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Biden's faceplant, Part 2

by Bradley Gitz | November 15, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

The most interesting question in American politics is why Joe Biden shifted from moderate unifier as presidential candidate to radical-left woke warrior as president.

For the sake of argument, it is probably useful to begin with the proposition that, although he had to sign off on the ideological makeover at some point, Biden didn't decide all on his own to go in a direction so contrary to the signals he sent in last year's campaign.

Biden doesn't really need to be what so many conservatives see him as -- merely a puppet whose strings are being pulled -- to acknowledge evidence that he doesn't fully grasp what his administration is doing in this or that area, or the degree to which it contradicts the reasons he gave Americans to elect him.

The hunch is that Biden's handlers understood their man -- and, more importantly, how he understood himself -- as the guy who always thinks he's the smartest in the room, when everyone else knows he's the opposite.

Combine that overestimation of his mental prowess with a long-noted tendency for fabulist, Walter Mitty delusions and chronic braggart disease and you get a fairly persuasive explanation for how Biden could be talked into trying to be more than the transitional figure that both his condition and the nation's circumstances warranted.

The hunch even exists that, as his minders flattered his ego with all those FDR comparisons, they none too subtly suggested that this time around, with someone like himself at the helm, the transformation of the country that his former boss wasn't able to achieve could be.

Perhaps in the way Lyndon Johnson showed all those Kennedy whiz kids with their prissy Harvard accents how to get stuff passed through Congress, Biden would show all those Obama staffers who always rolled their eyes whenever he began to talk who the real boss of Washington was.

As easy as it is to see how someone like Biden could be pushed in a preferred direction, while believing it was the direction he had always wanted to go, the more complicated part comes in trying to figure out what those doing the pushing were thinking, particularly in light of the likely political consequences (the first installment of which occurred on Nov. 2).

That Biden has always tried to shoehorn himself into the middle of wherever he thinks the Democratic Party happens to be on the ideological spectrum at any point has long been evident -- if he positioned himself just to the left of midfield, at the 40-yard line or so, during the Clinton 1990s, he would be obliged to move further leftward as his party moved leftward since then, with little thought given to any of it.

Biden's leftward lurch therefore serves as a fairly good marker for where on that ideological spectrum his party is now found, and also tells us that that place is way too far from the center for optimism about coming election cycles.

It isn't just that an oblivious Biden has been pushed hard-left by his advisers, but that those advisers have apparently been oblivious in a different sense, having myopically failed to realize both the extent of their own radicalism and the degree to which the nation doesn't share it.

The problem with monocultures is that those within them have a hard time understanding those without -- the radical left doesn't really know how unpopular its ideas are with the American public because all the messages they receive from MSNBC, The New York Times and other bastions of wokeness in their hermetically sealed world tell them otherwise and reinforce their biases and sense of rectitude.

What they can't in their insularity comprehend (the views of ordinary Americans) thus comes to be viewed as a malevolent mixture of bigotry and xenophobia; hence their tendency to blame any electoral setbacks (such as those that occurred on Nov. 2) on the intrinsic racism of the electorate (the "vote for us, you racists" stratagem).

The radical left is capable of making the kinds of tone-deaf political mistakes that have characterized the first 10 months of the Biden administration precisely because it knows so little about America and what it thinks it knows is wrong.

You don't, after all, seek to fundamentally transform that which you hold in admiration, and there appears to be precious little in the American experience that the left finds admirable.

It is also likely that those setting Biden's agenda before him with his morning pancakes and syrup believed that the pandemic had caused some kind of permanent alteration of our political DNA to make it more accepting of radical proposals, that perhaps the crisis mentality that produced an unprecedented degree of public subservience to authority and discarding of liberty could also produce a receptivity to sweeping political innovations that would endure long after the virus.

Americans want a "return to normalcy" in their daily lives after a pandemic, and in their politics after four years of Donald Trump abnormality.

The Democrats' razor-slim margins in both chambers of Congress also mitigate against transformative boldness and in favor of "normal."

But Democrats don't want "normal" because "normal" America is an awfully ugly place.

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.


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