The idea of the president as pater familias — the moral head of the nation — has always been just an idea. The job functionally involves killing people, directly or indirectly; that’s not what we’d have our good fathers do. Still, it’s a potent fiction, and never before have the two candidates for the job so baldly resembled the creepy uncle you’d avoid getting cornered by at a family function. (Libidinum patruus? Whatever.)
Now, before you accuse me of spoiling the election by refusing to go hard in the paint for a birdbrained hair sniffer, let me be clear: I will vote for Joe Biden in November, and it will kill me.
There are several reasons I will vote for Joe Biden, few of which have to do with Joe Biden. For one, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 87. She was born in 1933, people; no amount of reverence from the blue states will make the rules of the human game — we are born, we die — less likely to apply to her. Another is Donald Trump, a man who alludes to having sex with models in the middle of a pandemic briefing.
Still, Biden will probably lose, regardless of how I or the Democratic Socialists of America or anyone else votes, because he is a uniquely uninspiring candidate; Joe Biden is three children in a trenchcoat, twice passed-over, alternately psychobabbling and walking out of the frame. There is one hope yet: if Biden nominates Amy Klobuchar to be his vice president. Now that would activate the youth vote! Kidding, I’m kidding. Ninety percent of voters under age 40 couldn’t pick Klobuchar out of a lineup of four brunettes; the other 10% know her for eating salad with a hairbrush. (Unofficial poll.) Her brightest campaign moment was scoring third in the New Hampshire primary. That’s the dream team, baby.
Three years after the #MeToo movement told survivors our experiences were speakable, we now have the right to choose between two men accused of sexual assault and harassment — and the rumored carrot for the Democrats’ guy is that he might choose an alleged workplace abuser … who is a woman!!!! Girl power!!! Forgive me if the roars of support I’m now obliged to affect get stuck in my throat.
I supported Bernie Sanders in this primary, but I am not #BernieorBust. I would have been happy with Elizabeth Warren and far happier than I am now with some others too. I did not support Sanders in 2016, and the supporters who refused to vote for the Democratic nominee in that election drove me mad. Ultimately, though, the busters weren’t primarily responsible for Hillary Clinton’s loss. Clinton ate it in Michigan, where she barely campaigned. (Among a billion other reasons.)
We are now in a pandemic, being led by one of the world’s great morons, who has only a handful of capable public servants still standing around him. It’s quite hard to imagine how Joe Biden would lead differently, given that as coronavirus spread across the United States, Biden went dark. For some reason, no one — not even Symone Sanders, the capable strategist who served as Bernie Sanders’ national press secretary in 2016 and has since switched to the Biden camp — can get the guy from walking out of the frame of his own video.
Disappearing was functionally what he did throughout the debates; Biden often ceded his time back, making a point to tell the moderator he was sure he’d nearly hit his limit. Nothing to say, framed as gentility. Imagine having nothing to say right now.
Speak to it or around it, but Biden’s cognition is declining; he’s barely in the race. As the field consolidated around him, it became hard to imagine a likelier outcome for January 2021 than the orange king being re-coronated before what is sure to be another record-breaking, incredible, awe-inspiring crowd, the likes of which have never been seen before.
But just one — OK fine, a dozen! — more thing(s) I hate — quickly! I hate that when Ginsburg dies Roe vs. Wade will be overturned and millions of young women will not live the lives they wanted or intended to live. I hate that the future of reproductive choice rests on one very old person. I hate that Ginsburg didn’t retire under President Obama when she could and should have.
I hate how Biden treated Anita Hill and how he had the opportunity to apologize and botched the job. I hate that the mainstream media barely covered the recent sexual assault accusations against Biden by former aide Tara Reade. I hate Biden’s unapologetic handsiness and his empty chivalry and the smarmy, entitled projection that he was the only choice from day one. I hate many of Biden’s past votes and positions. I hate that I am now in the position of either voting for one of two men I would not comfortably be alone in a room with or forgo what I believe is a core civic duty.
Biden’s main selling point for president is that he’s a seat filler. He will, we are assured, do little. He will do so little it will be like it was before; we will sink drowsily into the past. I hate that.
“The argument for resuming a viable social-welfare state is about not only attending to the immediate needs of tens of millions of people but also reestablishing social connectivity, collective responsibility, and a sense of common purpose, if not common wealth,” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor wrote in a recent New Yorker piece titled “Reality Has Endorsed Bernie Sanders.” “In an unrelenting and unemotional way, COVID-19 is demonstrating the vastness of our human connection and mutuality.”
I hate that Sanders was written off as a lark when he was always a canary. I hate that some moderates are seeing that now, when the hour’s too late. I hate that he didn’t get the votes. I hate that his campaign is over, even though it was time.
Here’s what I love. I love that Sanders privileged content over form; he was a crumpled, ornery old guy with a New York accent who kept saying that ordinary people deserved more and better. I love that he made some of us believe it. I love that he emphasized the American people’s interconnectedness and that our fates are intertwined not only in this country but also with those of other nations. I love that he asked those of us with more to sacrifice some material comfort; he never lied about that. I love that he asked those of us with less to value our work even as power would tell us otherwise. I love that he hopes to be known for his compassion. I love that he met his caring with clarity of purpose and with strong policy.
Sanders has said he intends to push Biden to the left and I dearly hope he achieves that. But regardless of whether Biden moves, I will do what Sanders is now imploring his supporters to do: I will get behind the Democratic nominee. Against all internal resistance, I will vote for creepy Joe Biden, a man who both should be and does not deserve to be president.