politics

We Need to Talk, Yet Again, About Joe Biden

We need to talk, yet again, about Joe Biden.

Only this time we’re not really talking about Joe Biden. Joe Biden is just an object lesson for all of us in the on-going dialogue about bodily autonomy and consent for physical contact.

For most of history as written by men of European descent, we have followed a sort of chattel-based idea of what behavior is appropriate between men and women; the gold standard of male behavior had to do with treating women the way you would want your wife or daughter treated. We still see that mindset now whenever a man responds to allegations other men committing acts of abuse or harassment by saying “I’m the father of daughters so I would never want guys to say that stuff to them!”

That’s wrong headed-thinking, as many before me have pointed out, because it values women only in their relationship to men, not as beings with inherent worth and dignity of their own. The correct response to mistreatment of women is “I am a human being and I would not want another human being treating me that way so I cannot accept any human being being treated that way.” Gender and relationships should be utterly irrelevant in how you treat people.

While that idea sounds logical and simple, it’s almost brand new. And no one is quite sure how to use it in practice.

The idea of every human being having inherent worth and dignity just by virtue of drawing breath is so controversial that we have never, ever, in all of human history managed to get it right. We see failures to acknowledge it at every turn: Unequal pay. Chattel slavery. Chattel marriage. Unfair divorce law. Legalized martial rape. Locker room talk. Dismissed claims of workplace harassment. Unfair criminal sentencing practices. Domestic abusers walking free.

We get it wrong at every turn and it’s why we have needed so many waves of civil rights movements to alter the landscape of society just to establish basic fairness. These movements and these changes don’t come without turmoil and the wise person welcomes all the messy discussion of what has happened in the past and what should happen in the future.

Which brings us to the question of whether Joe Biden is a wise person.

We all know Uncle Joe is a hugger. There are a million photos of him hugging people at public events, probably dating back to his earliest campaigns. And under the old rules, his hugging was no biggie. Would you be ok with the Vice President hugging your wife, in front of a million people? Sure! He’s Uncle Joe! He doesn’t mean anything by it. It’s cool.

But you – and he – forgot the part where you check with your wife about whether she wanted the hug. And women for generations forgot to ask themselves if they wanted the hug. We all just went with the unspoken idea that it was fine because it wasn’t anything illicit. It’s just a hug, right? Men can hug women and it’s fine, right?

And it was fine. For many years, that was considered fine. Today, however, in 2019, it is no longer fine and several women have spoken out to say just how not fine they found Biden’s hugs. We need to have a conversation about how to deal with the once-fine becoming the not-fine. This conversation is hard because we are literally standing on the border between the past and the future as it applies to this issue.

We are mere steps into a new phase of history, a phase where women are, for the first time, actively defining what is acceptable in terms of how others conduct themselves in relation to our bodies. If I had to draw a bright line between the Before and the After, I would paint it right up the crack of Harvey Weinstein’s ass. He is the tipping point between what was ok and what will be ok next.

Not that I’m comparing Weinstein’s level of violence and depravity to Joe Biden’s overzealous application of hugs. They aren’t the same thing at all. What is the same is the years of silence from women who were the objects of those wrongs, both large and small.

Just as everyone in politics knew Biden was a hugger, everyone in Hollywood knew Weinstein was a sexual predator. It went on for years, half in shadow, half in plain sight, and it took until 2017 for it all to come under the scrutiny we are seeing right now. In the case of men like Weinstein and Matt Lauer and Bill Cosby, the reckoning has been dramatic and suitably punitive. What they did was clearly wrong by any metric.

In the case of guys like Joe Biden, well. That’s different. His actions weren’t criminal. They were simply presumptuous and inconsiderate. They didn’t violate the law or even the rules of conduct that applied for most of his public career. How do we deal with that? What reckoning should men like Biden face when we confront them with their past and their future?  That’s the conversation we have to have.

Nancy Pelosi hit the nail on the head when she was asked about Joe Biden this week. She said  “He has to understand in the world that we’re in now that people’s space is important to them, and what’s important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it.”

Joe Biden needs to apologize for not knowing better in the past, because he really didn’t seem to know. And he needs to pledge to do better now that he does know. He needs to show us he’s doing better by going in for the handshake, not the hug.

It’s not only Biden who will be grappling with this in the days and years to come. We all need to be thinking about how we treat others and how they want to be treated. While I don’t envy Biden the public scrutiny as he undergoes his personal period of reflection, I am pleased that we as a society are having this conversation at last.

We Need To Talk More About Joe Biden

Wikmedia Commons

We need to talk some more about Joe Biden.

I was on here a couple of weeks ago denigrating the former Vice President for floating the idea that he could make up for a lack of diversity in his own self by bringing Stacey Abrams along for the ride if (when) he announced his candidacy. I was not alone in brushing that idea aside; Stacey Abrams didn’t like it much either. I can’t say for sure what her plans are, but they apparently do not involve hitching herself to someone else’s wagon.

So, now we’re left with Joe solo. We are mere days away from the beginning of the second fundraising quarter of the political year and this is the most likely moment for a Biden entrance into the field. His polling numbers look solid, I’m sure he can find big donors to bankroll this, and the media is getting bored with their Buttegieg love-fest and need a new object of affection. I fully expect Biden to join the primary race and, as I said in my last essay, I fully expect him to lose.

The primary. I think Biden will lose the primary. But I still believe that Joe Biden could beat Trump in the general.

Here’s the deal with Biden. He is a 100% vetted candidate. We know the Ballad of Biden from intro to outro, and if he launches a presidential campaign as a coda to his already long career, we still won’t be surprised by him. We all know the story of the death of his wife, his trips back and forth to Delaware on the train so his kids could stay in their schools. We know about his childhood in Scranton and the death of his son Beau to cancer. We remember him coldly questioning Anita Hill and we know he has been part of the machinery of many military actions over the years. We know that he added his name alleged reforms that ended up hurting people in poverty and people of color for generations. We know that he may know more about foreign policy than any other candidate and we know he’s more politically tone deaf on social issues than any other candidate.

We know Joe Biden. Right, left and center knows Joe Biden.

That knowledge is why the left is justifiably skeptical of Biden. For all his true blue Democratic bona fides – and he has plenty – he’s also an old, white, man with a lot of mistakes in his lengthy political past. He’s committed the kinds of sins that progressives don’t want to forgive any more. We are ready for the next generation of leaders and that’s why we are likely to pass over Biden on the road to the 2020 election.

But as a candidate in a general election? Our familiarity with Biden is his biggest strength. Trump could hire the best opposition research firm money can buy and he still won’t be able to find a single fact about Joe Biden that isn’t already common knowledge. There’s not chance of an October surprise when we’re talking about a candidate who’s a completely open book. Unless it turns out that Biden secretly killed Jimmy Hoffa, there’s nothing new that Trump can throw into the discourse that will change the entrenched public perception of Joe Biden.

Moreover, Biden doesn’t have a soft underbelly. He’s not afraid of making mistakes and he’s not afraid of apologizing. He’s not terribly good at apologizing, based on his latest half-hearted attempt to do so regarding Anita Hill, but he’s willing to try. He’s not controlled by shame or fear. He owns his past. He lets his record stand for what it is.

In those respects, Biden is Trump’s opposite. Trump is a man controlled by secrets and lies, terrified of being caught out, and reckless in his attempts to deflect criticism. There’s a new revelation about him at every turn and he can’t control his own emotional responses to them. He’s defensive, petty, and cruel and his record? Well, his record speaks for itself and all it says is “I put babies in cages”.

I’d wager that the general electorate would look at Biden v. Trump and see their way clear to putting Biden in the White House. He’s imperfect in so very many ways, but he’s also everyone’s favorite Uncle Joe and no one can deny that he’s qualified for the job. Donald Trump is more like Uncle Fester and his incompetence is quite plain.

As for whether or not Biden can bring home a crowd just through personality alone, well. Go back and take a look at his convention speech from 2016. Now think about this story I can share with you: my husband was seated behind the stage in the arena that night and could see the TelePromptrs. The text wasn’t scrolling for a lot of Biden’s speech. This wasn’t a canned message. This was the heart of Joe Biden, on stage for all the world to see.

There’s a lot for Democrats to think about on their way to the primary polls next year and everyone should vote their priorities. But if one of your priorities is the magical formula of electability, consider Joe Biden. I think he has it, even if I don’t think he’ll get the chance to use it.

We Need To Talk About Joe Biden

We need to talk about Joe Biden.

Joe Biden, Senator, Vice President, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, subject of a million memes, is inches away from jumping into the 2020 fray. I picture him like this, poised, waiting to swoop into the race.

I believe I can fllllyyyyyy!

But for all the meme-tasticness of Joe Biden, we need to acknowledge one thing about him and that is a thing we should be taking very seriously: he has more foreign policy experience than any other declared candidate.

That is not a minor distinction as the world eddies around the Trump Doctrine of foreign policy. We are on track to emerge from this administration with our traditional allies alienated and dictators emboldened by Trump’s encouragement of their standing as global power elites. The process of realigning our relationships back toward favoring democratic nations above dictatorships and rebuilding the trust we used to enjoy among NATO and beyond will take knowledge, skills, and determination. Biden’s experience as Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and his time as Vice President make him almost as qualified to do that as Hillary Clinton was in 2016.

Almost. She was the most foreign policy savvy candidate in a generation. But, you know. Her fucking emails or something.

Annnyyyway.

We cannot idly dismiss the need for foreign policy expertise going into 2020 and if we have a top of ticket candidate who’s thin on that experience, they need to be damn sure to pick someone for Vice President or Secretary of State who’s a foreign policy powerhouse. Biden’s entry into the race will likely underscore that issue and it’s one we need to consider as we all make our primary choices.

Which brings us to Part Two of the Conversation About Biden. This week, rumors have been flying that Biden will select a running mate early. In so doing, he probably hopes to forestall criticism about his age by implicitly having a younger second in command who stands ready to step in – and possibly run at the top of the ticket in 2024 – if needed. He likely also hopes to bring in diversity with his VP pick and overcome all the whiteness and maleness that comes with the Biden brand.

He purportedly thinks he can accomplish all of this by inviting Stacey Abrams to be his Vice President.

I love Stacey Abrams. She is smart, she is savvy, and she is the next wave of Democratic politicians. Pretty much everything in Democratic politics is improved by the addition of Stacey Abrams. That’s why I really wanted to be excited by these rumors. Instead, I had a sinking feeling that reminded me uncomfortably of the day when John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate. It was only a day or two since Hillary had conceded the 2008 nomination to Obama and Palin smirked her way to the podium and told the crowd that the “women of American aren’t done yet!” I stared at the tv and thought “Is John McCain trying to insult my intelligence?”

Yes, as it turns out. He was.

Now, Stacey Abrams is no Sarah Palin. She’s a serious person with serious abilities. That’s why it feels doubly insulting that Biden would trot her out and say “Meet Stacey! She’s a woman! A Black woman! Vote for us!” And if you don’t believe me when I say the optics on this idea are actually that bad, believe Black women who have things like this to say:

What Biden knows in all of this is that no Democratic candidate can win without Black women. They are the base of the electorate. They showed up for Hillary, they showed up for Barack. But if the only way Joe Biden can get them to show up for him is by offering them a side-order of Stacey Abrams, he needs to understand that he himself is not what Black women want. He’s not even really what white women want and white women make some very questionable choices in presidents. More than half of white women voted for Trump. Our standards apparently suck.

Joe Biden needs to be willing to sit down, listen carefully to his critics, and make the case for himself in a clear and uncluttered way. Using someone like Stacey Abrams as a shield to deflect questions about his many shortcomings is a chicken move and he should be better than this. He does have things to offer but he apparently doesn’t know how to do it.

That’s not what wins elections and it’s why Joe Biden has never won a presidential primary and I don’t think he’ll win this one either.

Democrats Need Their Own MAGA

by Kevin Kelton

As we head into the 2018 midterm elections, it’s astounding that the national Democratic Party still has yet to formulated a coherent message to voters. While President Trump and the GOP rally around simple, bumper sticker messages like MAGA, Build The Wall, and Drain The Swamp, the Democratic party cannot form a coherent message that can appeal to both liberal voters on the coasts and midwest working-class voters. This was a critical failing of the 2016 Clinton campaign, and it will be just as damaging to Democrats going forward if the party doesn’t speak to the voters it needs to win.

Here’s a proposal for a simple, clear four plank Democratic platform to retake congress and the White House. I call it The Campaign for American Justice:

1) Healthcare justice — expanded, reasonably priced healthcare using a mixed economy approach with the goal of quality healthcare for all.

2) Economic justice — tax incentives and economic incentives to get private employers to raise wages and decrease the wealth gap; make higher education more accessible and affordable to all.

3) Social justice — working with courts and local authorities to promote racial justice and reduce violence. This includes smart gun laws and better police training to reduce accidental deaths.

4) Political justice — reducing the power of money in politics and increasing voter participation.

The overriding theme of justice was chosen because it appeals to Americans across ideologies and demographics. Instead of promoting specific programs like “medicare for all” or “guaranteed jobs” (both toxic ideas to free market conservatives), the focus should be on the goal of finding a range of bipartisan solutions to promote justice in healthcare, the wealth gap, racial and social issues, and politics.

Rather than insisting on one pre-measured legislative cure like single payer health insurance, Democrats would be better off to identify the problems we face as a nation and offer a variety of proposals to solve them. “Drain the Swamp” isn’t a policy, it’s a goal. So is “Make America Great Again.” Even the seemingly specific “Build a Wall” is a euphemism for the goals of a stronger border, cultural hegemony, and economic security.

People want to vote for ideas that reinforce the good in America. They don’t need a position paper on each issue with cost breakdowns and detailed legislative language. Tell them what you stand for, and give them a reason to stand for it, too.

And without saying it explicitly, a campaign for “American justice” suggests a counter-balance to the corruption and lack of candor that is the hallmark of the Trump White House. A subliminal message that Democrats will stand for a better America, a fairer America, a just America.

Whether it be the Campaign for American Justice or another theme, Democrats need to start branding their party now so voters fed up with Trumpism have something to vote for in November.

 

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of Open Fire Politics on Facebook.

Roseanne & Donald: Life Irritates Art (Ep. 147)

This week’s MPU podcast looks at Roseanne Barr’s love affair with Donald Trump,  the differences between what liberals and conservatives watch on TV, Laura Ingraham’s cheap shot a Parkland shooting survivor, and what a remake of Red Dawn might look like.

The Fault Lies In Ourselves

by Kevin Kelton

While we watch the slow, painful destruction of our political system, we should take a moment to reflect that we did this to ourselves. Every one of us. We bought into the politics of hate. We bought into the politics of cults. We devoured negative ads and delighted in dirty, underhanded campaigns. (This goes for the liberals as well.) We believed the worst in our candidates and pilloried them for being human. We gave ratings to hate. We rewarded crassness and punished civility.

Read More

God In Politics

On this special episode of the “A More Perfect Union” podcast, Greg interviews Lutheran Pastor Lorne Hlad, co-host of the religious podcast, “To Hell With The Hotdish” (http://tohellwiththehotdish.com) about the role of religion in the 2016 presidential campaign.   

Afterward, the gang discusses how religion has become a hot issue in the finals weeks of the presidential race.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! And please don’t forget to Rate and Review us on iTunes.

And if you like talking politics, join us on Facebook in OPEN FIRE, our political group where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Emily, Cliff, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Rigged Election?

On this week’s “A More Perfect Union” podcast, the gang looks at what it takes to rig an election, claims of media bias, Trump’s “first hundred days” speech, and song titles that sum up this year’s election.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! And please don’t forget to Rate and Review us on iTunes.

If you like talking politics, join us on Facebook in OPEN FIRE, our political group where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Emily, Greg, Cliff, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Trump Goes Nuclear

In this episode of the “More Perfect Union” podcast, co-hosts Kevin Kelton, D.J. McGuire and Greg Matusak analyze the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, and the guys respond to Trump’s claim that controversial Billy Bush audio clip was nothing but “locker room banter.”

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! And please don’t forget to Rate and Review us on iTunes.

If you like talking politics, join us on Facebook in OPEN FIRE, our political group where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Emily, Greg, Cliff, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Trump’s Taco Trucks

 

Segments:
Taco Truck Tuesday for the Trump campaign

Gary Johnson’s big endorsement

Great debate flops (including Ronald Reagan)

Who’d gain most if Johnson is in the debates?

Jill Stein’s city mixup

Why John Kasich is a donkey butt (of sorts)

Send us your questions!

Check out this episode

If you like talking politics, join us on Facebook in OPEN FIRE, our political group where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Emily, Greg, Cliff, and lots of other smart, fun people.

An Undecided Voter Decides

This is episode 49 of the “A More Perfect Union” podcast series featuring Cliff Dunn, Kevin Kelton, Emily Brewer, Greg Matusak, and D. J. McGuire. This week, the hosts talk about Trump’s one-eighty on immigration, Clinton’s surprising new endorser, and one of the gang makes a  shocking revelation about who is getting that person’s vote.

Segments:

  • Trump resets (again) on immigration
  • Hillary picks up a surprising endorsement of sorts
  • D.J.’s ode to the architect of the Iraq War
  • Emily’s shocking announcement !
  • How do friends make sense of their friends’ vote for Trump?
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