Joe Biden is not meant to govern. If he manages, and whatever he manages, that’s all well and good, and a bonus but that is not his purpose. His mission was to win the election. This he did, regardless of whether you think he did it fairly, cleanly and legally or not.
Biden was nominated because the Democrat establishment thought he was the only one of the original field of two dozen or so who had a chance of winning against Donald Trump. In that the DNC was correct. All the others vying to take on Orange Man Bad were either too inexperienced and unknown or too far to the left of the party, and so would scare the horses of the centrist American electorate. And so, one by one, they got eliminated by a combination of primary voters and the internal machinations (a special mention goes to Bernie Sanders, who got done out of the nomination for the second time in four years). Biden was not great but he was the best available; well past his “best by” date – though clearly not “use by” – but still able to project the avuncular image of the slightly embarrassing and yet somewhat endearing drunk Irish uncle. An experienced (47 years in Washington) centrist (by Democrat standards), he could appeal to the independents and the swinging voters tired of Trump’s theatrics as a honest, straight-talking, dignified, well-meaning and non-threatening alternative. If not exactly the third term of the Obama presidency, it would be a “return to normal” after four years of anti-politics in the White House and a year full of domestic upheaval and pestilence.
The mission is now accomplished and Joe is not strictly speaking necessary any more, though it would be a tad unseemly to remove him too soon. Unless he drops dead between now and then, he will get sworn in in January and will get to enjoy the Oval Office for a while, more as a decoration than a fixture, while his Administration powers on ahead without much input from him and certainly without much need for all but his figurehead services.
The battlespace preparation has already begun, with two independent lines of probing attack launched through the mainstream media: the question of age and infirmity, and the controversy over potential family corruption. On one level, these can be seen as completely innocent: Trump has been defeated – the media having faithfully played its part – so certain issues that were untouchable during the election campaign can now be safely aired. That, after all, is the media’s role in our political system, shining the light and holding those in power accountable. No one can accuse them of not doing their job – finally, now that it won’t help Trump. But on another level, the two lines of attack also serve to soften up public opinion, start constructing the necessary narrative, and prepare the country for the inevitable change of guard at the top, much sooner rather than later, as would normally be expected.
And so, firstly, this “New Yorker” hit piece “Dianne Feinstein’s Missteps Raise a Painful Age Question Among Senate Democrats”, which (correctly) portrays the 87-year-old Senator from California as suffering from cognitive decline, making her increasingly unable to properly carry out her duties. Easing Feinstein out is an objective in and of itself for the Dems; after all, she has recently disappointed by not being vicious enough during the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings, further outraging the left by hugging the enemy, Lindsay Graham. It’s time to fill the seat with a younger woman of colour – as it will likely be done also with Kamala Harris’ other California Senate spot. But apart from the obvious and immediate political objective, the journalistic focus on old age, infirmity and mental incapacity put in mind similar, if not more pronounced, problems haunting Joe Biden. Despite being nine years younger than Feinstein, Joe’s much-suspected advancing dementia has been painfully exposed over the past few months through a series of misstatements, gaffes and ramblings on the campaign trail (such as it was). The argument that Feinstein is just not up to it any more and should retire applies just as much to Biden. With the issue of physical health and mental acuity of our leaders – and God knows, being a president requires a lot of energy and brain-power – now slowly sipping into the respectable mainstream media discourse, the ground is being slowly laid out for such questions to be gently asked and gently answered in due time of the Commander-in-Chief. They won’t be vicious, personal attacks; it will all be done with love and concern for the ailing Joe, and with all the gratitude from thankful progressive Americans for his long service and his crowning achievement of ending the four-year national nightmare that was the Trump presidency. Farewell, happy warrior.
Secondly, after being stifled, ignored, censored and waved away as Russian disinformation, the stories about the ongoing criminal investigation into Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings are now being openly reported by the mainstream media without any usual disclaimers. Any deep look into the affairs of the Biden family is going to bring out uncomfortable questions about the way money, political power and foreign influence intersect at the very top: was Joe Biden an active participant? And even if he wasn’t and hasn’t personally benefitted in any way from the wheelings and dealings of his son (and his brother), is it not something that he should have been aware of and put a stop to in order to protect his and his family’s good name and integrity? Maybe the FBI investigation, and any other inquiries, will come to nothing; maybe some dirt will stick to the Bidens. Again, it will more in sorrow than anger: yet another tragedy for the good old Joe, first losing one son, then being let down by the other. Combine the two narratives and you have a decent but heartbroken old man too weighed down by his problems to carry on. Sad, but life goes on; say hello to our first female, black, Indian president.
All in all, I will be surprised if Joe Biden lasts as president past the first anniversary of his inauguration. He doesn’t need to. Having saved the Republic from a fascist dictatorship and a continuing international embarrassment, he can retire in peace to spend his last few months or years surrounded by his loving family, the Trojan Horse put out to pasture. In the wings, a new generation of leaders stands ready to pick up the mantle of power and responsibility.