Ross Douthat, “What Is Joe Biden Thinking?”, New York Times, January 15, 2022.
Ross Douthat has done an excellent job in summing up the major failures of the Biden presidency, and their causes. As in Afghanistan, Biden is on a disastrous course. It is likely to lead to the loss of both the House and the Senate in 1922 if it is not corrected.
At the moment, the prospects for a course correction emanating from within the administration appear to be somewhere between negligible and nil.
Whether Democrats in Congress and out in the country can pressure Biden to change course is anybody’s guess.
Biden has demonstrated the truth of the old maxim that, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Instead of negotiating with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to pass a good “big infrastructure” bill instead of his Build Back Better dream mega-bill, Biden has needlessly wasted critical time and energy on a bill that does not meet the voters’ immediate concerns, while ignoring fundamental issues which may determine the future of democracy in the United States.
These fundamental issues include the necessity of ending the current state of impunity by indicting Donald Trump for his many apparent crimes of obstruction of justice, and indicting both Trump and his co-conspirators for electoral crimes and for trying to overthrow the election and the Constitution. Beyond the criminal convictions such indictments may produce, they could have an important educational impact, explaining, for example, how witness tampering affects us all.
The Justice Department under Merrick Garland seems to be off in some la-la land where ending impunity, and putting away apparent felons–above the level of the foot soldiers–lacks importance or any sense of urgency.
Maybe Garland will come up with some “perfect” prosecutions in 2023 or 2024, but even this seems unlikely as apparently he has not even begun a large-scale investigation. By the time he gets around to it, if he ever does, the statute of limitations will have run on many of Trump’s 2017 crimes (beginning in January, 2022), and whatever educational effect the indictments and trials might have had will have come too late to have a big impact on politics in the country.
On the critical issue of voting rights and fair elections, Biden has put his weight behind the maximalist demands of so-called “progressives” in his party, who seek the “perfect” overhaul of the federal electoral system instead of a slimmed-down bill aimed at defending the integrity of vote-counting and certification, and blocking or reversing the Republicans’ legislative attempts in many states to rig the process and make it more vulnerable to political subversion.
Finally, Biden has done nothing to propose legislative action or to adopt executive actions that would deflate the propaganda bubble of Trump and his supporters, e.g., by reintroducing “public interest” and “fairness” standards into the FCC licensing of television and radio stations, or by adopting laws that would establish liability for knowingly transmitting lies and disinformation over the airwaves.
Biden has done nothing in this area. No initiatives. Nothing.
In thinking of the defense of democracy against the fascist threat, everyone needs not only to call out Republicans for the anti-democratic measures and culture of lies and disinformation they are supporting, but also to call out the Democrats and the Biden administration for their failure to take obviously necessary steps to defend our democracy.
These steps are laid out above, and include–most critically– indicting Trump and his minions for the serious felonies they appear to have committed.
If our democracy succumbs to the anti-democratic and fascist challenges it faces, not only the Republicans but also the Democrats will be to blame.
By then, of course, it may be too late for any kind of blame to make any difference.
The Trenchant Observer