JOE BIDEN DAY IN AMERICA?
IT’S TIME we celebrated Joe Biden.
A decent man.
A competent president.
An inspired politician.
A man we’d like to go for ride with in his classic Corvette.
A longtime pal we’d like to chat with as he flips burgers at a backyard barbecue.
A man who, after a lifetime of public service, traded retirement for the most horrendously confounding job in public or private life.
A man who symbolizes the best of America’s aspirations, who represents, “the soul of America,” the inspired words that drove his candidacy less than two years ago.
A man whom all of us cannot thank enough. A man we should never stop thanking.
A man who, when we go to bed at night or get up in the morning, we must thank for rescuing us, and the rest of the world, from the most evil man ever to have the title of president.
So let’s declare Joe Biden Day in America.
WHEN SHOULD we have the event?
I’d say sooner.
In case you haven’t noticed, Joe Biden is old. Perilously old. He’ll turn 80 on Nov. 20. Set aside the fact that he’s in a high-stress job that would be problematic for anyone at any age. He’s at a point when he could go at any moment, at a point in his life when every day is a gift.
Wouldn’t it be better to say all the things that we’d want him to hear while he’s still chugging along, while our words still mean something to him, while he could use a bit of encouragement, rather than save all of that for obituaries, eulogies, Twitter declarations, mumbled thoughts while we circle his flag-draped coffin in the Rotunda?
Time is precious.
BUT MAINLY, this man deserves a pat on the back, a good natured cheer, a little hip-hooray, perhaps a long-winded after-dinner toast, preferably detailed and fact-checked, heavy on humor, simmered in sentiment and laced with love.
A boost from the home team.
It’s something we all need. In fact, maybe we should take a moment, not just for Joe Biden, but for all the people in our lives who try their best to do good and who succeed more than we might imagine.
THE OPPOSITE has been going on for Biden, month after month after month.
He’s blamed for inflation. He’s blamed for pulling out of Afghanistan. He’s blamed for suggestomg voters send more Democrats to Congress (“Why should I? I voted for Biden, and he’s done nothing.”) He’s blamed for not using the extraordinary, limitless super-powers of the presidency to counter the Supreme Court’s disastrous abortion, religion and gun decisions. Biden's blamed for not using magic wand of the presidency to make Sen. Joe Manchin do his bidding on his ambitious Build Back Better program. He’s blamed for proposing such a sweeping program. Too many promises, too little results. He’s blamed for not being more charismatic, for not being a great orator, for not being inspiring, courageous, bold, idealistic. He’s blamed for the way he walks, the way he talks, for being the older person that we knew he was when we elected him, but now just a tad older.
What hurts the most are attacks from people – like you and me – who are supposed to be his friends and allies.
A couple of weeks ago, a parent who’d lost his son in a high school shooting chastised Biden during a White House ceremony that “celebrated” the rare, bipartisan itty-bitty piece of federal gun control legislation that was disappointing, but which was at least something.
“We have to do more than that!” the anguished parent, Manuel Oliver, called out from the audience as Biden was listing the new law’s highlights. Mr. Oliver’s son, Joaquin, 17, was one of 14 students killed in Parkland, Florida in 2018. “We have to do more than that!” Mr. Oliver shouted again.
Biden couldn’t have agreed more.
“It will not save every life from the epidemic of gun violence. But if this law had been in place years ago, even this last year, lives would have been saved,” Biden said
“But it’s not enough,” he continued, “and we all know that.”
Condemning military-style weapons, he described what they do:
“The most common rounds fired from an AR-15 move almost twice as fast as that from a handgun. Coupled with smaller, lighter bullets, these weapons maximize the damage done … and human flesh and bone is just torn apart … and as difficult as it is to say, that’s why so many people and some in this audience — and I apologize for having to say it — need to provide DNA samples to identify the remains of their children.”
“Think of that,” Joe Biden said.
Maybe those who were listening did just that: think about what those awful guns do to children whose only crime is going to school on the wrong day.
WE EXPECT TOO much from our leaders. Mr. Oliver at least had solid reasons for his despair, losing a child, then watching repeated gun violence year after year as states, and now the Supreme Court, are making guns ever easier to get and use.
But his anger was directed at the wrong man. And so is the anger Biden faces from so many of us, who, instead of attacking, sniping, undermining the president, should be shoring him him up. And more importantly, instead of beating and kicking the old man, we should be doing our part to build in a national coalition to face the enormous challenges of our time, so that success doesn't depend on just one old man.
I’m reminded of something the a labor official once told me about how rank-and-file members sometimes relate to their unions, comparing them to customers of a balky Coke machine. The customer puts in the right change, and when the machine fails to deliver, he starts beating and kicking the thing.
But unions aren’t Coke machines, and to be successful, they need their members to do more – a lot more – than just pay their dues. Members need to show up at meetings, sign petitions, run for leadership posts, recruit new members, picket, and sometimes go on strike in a continuing battle that’s never completely won.
The same can be said for our role as citizens in democracy. We have to do more than pay our taxes, vote when we feel like it and complain like hell whenever it fancies us. But democracy demands so much more, more than we’d like. Sometimes we have to join a candidate’s campaign. Maybe run for office ourselves. We have to write letters and leaflets and checks. Surely, we have to vote every time, over and over, again and again. Democracy gives us a lot, but it demands a lot.
I’M NOT SUGGESTING that Joe Biden is a perfect president. He was too old when he ran in 2020. But he was the one man who could – and did – beat Donald Trump. He definitely should not run in 2024; but he would be a fool to say so before his presidency is half-way done.
There’s plenty I don’t like about Biden, including how he’s turned America’s back on the women and girls whom we left to the tyranny of the Taliban in Afghanistan. (I haven’t the slightest idea of how we could have remained in that country without hundreds, perhaps thousands, more Americans dying), And I surely didn’t like Biden fist-bumping the grotesque Saudi Arabian “prince,” who ordered the Washington Post’s columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, murdered and sawed into little pieces.
What I do know is that Joe Biden is no Coke machine that deserves kicking and shouting at when he doesn’t or can’t deliver on every promise and every expectation. What Biden needs is our support. What democracy needs is citizens who are up to the difficult, frustrating, exhausting demands of self-government.
We actually got a lot more than we bargained for when we elected Joe Biden: a man too old to be president but who outperforms his (and my) age group. He was many primary voters' second choice, and he turned out to be hard-working, capable, tireless, decent and the best president I’ve seen in my lifetime.
I’m worried that the rest of us will do not do our part as active, conscientious, alert, caring citizens. We’ll leave it all to Joe, and then complain and pout and nitpick and second-guess the old man when things don’t work out.
Democracy is in peril. Republicans, no longer a rational political party, but a Trumpian cult determined to take over Congress and return Trump to the White House, or even worse, elect someone just as evil as Trump, but smarter, better organized and more capable.
It’s all too possible that we’ll look back on these years with Joe Biden, and realize that they were the last years that America had a president worthy of that office.
SO LET’S have Joe Biden Day in America.
I’m open to suggestions. There could be rides in a classic Corvette. A hamburger roast. Maybe a bike race, although not too long. Maybe some face-painting – turning Democratic frowns into smiles. We could have a slogan-writing contest – lord knows Democrats could use a snappy bumper sticker or two to slap on their EVs. Surely, we could spend the day without mentioning the opinion polls. Obviously, some long speeches. Maybe a word or two from Barack Obama, or better still, from Michelle.
Whatever we do, let’s do it with proper enthusiasm.
And let’s do it soon.
Before it’s too late for Joe Biden.
And too late for us.
BRIAN C. JONES