Joe Biden

Joe Biden, Rusty Weather Vane

He'll creak in the direction of the prevailing political winds eventually, for good and mostly ill. It's his greatest weakness, and main selling point.

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Say what you will about the ethics of plagiarists—at least they have an ear for what audiences want to hear.

When Joe Biden cratered in his first official run at the White House in 1987, it was because of a series of borrowed speech passages, hand gestures, and even biographical details (no, he didn't derive from a family of coal miners, as he once claimed, nor was he "the first" in his clan to ever attend college; he lifted those details from a speech by U.K. Labor politician Neil Kinnock). The deceptions nonetheless revealed a political truth: Ronald Reagan had peeled off blue-collar voters from the Democratic Party, and it would take a relatable, regular-sounding Joe to lure them back.

Americans may tell themselves they seek candidates who lead, but in reality they're more likely to reward politicians, like Biden, who follow where public tastes have already gone. You generally don't serve in multiple tiers of elected office for his 47 years—longer than Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke and several other Democratic presidential candidates have been alive—by getting out ahead of voters' comfort zones. You get there by being a weather vane.

Joe Biden is a political weather vane covered in rust. He'll creak in the direction of the prevailing winds eventually, apologetically if need be, but don't expect the man to point toward some bold new future. It's both his main selling point and greatest weakness.

During the late 1980s and early '90s, when the country was at the exhausted end of a three-decade rise in violent crime, Biden was right there putting his fingerprints all over what would become America's mass incarceration machine. He co-sponsored the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which included much tougher penalties for crack cocaine than for powder cocaine, and lamented that "6 out of every 10 criminals who are arrested on drug charges have their cases dropped."

Now that even a law-and-order Republican president is pushing through criminal justice reform, Uncle Joe is characterizing his role in the crack/powder disparity as a "big mistake."

Biden absolutely will follow, not lead, on legalizing marijuana, which two out of three Americans—and all 12 presidential candidates immediately behind him in national polls—now support. Even while serving in the White House with "Choom Gang" emeritus Barack Obama, the then-veep was still using old-timey prohibitionist language, calling pot a "gateway drug."

Think of every time American public opinion over the past half-century swung toward a public-policy hysteria many would eventually regret, and you'll see Joe there, Zelig-like, flashing his choppers. Iraq war? Check. The (as characterized by Vox's Dara Lind) disastrous, forgotten 1996 law that created today's immigration problem? Yep. Patriot Act? He's been dining out on that one for years.

Those of us wary of government power shudder at the sight of politicians with a demonstrated eagerness to wield it when the masses get rowdy. And yet Biden's finger-in-the-wind ideological pliability can have its uses, too, most famously in 2012, when he gingerly led his party to the conclusion on marriage equality its voting members had long since held. This, less than two decades after (of course!) voting for the notorious Defense of Marriage Act.

Biden's current high standing in the polls is a sight to behold for those of us who remember his six feeble previous flirtations with the Oval Office. It suggests that, in a cycle in which Democrats are prioritizing electability more than in any recent election, it's precisely Joe's rust that makes him attractive.

With the exception of the vanishing never-Trump rump, just about every right-of-center political and policy grouping I'm aware of is gearing up for 18 months of trench warfare against incipient socialism. "If Trump doesn't win," the once-Trump-averse Glenn Beck recently warned, "we are officially at the end of the country as we know it."

In a campaign that has already zoomed from Medicare-for-all to the Green New Deal to even slavery reparations with vertigo-inducing speed, who among the recognizable half of the Democratic field seems least likely to hoist the red banner? Rust is not, after all, a useful lubricant for revolution.

While Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) is out there unveiling giant (and costly!) new policy proposals every 48 hours or so, Biden just waves off any such commitments, saying he doesn't "have the time to completely lay out all the details" of his plans.

In a political moment so weird that Donald Trump is president and Bernie Sanders damn near took over the Democratic Party, it may seem counterintuitive to bet on a politician who works so hard at coloring inside the lines. But two-party systems tend to resemble pendulums. After four years of comparative madness, maybe Americans are looking for a typical politician: unprincipled and pandering, sure, but at least predictable. And slow.

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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53 responses to “Joe Biden, Rusty Weather Vane

  1. …getting out ahead of voters’ comfort zones.

    He did (as I’m sure instructed) float same-sex marriage recognition. That has to count for something.

    Descheduling cannabis is the one thing Donald Trump could do to secure his re-election. It would steal the thunder of several Democrat contenders and leave Biden completely in the dust. And, as an added bonus to the president, cause heads to explode. Again.

    1. And the really fun part is Trump would be doing so as the law and order candidate!
      To qualify for schedule one, a substance must not have any medicinal uses. So pulling the devil weed is just obeying the law – –

    2. While that would be a good and logical thing to do, no one is voting on that issue. Or on most of the things the democrats are running on.

  2. After four years of comparative madness, maybe Americans are looking for a typical politician: unprincipled and pandering, sure, but at least predictable. And slow.

    My exact reasons for firing up a write-in campaign for perhaps the most successful progressive candidate we’ve ever had, FDR.

    Now, a lot of people might have a problem voting for a liberal who effected so much change (and not for the better) in our political system, but rolling government back to merely FDR-level size and scope would actually be an improvement on the current situation and I can absolutely guarantee you that a President FDR will not be introducing big new plans for expanding government as the rest of the field are plotting.

    And truthfully, I’m not wedded to the idea that it must be FDR, I would as readily vote for Teddy (Roosevelt or Kennedy, doesn’t matter) or really any dead politician at all over the ones we’ve got now.

    1. Sure , unless you add in all the laws that were struck down by the S.C. and over look removing citizens and their families form their homes and locking them up in camps. He’s policies were more in line with national socialism .

      1. Worried he might come back to finish the job?

      2. Adans, you say that as if the rest of his policies were better. they weren’t.

      3. Progressives, as history shows, like the gulags or the camps. They also over look the fact that FDR’s New Deal, SS, Medicare and Medicaid, and going broke in real time.

        I read a left of center leaning economist review of MMT this past weekend. One of the progressive economists promoting MMT uses chattel slavery as an example (it is in a model) of how printing money will work while curbing hyperinflation.

  3. I’ll bet he wet that finger first.

    1. Yeah, you’ve got to if you want to give someone the old rusty weather vane.

  4. Tail Dragger Joe vs. King Kumquat — which one would have patted Ghost on the head? America needs to know.

  5. Biden is far from my first choice. However if he ends up getting the Democratic nomination, all serious libertarians must vote for him. As flawed as he is, he’d be a dramatic improvement over the current version of the GOP, which is turning the country into a combination of Nazi Germany and The Handmaid’s Tale.

    1. D for effort.

    2. OBL, you say this all the time but never give examples of why you think that.
      Give me some examples of why you think that!

      1. Being a satirist [of variable talents, I must say] OBL doesn’t need to validate his presuppositions. And he does have a tough job here, as many of us know what his talents can be and therefore want moar of it, every time.

        1. In his case more is always less, but everyone is entitled to his own rice bowl.

  6. Joe Biden, Rusty Weather Vane

    Joe Biden… More like Rusty Trombone.

    1. Or a Rusty Venture.

  7. I’ll be short, frank, and very rude.

    Joe Biden is a fucking ass hole. Fuck you ass hat!!!

    1. Frank is a short little rude fucker. Or is it rude little short fucker? Little rude short fucker?

      1. I’d imagine it depends on whether he’s fucking rudes or shorts …

      2. A fucking rude little shorty.

        1. Thank you for your replies.

  8. Joe Biden neutralizes the two biggest negatives that Trump has going for him, one hes also been very wrong about nearly every policy and two he’s older than Trump. Biden was on the wrong side of busing for christsake. He’s also a plagiarist so he neutralizes trumps lieing. The idea of Biden is what’s polling well the second he opens his mouth people will remember what a clown the guy is.

    1. And just think; he’s the best* they have!

      *Not over the top crazy mofo, aka, least worst electable.

      1. that’s probably the most depressing part. he’s the “best” of the Dems, and the GOP hasn’t even got a “best” & has no intention of entertaining any entrants other than the incumbent.

        1. Let’s just agree they all suck.

          I often hear how we need the “right” person to come along and “bring us together” and “lead” us down x or y pathway; I believe that ship has sailed; if any of the “great ones” [Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Lincoln] were to appear today they would, absent anything like slavery or having a kept woman, be excoriated for any number of reasons. No man/woman/xi or xer on swooping in on horseback can ever hope to herd the pack of wild cats we and society in general have become.

    2. Remember too that her referred to Obama as a “Clean” negro.
      Classy

  9. “relatable, regular-sounding Joe”

    his main talent. appearing relatable and regular, despite being a guy that has aimed for nothing but political office since adulthood. & after how many decades, people are still buying the act?? 1987 was 3 decades ago, and he was already well-enough established … in the establishment … to make an initially credible run for President.

  10. I mean, you got the first, sorta, mainstream Democrat, who is articulate and bright, and who isn’t all radical and intersectional, and is a clean, nice looking guy. I mean, that’s a story-board, man!

    1. He is old, white, and male.
      So he is racist, sexist, and an oppressor.
      Q.E.D.

  11. I can understand why Democrats would be hesitant to take a risk on a “diverse” candidate when faced with the prospect of Trump getting 4 more years to Shark Week the country, but I seriously question the premise of Joe’s electability. He’s four years older than Trump. His principal character trait is being a gaffe machine. He touches people inappropriately. Every public appearance in this campaign has been, what a surprise, gaffe-prone. He and Bernie need to do the next Grumpy Old Man sequel and get out of the way.

    1. No Country for Old Men; such are our times.

    2. The gaffe machine will eventually take the “electable” sheen off of old Joe, but it may not happen until after he’s won the nomination.

      1. And then he’d have to run against the guy with the best words.

  12. Clinton was leading Obama in the 2007 polls before the primaries started. I suspect old Joe may be in the same situation and someone else could break out. They are all a nightmare in one way or another anyway.

    1. Things will tighten up once the Dem clown car empties of candidates and most of them go back to their ass-sniffing lobbyist or politician jobs. But he’s kicking the shit out of everyone in the polls right now, and would instantly bring the upper Midwest back into the Dem fold because he’s probably the only candidate they have who doesn’t hate working-class white people.

      1. It’s hard to figure out how to appeal to people who think a cheesy grifter with gold toilets is their savior.

  13. There is plenty of time for Creepy Uncle Joe to something really, really stupid. Sniff the wrong hair, grab the wrong shoulders…plenty of time…

    1. According to the media, nothing to see here, move along. (His 2007 racist rant in Iowa).

  14. “There’s less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with,”
    Joe Biden 2007
    He goes on to posit that African Americans do not talk to their children or have anything to do with their lives. Biden is done-game over.

    1. Not if he’s the only “viable” choice vs Trump, or any other Republican. That past history bs only comes out of the closet when it’s needed finger. Otherwise he gets a big ole pass, and it will haunt him only if his opponent has a similar accusation [unless of course it’s Trump, cause that’s a whole ‘nother animal].

      1. I’m thinking Clinton will resurface?

        1. They Saved Hillary’s Brain.

    2. Well, Trump got a pass for various comments about blacks, for allegations (and boasts) of inappropriate touching and for completely changing his position on various topics (e.g. Planned Parenthood) so I doubt Biden will be affected too badly.

      1. If you wwwant to used tired dem talking points why don’t you get your own Reason column?

  15. I keep hearing that Joe Biden is the Democratic Party’s only hope in defeating Donald Trump. I have a hard time believing that. I would think it would be Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I don’t vote for Republicans or Democrats.

  16. His wife and kid died. He deserves to be president even if he takes that ‘triangulation thing too far.

  17. […] Source: Joe Biden, Rusty Weather Vane – Reason.com […]

  18. […] apparently considers Biden’s acceptable moderation? Well, Uncle Joe is nothing if not a rusty weather vane, and the Democratic wind is still coming in heaviest from the left. There’s no reason to […]

  19. […] apparently considers Biden’s acceptable moderation? Well, Uncle Joe is nothing if not a rusty weather vane, and the Democratic wind is still coming in heaviest from the left. There’s no reason to […]

  20. […] apparently considers Biden’s acceptable moderation? Well, Uncle Joe is nothing if not a rusty weather vane, and the Democratic wind is still coming in heaviest from the left. There’s no reason to […]

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