The last time I was in the United States was during the George HW Bush administration. At that time, there was one Yugoslavia, two Germanys and three million dollars on Salman Rushdie’s head. The year was 1990 and the government of South Africa and Michael Jackson were almost finished swapping races. Unbeknown to me at the time of my visit, a freshly amnestied Nelson Mandela was already Black power fisting to sold out arenas from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Black America was, apparently, the model for his own people to emulate, because unlike South African Blacks, American Blacks were no longer “in the grip of White supremacy.” Suffice it to say, political messaging has changed in left-wing circles over the last three decades, though one thing that’s stayed the same is that Joe Biden is still trying to become president.
America has always been a very political country. The breadth of its history as much as its territory seems to act like a convex lens for concentrating unique movements and headways. Political campaigns are so drawn out, perhaps by design, but the level of public participation in these sagas has always astonished me. I find the idea of door-knocking for the sake of political haggling frankly laughable and overly invasive, though in America such volunteerism is considered honorable work.
A vague theory is mine is that politics in the United States is of bloated significance due to a number of historical developments, among which is the lack of a monarchy. Presidential elections are for Americans almost what royal weddings are for the British. The House of Kennedy is America’s most recognizable dynasty, but then there are also the Roosevelts, Bushes and Clintons. A similar phenomenon exists in Europe: the most political country, France, is also the continent’s most famous republic. Monarchism is actually still the norm in Western Europe, whereas Eastern Europe lacks a single one – unless you count fanatically-Catholic Poland’s parliamentary vote to declare Jesus Christ “King of Poland” in 2016.
True royal families, however, barely dent the budgets of Western economies, and in case of the Windsors generate more for the national coffers than they cost – not that such institutions should have their continued existence be dependent on profitability. I suspect that America’s presidential elections are likewise profitable in spite of the apparent internal overkill, since they are also a product for international consumption and help raise the country’s profile.
The way various interest groups, voting factions and moral communities in America manage to politically merchandise themselves has always been something of a marvel. The tokenism can be rather quaint at times, and at other times disturbing. The most perverse instance in recent memory would have to be the syndicate of sex-workers from America’s most famous brothel, who decided to stump for Hillary in 2016. Though it isn’t always clear how such endorsements are procured, politics doesn’t always make strange bedfellows and emeritus president Bill Clinton was known to do some canvassing on the ground that year.
The nuclear hype of the 2016 election was never going to have a worthy sequel, especially not after the anticlimactic Trump presidency. Election cycles involving incumbents invariably have less gusto to them anyway, though the Democratic primaries have brought some new gumption to meet the current year’s political turbulence. Few could have predicted Andrew Yang, and even Bloomberg’s splash was unexpected. But in a way, the most audacious development was the promotion of back to the future Biden, a gamble that could still backfire in the primary stage if cognitive faculties (or immune system) capitulate.
The debut of Tulsi Gabbard was a welcome addition to the race, but to most left-wing voters she was more like an L Ron Hubbard with her crazy ideas of supporting free speech and hated by the Israel Lobby for criticizing endless wars. She has attempted to sue both Hillary Clinton and Google, which has earned her support from the likes of celebrities Susan Sarandon and Oliver Stone to Ron Paul and David Duke. Tulsi, who was given a Hindu name by her hippie parents (father half-Samoan) has ironically become something of an untouchable to the Democratic establishment, and would have been on the debate stage last night were it not for the DNC’s recent changes to the qualification criteria.
The meteoric rise of Andrew Yang was not without its merits also, but reminded me a lot of the flash-in-the-pan hype surrounding Asian-American basketballer Jeremy Lin. A celebrated breaker of barriers one year, a Peking Duck the next. Unfortunately for the Yang Gang, their goose was cooked by Yang himself, who decided rather swiftly after dropping out of the race that he was a free agent and able to sign with CNN as an analyst, even altering his endorsement from Sanders to Biden.
The only person realistically standing in the way of the Biden nomination remains the senator from Vermont Bernie Sander. Bernie Bros once again brought plenty of energy to the campaign trail, but also a whiff of being reheated leftovers from 2016 – a painful defeat capped off with a Sanders sell-out. But primary rigging doesn’t appear to be necessary this time, for the simple reason that Biden is not nearly as loathed as Hillary Clinton.
The center of the American political spectrum, for now, still rests a fair distance from ‘social democracy,’ and is approximately in the hands of low-information voters. There is something to be said about the remarkable ability of Black voters to consolidate around a candidate once there are no Black candidates left in a race. All candidates pander to Blacks, but Biden has been the huge winner in the primaries so far, and it just may have had something to do with him being half of the Ebony and Ivory ticket that swept to power in 2008. Biden was already of pension age back when he was selected to flank Obama, presumably to represent some sort of changing of the guard in American politics. At the time, I couldn’t help but see him as Obama’s ankle bracelet while in the White House.
Joe Biden has not changed in any discernibly positive way over the course of his long and lucrative career in politics. A vote for Biden is unequivocally a vote for machine politics and a return to stability after Trump fatigue, whether unfairly contrived or not. I have a theory that Black Americans are now some of the biggest conservatives in America, and I’m not talking about their opposition to gay marriage but rather their contentment with the new politically correct Americana that is forever endearing their victimhood and appeasing them with perks. White guilt might well be reaching its high water mark, so now might be the time to secure reparations. Demographics are changing rapidly, and that is another reason Sanders had little appeal to Black voters. Sanders’ movement has implicitly become the Brown faction; think Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Omar and the burgeoning rank and file. Even White support for Sanders is hemorrhaging because of this, but the friction between Blacks and Latinoes cuts much deeper.
A year ago, Virginia Heffernan of the LA Times was decrying Biden to be the “White savior” that the electorate had outgrown in favor of “women and people of color.” But Black people don’t seem to have ever bought into that. Blacks can be incredibly trusting of a White authority figure, especially one that preaches the racial utopia gospel. This is what happened with religious leader, civil rights figure and communist Jim Jones, who led 909 people from his Californian temples to Jonestown, Guyana where they suicided voluntarily or by force. Nobody quite knows why Blacks were so drawn to his cult, but they made up roughly 70% of victims. Jones pushed the idea of ‘rainbow families’ at a time when it referred to race rather than sexuality. The tragedy might have been averted, were it not for the intercession of the first homosexual political figure and inextricably Jewish Harvey Milk, who wrote a letter to President Carter affirming Jones to be “a man of the highest character,” with no mention of his maddening streak.
Like Jones, Biden is a man in cognitive decline still being showered with praise and character references from hacks near and far. One certainly can’t deny that the man has charisma and an unfiltered style of communication — unfiltered, disinhibited speech is a mark of senility. Though there is something darkly comedic about this plucked ostrich of a man challenging young people to push-ups. Or his trash talking a woman as a “lying, dog-faced pony soldier,” when he is a coffin-jockey himself at this stage.
Can politicians use Teslas?
Biden may be the youngest man left in the race, but his early stage dementia and failing vocabulary are getting progressively harder to camouflage. Keep in mind that his ‘working vocabulary’ comprises terms like malarkey, record player, shylock and poppycock. Rumor has it he once requested a teleprompter with a rotary-dial. One wonders what further gaffes will be unearthed in the coming weeks, given at any live and unscripted event where Biden must ad-lib, the second half of his sentences frequently don’t remember what the first half said. For now the smelling salts and vitamins are working wonders at the debates, where the canned preparation pulls the rest of his weight in the controlled environment.
As much as the Democrats have done to lose the 2020 election, an electoral college victory this November remains within their grasp. The baseless Russiagate hoax and impeachment effort are now largely forgotten, even if partisan America was never really at risk of changing its mind. Though there is certainly something cynical, schadenfreudistic and even nihilistic in propping up a semi-senile man for the highest office, on the other hand it is a vote of confidence for the old establishment, the deep state and the faceless men from halls of power who can replace Biden at any moment after the inauguration. Whether Biden will become the Grim Reaper of America, or just the Jim Jones of the Democrats remains to be seen.
Thomas Žaja is a research fellow at the Ulster Institute.