American legislative integrity were profoundly derailed in the early 1990s by the ‘governance feminism’ initiatives that flooded in during the Billary administration (but with high levels of ‘bipartisan’ support) and with Biden leading the charge.
Clearly, despite the fact that the proposed legislation was considered “bad” by some legislators, and apparently was accepted as bad by Biden himself, YET STILL he continued to support the Act because of its symbolic value, that it would send a “great message”.
This is a landmark example of the awful confluence of ‘symbolic politics’ with ‘emergency politics’ and the ‘politics of stampede’ and the ‘politics of imposition’ (i.e. it’s not a good law but the government is going to make people go along with it anyway).
So to describe somebody who could work this ‘deal’ as being in any way helpful to the country is really a stretch. From Reagan the Actor to Biden the Salesman … does not seem to me to be much of progress.
Meanwhile, Bowden makes great note (p.105) of Biden’s down-home simplicity (going out to a movie complex with da wife when he’s home in Delaware, haw-hawing with a train conductor) in order to establish the Joe-ster’s creds as John Q. Public and a Friend of the White, Ethnic, Industrial, Macho, Family-Oriented, Male. That same creature that, to a sizable gimlet-eyed and sensible-shoed contingent of the Party’s base, is also Sexually Violent, Rapist, and Oppressive by Nature, constituting by its very existence a kulak class, an Infamous Thing which must be crushed forthwith.
Alas for Bowden and the Dems and Biden. It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this (that marvelous line, delivered in the last scene of “Judgment at Nuremberg” by Burt Lancaster’s now-convicted Nazi judge to Spencer Tracy’s Chief Justice of the Tribunal). The entire menu of Revolutions of the Identities would quickly and easily take over the polity, would indeed be greeted as liberators, with the powerful assistance of the Democratic Party; the evil Males and all their pomps and all their works would go the way of the Dodo or be reduced to the metrosexual, female-dependent clothes-horses or slackers We see everywhere today; the Goose would be killed but the Golden Eggs would continue to appear (magically, as in Teddy K’s ‘Dream’); and the entire country would be ushered into the broad sunlit uplands of transgression and rainbow-parity by an all-knowing, intuitive, and more than vaguely lesbian Nanny State.
And the Joe-ster and his ilk and his political spawn would broker The Deal! (The Most Reverend Teddy K presiding).
Now the Dems must pray with the late Hirohito: events have turned out not necessarily to our advantage. AND as was true of the Japanese militarist government in late 1944, so now it’s true of the Dems in late 2010: the actual Costs and Consequences of their frakkulent fever-dreams can no longer be hidden.
History is coming. Biden’s ‘deals’ – like von Papen’s in January of 1933 – will prove to have been too clever by half, and the only achievement of the Deal will be that the Vampire is invited in through the front door.
*In the Friday, September 24, ‘Wall Street Journal’, which post-dates the publication of the October issue of ‘The Atlantic’, the Dems are reported as planning to focus on Youth and Minorities – so the puff-piece’s efforts to make Biden look like Joe Q. Public may already be yesterday’s scam … errr, news.
I would also add that of all the major Identity-Minority groups (Black, Women, Immigrant, Youth, and Israeli Realm) it is precisely Youth and Immigrants who would be the most unfamiliar either with the American ethos as it existed before Identity Politics and Deconstruction or with American society - built upon a solid productive base - as it existed before the Dems and then the Beltway generally implemented with gusto their Two-Source Plan: get votes by implementing Identity agendas with no thought as to consequences while you simultaneously rake in PAC money from Wealth and corporations that will be busily downsizing and out-sourcing the productive base infrastructure in search of larger immediate profits.
**The Australian writer J.M. Coetzee, in his 2007 book “Diary of a Bad Year”, reflects on the shock in South Africa in the 1990s when apartheid and its reservation of job-eligibility based on race was finally eliminated AND SUDDENLY returned by the ANC as government policy favoring blacks. Coetzee observes that “to liberals there could be no step more retrogressive, a step back into the old days when the colour of one’s skin counted for more than education or aspirations or diligence”. When liberals suddenly in the mid-1960s here had to accept that race-based imposition was a ‘good’ thing, the quintessential corrosion and corruption of liberalism as a coherent political position in this country was set in motion.
The only solution that follow-on Identity Politics Theory and Deconstruction Theory could offer was to assert that coherence was overrated and that incoherence in the service of liberation was no vice. But THAT gambit works only for a short bit, and then it corrupts and corrodes the very Ground of politics and any decent, mature human life at all.