If you watch boxing regularly, it is easy to spot when a boxer starts getting tired. It’s not the wobbly legs, misdirected uppercuts, or mistimed ducks, it is the anxious look of a knowledge that the match is getting out of control. Before anyone else, the boxer understands that he is losing, and that reflects in his look. It shows in the eventual head-bobbing that gets slower and slower to downright disoriented.
Joe Biden looks like a tired boxer whose steam ran out three rounds earlier. The incoherent speech, the anxious look of impending failure, the desperate plea to rally the crowd by cheering for someone no one will remember in two days’ time. It is somewhat depressing. Watching Biden is reminiscent of the passing of an era, of a man painfully out of his element and his time.
The primary debate immediately after Biden’s shellacking in Iowa looked like elder abuse. Biden’s well-wishers should step in. The man needs some rest.
That is not to say that his arguments against his fellow candidates lack merit. Biden, for good or for bad, learnt from his foreign policy fiasco with Iraq. He lied that he was misled by George W. Bush, because he wrote an op-ed supporting “nation building” in 2001. To claim that foreign policy interventionism is a right-wing concept is empirically flawed, as humanitarian interventions and international anti-sovereigntist “Responsibility to Protect” doctrines are a product of the Tony Blair-Bill Clinton liberal duopoly of the nineties.
Yet Biden was the only one, other than Bob Gates, who opposed the Libya misadventure. Unfortunately for him and the world, he was overruled by Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice (page 252 of Power’s new book traces that contentious meeting.)
It is no surprise that his best attacks are against Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a shallow husk of a man with vacuous answers whose only consistent effort is to try a smoldering intensity coupled with appeals to his youth. None of that is policy relevant, and in reality, Buttigieg remains one of the most extreme candidates. Speaking with a soft, polished cut-glass accent doesn’t make one a centrist. Leon Trotsky himself was one of the most polished speakers of last century.
Biden was also in top form when questioning Bernie Sanders about his plans to fund all the hairbrained schemes that he seems to produce from Soviet five-year plans. It speaks volumes about the mediocrity of the media that it falls on an incoherent candidate to raise a simple question that professional journalists should ask repeatedly: whether there would be massive tax increase for the middle class if Sanders wants to transform American health care into a National Health Service-modelled behemoth that will cost trillions, even by the most conservative of estimates.
The British NHS, in the meantime, coughed up 150,000 pounds of taxpayers’ cash annually to cater to one single violently autistic individual who then almost committed a murder.
Still, Biden, the “great moderate hope,” is the Jim Webb of 2020. He’s a man left behind in a party he helped transform, one that changed beyond what he can now imagine, divided between outright socialists on one hand, and pink police on the other.
Biden was the vice president of one of the most revolutionary regimes in modern American history. Barack Obama transformed his party and the country with it. From appeasing Black Lives Matters and Occupy Wall Street, to transforming the higher-education system with Title IX and critical theory-influenced social policies, to institutionalizing LGBT overreach, to suspending immigration law, to relying on courts as the final rule of executive functions instead of a neutral arbiter of legislation, Obama changed the character of the republic. Biden not only had a seat in the front row of that car, he helped sell those policies.
Now the Bolsheviks are out to get the Mensheviks, as history so often predicted. There are already knives out for the ostensible frontrunner, who is neither running nor in the front anymore. It will be an unfortunate, but fitting, end.
Will Bernie Sanders have his own momentum coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire? Or will the Democratic National Committee gather around and join forces to stop an avowed socialist from taking over the party of John F. Kennedy? Republicans who think Bernie would be an easier candidate for Trump to beat than either Biden or Elizabeth Warren are in for a harsh surprise.
Of course, the calculus in a general election might be different, but in a primary the more extreme a candidate is, the more advantage he has, as candidates try and pivot back to the center during a general. That is the idea, anyway. The trouble is, that happens in a normal election and in a normal party.
In a normal election, you can understand that the momentum might swing against you if you nominate a candidate with a distinct socialist past who will get a million-dollar ad dumped on his head consisting of simply his foreign policy quotes from the last five decades. But the Democratic Party is not a normal party anymore, especially since 2016. Not just the actors, but the entire game has changed. This is a party divided between the transgender left and the Trotskyist left. The center cannot hold against this insurgency.
Perhaps due to this there’s panic in the establishment. That’s because, sooner or later, moderate Democrats will realize that the only moderate in the race is on the other side. Despite his funny accent and personal brashness, he is willing to let people lead their own lives, and let states legislate their own laws.
If one leaves his rhetoric aside, Donald Trump’s policies are outright moderate. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is not a party of the moderates anymore. Neither Amy Klobuchar nor Biden is winning. The true moderates in the left won’t have much of a choice, if the choice is between a quasi-totalitarian leftist behemoth deciding every single aspect of your life, or a right-wing federal government that cuts down, well, government.