Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Case for Biden

PR Newsstory 4 | Life as a Student
An election is a choice, and in America it is a choice between two and only two candidates, so get over that.   Pick what you think is the better one.   Note:  Not picking is also a choice, usually a bad choice.

A reader writes that they are not enamored of Trump, but are concerned that Joe Biden has gone too far Left.   This is something that comes up every four years.   We are told that candidates will pander to the Right or Left and then "pivot" at the general election.  It is hard to parse this.   It is like saying a candidate is a Protestant, but will "pivot" to Catholic later on to pander to that vote (and I am sure it has been tried).

We all have our own belief systems, and our ideas, while not set in stone, are hardly changeable on a moment's notice.  Despite all the happy-talk politicians make to get votes, their positions on the issues really don't change much.   And no, politicians really don't like kissing babies, but they do that too, to get elected, or at least used to.

So a lot of ink has been spilled that Biden is "caving in" to the Bernie wing of the party (hard for Bernie to have a "wing" when he is not a Democrat, eh?) when in reality, the Bernie Bros caved in to a lot of Biden's demands in issuing their joint platform.

And platforms are just that - ideas and positions of the party, that are not necessarily political promises.   And by the way, political promises are not worth the paper they are not printed on.  Remember George Bush's "read my lips - no new taxes?"   Turns out it was a good idea he didn't keep that promise.

You see, leadership isn't about locking your policies on cruise control and following them, come hell or high water, until you've driven the country off a cliff.  Real leadership is doing what is right at a given time, under given conditions, rather than following some political dogma.  George Bush the second had a lot of flaws to be sure, but when the economy melted down in late 2008 before the election, he did the right thing and signed a bailout bill that prevented the economy from utterly cratering.  And he did this despite a GOP philosophy of "hands off" the economy and "not picking winners" etc.   Fortunately, tea partiers were not in charge back then.

It isn't leadership to just adopt dogmatic polices that pander to a particular political point of view and then stick to them, even after they have been shown not to work.    It is leadership to do the right thing, to listen to opposing views and to reach consensus and compromise (that dirty word!) even if it doesn't satisfy the extremists of both parties who want guaranteed annual income or a return to the gold standard, purely for ideological reasons.

Ideology - an interesting word.   I harp a lot about believe versus reason in this blog.  And despite what some readers accuse me of, I am not against belief - to answer questions like "what happens when you die?" and "why are we here?"   Myself, I don't need such answers, but I recognize that others do.   And if you look to Scientology, or Catholicism, or Islam for these answers and find them comforting, then good for you.  On the other hand, if you think your belief system should be used as a system of government, then kindly go fuck yourself.   We all have other ideas.

But ideology has spread in recent years beyond religion.  Today, people have strong beliefs about how the government should be run, or are convinced that vast conspiracies exist to loot their bank account - which never  had any money in it to begin with.   Like the boring man I talked to, who was convinced that if we only went back to a gold standard, he would never have to work again for the rest of his life!   After all, inflation was eating away at his wealth - even as it is at record lows.  Right or Left, it doesn't matter, when someone tells you that "If only..." some extremist political position was adopted as a philosophy of government, all of our problems would be solved, they are blowing smoke up your ass.  Simple answers to complex questions are usually the wrong answers.

So no, cutting taxes doesn't always improve the economy.  Starting a tariff war isn't going to miraculously bring back low-skill jobs (who wants those, anyway?).    Cutting every regulation isn't going to "free up" American manufacturing capabilities (particularly when the companies being regulated are against removing those regulations!  Strange world we live in).   On the other hand, nudging the government in one direction or another can steer the ship of state far more effectively than sawing at the wheel, hard left, hard right, every four years.

And I think Joe Biden might be that voice of moderation that we need.   Yes, like any politician he is pandering to the Left to "get out the vote" and win the election.   Losing isn't the new winning, despite what Stacy Abrams and Beto try to tell us (that is one thing AOC got right - winning is winning, but what you do after you win is important, too).  But I doubt Joe Biden is on board for guaranteed annual income or free college or student loan forgiveness or even medicare for all.

But even if he was, Presidents do not dictate policy (and God knows, Trump has tried).   A lot of people on both sides of the spectrum are wringing their hands, convinced the "system is broken" and needs to be thrown out because things are so bad, in the richest country in the world.   They can hardly afford gas for their car or make their cell phone payment!   But the system is, ironically, showing that it does work.   The "founding fathers" knew that if a Supreme Court justice was appointed for life, they would have the independence to do what they thought was right and not be a weather vane of popular opinion (well, not too much of one - we are all influenced by current events).

So people freak out when a Justice doesn't vote conservative or liberal when that was the label slapped on them when they were confirmed.   The vote their conscience - and the law.   And as a result, the Supreme Court ends up being a spoiler for a lot of extremist plans.   That's how the system was designed to work - it ain't "broken" - and it doesn't need "fixin".

Our Congress is the same way.  People decry that Nancy Pelosi is blocking Trump's agenda, or that Mitch McConnell was blocking Obama's. Again, this was the intent of the framers of the Constitution - that government have a lot of inertia, and if you want to get things done, you have to pander to your enemies at times (or even offer pork spending, as odious as that seems).

If enough people get fed up, they will vote "their" party into the White House, the Senate, and the House.   But even then, petty political bickering and log-rolling slow down the process and prevent a lot of things from getting done.   This is a good thing.

Some biologists think that sleeping is a survival skill, not because we need that much rest, but because if animals ran around all the time, they would be more likely to get killed, either by predators or through accident.   Doing nothing is sometimes better than doing something.  And I wonder if the founding fathers thought the same about government.   A government that is nimble and able to push through dramatic changes in policy might be the worst thing.  Think about governments that have been able to do this in the past - monarchies, dictatorships, communism.   Sure, it is great that Stalin can order things to be done, but the reality is, a lot of bad things ended up getting done, and most of the good things couldn't be accomplished by executive fiat (which is not a kind of car).

Dramatic changes usually end up working out poorly for everyone involved, which is why I am against them.   Maybe this transgender restroom thing really is a burning issue, but it sounds to me an awful lot like a tempest in a teapot, and that we have bigger fish to fry.   It also sounds like a dramatic change in our culture itself, and this idea that calling someone by the wrong gender is akin to murder, is, in my opinion, ridiculous.

Radical change also causes radical pushback.   It doesn't engender compromise and consensus.  And this is where I think Biden will shine.   No one is in love with Joe Biden.   Good.   We don't need another rock-star in the White House.   We don't need someone who gives a good speech or can turn a phrase or two on Twitter.   We need someone boring.  We need Calvin Coolidge.

Old "Silent Cal" was elected with the slogan "A Return to Normalcy" - sounds pretty catchy in this day and age.  Biden is like Coolidge - boring and uninspiring.  That is what we need.  A policy wonk who knows where the men's room is in the White House, who knows all the players and knows how the system works - and how to compromise and really work across the aisle, and not just use that as a campaign slogan.

Now, some of you might go online and point out examples of where Biden isn't always these things.   And again, that might be true - no candidate is perfect.   But then again, Trump isn't perfect either.   What Trump has accomplished in three years, however, may reshape our country for decades.   He has appointed more judges that many past Presidents, and two Supreme Court Justices (one choice being stolen from Obama by McConnell) and if he wins in the fall, will likely appoint a third.

There is a real choice here.  There was back in 2016 - and yet, I heard people who I thought had a modicum of intelligence tell me, "I don't see the real difference between the two parties!  They are both too [liberal, conservative] for me!   I'm not going to even bother to vote!"  And that is just pathetic.    But it is the problem in the United States - we are all spoiled children, and unless we can have "our" ideal candidate, we hold our breath until we turn blue.   Until there are 330 million co-Presidents, some idiots will never be happy.

So no, I am not in love with Uncle Joe, which is why I like him.   The problem with the Obama Presidency  was that we fell in love with Obama.  Granted, he accomplished much in eight years, bringing us the longest-running bull market in recent history, after being handed an economy in ruins by his Republican predecessor (and two unfinished wars - which are still unfinished).  But I think a more boring conventional politician would have been a better choice for the long haul.   And no, Hillary wasn't that.

Is there some better middle-of-the-road, consensus-building candidate out there?  Sure - but who the heck knows his or her name?    We are stuck with the choices we have.   And wacky ideas like free money and free college and loan forgiveness not only wouldn't win the election, they wouldn't see the light of day, again because of this giant flywheel called "Congress".    Similarly, far-right candidates would only appeal to a narrow group of people, and while they make a lot of noise, they usually don't get anything done.   Can Rand Paul point to any accomplishment in his political life? Can Ms. AOC? Hell, no.

What I like about Uncle Joe is that he will appoint good people to his cabinet and to various government offices - people who know what the heck they are doing and have some experience beyond being huge donors or having extremist political theories - or wanting to destroy the very government agency they are put in charge of.   And he knows a few good people.

I think our reputation in the world would also improve, particularly among our allies, who would be treated as allies instead of enemies.   And maybe we would treat our enemies as enemies, instead of cozying up to dictators and authoritarians.

This doesn't mean, however, that electing Joe Biden will solve every world problem, and that we will all live in a Democratic nirvana.   Grow the fuck up.   That is the siren song of the extremist - that "if only" we engage in radical politics, everything would be better.   Hey, how's that "defund the Police" thing working out in Portland?   I thought so.   Maybe it is time we stopped listening to people who call themselves "Rainbow" and "Ketchup" - just  a thought.

A reader writes that their vote won't count anyway, as they live in a deep [Blue, Red] State and the electoral college will negate their vote.   Again, this is not a symptom of a "broken system" but how it was designed to work.    Just because you don't like the outcome doesn't mean we need to abolish our government. 

The electoral college is another example of a "flywheel" in our government, designed to prevent radical change - to keep the more populated States from overwhelming the less populated ones.   It worked back then, to prevent the Industrial North from outvoting the rural South (most of the time) and it worked in 2016, to prevent coastal elites from ignoring the needs and issues of the Midwest.  Trump didn't win the 2016 election, Hillary lost it.   She failed to even campaign in many Midwestern States, and as a result, lost them.   At the time, political "experts" scratched their heads as to why Trump was campaigning in Michigan of all places.   They have to vote for Hillary - it's the law!   Michiganders had other ideas.

Again, I hear from many Democrats about "stolen" elections, and I am guessing we will hear the same in 2020 from Republicans (and are already hearing it).  We need to put that crap to bed, once and for all.  Yes, even the Bush v. Gore thing wasn't the travesty some claim it was.  If only the idiots who voted for Nader in Florida had gotten a clue and voted for Gore, he would have won the State and the election and history would be far different.

And here's where you come in.   You see, while you may live in a deep Red State or a deep Blue State and your "vote doesn't matter" (it actually does, though, particularly for local offices) your dollars do matter.    As you are no doubt well aware, your fellow citizens are a bunch of dullards.   They spend four hours a day watching television, and by that, I don't mean some science documentary, but re-runs of "Friends" or other dreck.   They are easily influenced by advertising and propaganda.  These are the idiots who say "There is no difference between the parties" or "I don't like either candidate, so I'm not going to vote!"    These are people who really don't deserve Democracy, really.

Where you can make a difference is in donating to a candidate.  It need not be millions of dollars (and indeed, that would be illegal, unless through a PAC) but just a few bucks.   It is how Obama got elected.   That money can put on ads that your dullard television-watching friends will see, and influence their vote.  Maybe not all of them, but enough to turn the tide.  It won't necessarily change someone's mind, but it may persuade someone to actually vote, or maybe to stay home, instead.

Unseemly?  Perhaps, but it dates back to the pamphleteering during the founding of our country.  People would put up "attack ads" often literally nailing them to a tree.

But what about all the big-money donors?  Surely the candidates don't need my money if they have millions from the "whales?"   Well, maybe yes, maybe no.    I donated to the Obama campaign and he got elected.  I figured Hillary had enough money already and.....well I guess it's my fault she lost.

Seriously, though, if you don't contribute to a campaign, then the candidates rely more and more on big-money donors, and yes, become more beholden to them.   So if you think it isn't necessary to support a candidate because they get big money, well, that's the reason right there they go after the big money.   Obama demonstrated (and indeed, so has Bernie) that you can run a campaign (and even win) with lots of small donations.    There are 330 million people in this country - get a dollar from each, and you have 1/3 Billion dollars!

So even if your vote "doesn't count" - or you don't think it does - your money does.  Even ten bucks makes a difference.  And again, maybe this is something our founding fathers foresaw.  Back then, only white, male, property-owning citizens could vote.  They didn't want the hoi polloi to screw things up.    Today, everyone can vote, and those with money can influence those who are clueless.   Maybe that is scandalous to some folks.  To me, it only makes sense - because quite frankly, when I hear what some folks think (or what some folks consider thought), it scares me that they are allowed to vote at all.

The system is flawed, of course.  It is a human system.  That doesn't mean it is broken or we don't have choices.   In fact, in 2020, we have one heck of a choice to make.  Make it wisely.

As for "Blue States" and "Red States" - I think these terms are outmoded, as the last election illustrated.   The Midwest went for Trump, including traditional "Blue" States.  Meanwhile, 45% of the people in Georgia voted for Hillary, and Virginia went for Obama (twice) and for Hillary.   Our traditional views of what is a "Red State" and a "Blue State" are being set on their ear - and likely because most of America has moved, in the last 50 years, from the Northeast, to the Sunbelt, the South, and the Southwest.

But that could be a whole other blog posting, and this one is long enough!