Will You Settle for Returning to Politics as Usual?

It took Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., Commander-in-Chief #46, only about five weeks to start dropping bombs on other countries. And he’s decided that he’s not going to penalize Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for ordering the brutal murder and dismembering of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And so I was very quickly reminded of why I voted for Uncle Joe: he’s not Cadet Bone Spur.

It isn’t all bad, of course. Biden’s cabinet appointments have been nothing short of historic: a gay secretary of transportation, a Native American secretary of the interior, a Black secretary of defense, a secretary of education who’s actually an educator, an attorney general who Moscow Mitch and Graham Cracker wouldn’t even let the senate vote on for a Supreme Court appointment.

And a whole raft of executive orders reversing—for now at least—some of the damage done by C-in-C #45 to environmental protection, immigration, voting rights, transgender military service, collective bargaining for federal workers. Biden has rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accord, and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline.

But dropping bombs on Shiite militias in Syria to “send a signal” to Iran is simply a return to pre-Trumpian politics as usual. Refusing to treat the ruler of a medieval country run by Sharia Law like the murdering tyrant he is because he and his country are useful to Biden in dealing with another medieval country run by Sharia Law is pre-Trumpian diplomacy as usual.

The simple fact is that Joe Biden, though infinitely preferable to his predecessor, is part and parcel of the same stale, unresponsive, we-respond-to-the-folks-with-the-money, dysfunctional political system that led to the election of a congenital liar and criminal grifter in the first place. Between 1972 and 2016, millions of Americans came to believe—with very good reasons—that neither major political party cared about them or was looking out for their interests.

By the third year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Democratic Party had made itself over as Republican Lite, and Joe Biden was a part of that transformation. When Barack Obama became president, he appointed to key positions many of the same Wall Street playmakers who had helped to bring on the Crash of 2008. His secretary of state was Hillary Clinton, who subsequently gave highly paid speeches to Wall Street firms in which she tacitly approved of cuts to Social Security and praised unfettered international trade. Need I remind you who was Obama’s vice president?

And then there is this photo of former vice president Biden giving the Liberty Medal to former president George W. Bush:

Former Vice President Biden giving the Liberty Medal to former President George W. Bush, November, 2018. The annual award is administered by the National Constitution Center of the United States “to recognize leadership in the pursuit of freedom.” The National Constitution Center is a nonprofit institution devoted to the Constitution of the United States, created by the Constitution Heritage Act on September 16, 1988.

This just boggles the mind. The medal Biden is putting around Bush’s neck is not just for “work with veterans” as the original caption said, but for work with disabled veterans in particular, veterans disabled in the wars of aggression waged by the Bush administration under false pretenses and outright lies. Does Biden not understand the irony here? Surely he could have gracefully declined to participate in this charade, which is about as hollow as giving Donald Trump a Purple Heart for his bone spurs.

And speaking of gracefully declining, does Biden really have to end every public speech with: “May God bless our troops?” For what? Waging forever war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Dropping drone missiles on wedding parties and school buses? I assume Biden is referring to the Old Testament God who killed off the entire human race aside from Noah and his family. The God of Joshua who flattened the city of Jericho. The God of Lot who obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah.

Surely Biden can’t mean the Father of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace, the man who healed the sick and broke bread with sinners, the guy who said turn the other cheek and love thy neighbor. Any God who would bless me for what I did as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam ought to go talk to a priest.

So where does all this leave us? Soon after last November’s election, I wrote in an essay titled “The Democratic Party Has One Last Chance”:

“This is no time to sit back and gloat, or even bask in the relief so many of us are feeling, as if we are finally out of the woods. Our task now is to put pressure on a Biden Administration to keep its promises and act on progressive issues like climate change, health care, racial justice, and income inequality.

“My own daughter voted for Biden only with extreme reluctance, believing—rightly so, in my opinion—that Biden represents the kind of politics-as-usual that led to the election of Donald Trump in the first place. The Democratic Party has this one last chance to make itself worthy of my daughter’s vote.

“As fervently as I wished for the defeat of Donald Trump, I hope Joe Biden and his party understand this and act accordingly.”

Now it’s Showtime, and while we are seeing some improvements over the previous four years, so far we haven’t seen much to suggest that “politics as usual” are no longer acceptable. It is time to start delivering on changes that will benefit ordinary Americans and restore faith in the Democratic Party as the party of working people: affordable healthcare; increases in living wages and the standard of living for the 99%; fair and equitable taxation; decent housing; withdrawal of American military forces from many—perhaps most—of the one hundred and fifty countries where they are now stationed; reduced spending on a grotesquely outlandish “defense” budget and corresponding increases in spending for education, mass transit, highway and electrical infrastructure; consumer protection and regulation of financial marketers and investment firms.

Think this is too much to ask, let alone expect? I’m no clairvoyant, but I’m willing to bet that if a Biden/Harris administration doesn’t start delivering on a significant portion of such an agenda, the Retrumplican Party will be back in the saddle by 2024.

So what can you yourself do about any of this? When is the last time you wrote to your U.S. senator, your U.S. representative, your state senator, or your state representative? If you already have, write to them again. And again. And again. How about your county commissioner? Your town councilperson? All politics, after all, really is local. And get involved with at least one public action group:

Veterans for Peace,

Ready for 100,

Everytown for Gun Safety,

Black Lives Matter.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ways you can become engaged locally, regionally, and nationally. The last four years have been a nightmare, but the next four years are likely to determine the future of this country for all time to come. President Biden and his party need to be pushed, poked, prodded, and pestered into recognizing that politics as usual is no longer acceptable, affordable, or allowable.


W.D. Ehrhart is Editor-at-Large for the Veterans for Peace National Newsletter and a member of the VFP Philadelphia-area Thompson Bradley Chapter 31.

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