Vote Blue! Petition Blue for a Redress of Grievances!
One can staunchly support Biden and also be critical of him. That's what living in a free country is all about.
Reality check: Joe Biden has been a really, really, really good president.
Biden took office at the most perilous moment, and under the gloomiest circumstances, since FDR, if not Lincoln. He appointed smart, effective, highly qualified and diverse people to key positions in his administration. In a few months, he managed to get everyone in the country who wanted one a free vaccine. He got Congress to pass a once-in-a-generation infrastructure bill that will “rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.” He authorized the release of a million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, keeping gas prices lower in the U.S. than any other Western country. He presided over the strongest jobs market in ages, a direct result of his American Rescue Plan. He nominated the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. He repaired NATO and the Western alliances, critically wounded by four years of Trump’s abuse, in just a few weeks; those ties are now as strong as ever. He stared down Putin, called him out for the monster he is, waged economic war on Russia, and has helped Ukraine as much as he politically can. Most of all, he has brought honor, decency, and compassion back to the White House.
That doesn’t mean Biden is perfect. He’s made his share of mistakes, as all presidents do. He did not purge the federal government of partisan Trump appointees, notably Christopher Wray at the FBI, Charles Rettig at the IRS, Gen. Charles Flynn, and, most notoriously, the USPS’s Louis DeJoy (I know it takes the Board to actually fire him, but come on). He got played by venal Joe Manchin. He has a habit of misspeaking or ad-libbing in a way that can overshadow the message. Given ample warning that Roe was in imminent jeopardy, his response to Dobbs was slow and insufficient. And don’t get me started on Merrick Garland, who is to Attorney General nominations what Sam Bowie was to NBA draft picks.
All presidents blunder. George Washington owned slaves. Abraham Lincoln was comically inept at finding good generals, and threw out habeas corpus during the Civil War. Theodore Roosevelt kicked an entire regiment of Black soldiers out of the army—dishonorable discharge—after an alleged riot in Brownsville that was a fiction invented by racists. FDR rounded up Japanese-Americans and sent them to internment camps during the Second World War; he also refused asylum to thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s, sending their ships back to Europe and effectively condemning them to death. These are all enormous, unforgivable, life-and-death fuck-ups—yet those four presidents are the best quartet of Chief Executives in our 250-year history. Three of them are on Mount Rushmore.
It’s impossible to be president and not screw up sometimes. Failure is baked into the job. Biden shouldn’t be exempt from criticism because we’re all scared to death of losing the House and the Senate in November. On the contrary, constructive criticism can only help make his presidency stronger, and his party’s majority more durable. A Twitter thread by a frustrated blue-check is not going to depress votes and cost Biden the election; what will depress votes and cost Biden the election is a fatal mistake—such as his overmatched Attorney General refused to indict Trump even after the January 6th Committee recommends doing so.
Unless he’s dead or more incapacitated than late-second-term Ronald Reagan, Joe Biden is going to run for re-election. He’s going to run, and Kamala Harris is going to be his running mate. Suggesting otherwise, gaming out contingency plans for clickbait, or handwringing about his age, like those turncoats at the New Duranty Times, is counterproductive at best, overtly traitorous at worst.
(Memo to Peter Baker: It’s not a sign of weakness for presidents to build rest into their insanely busy schedule. In fact, it’s smart. If Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, professional athletes in their early 30s who are among the most physically fit humans on earth, can sit out back-to-back basketball games for “load management,” it’s okay for the fucking President of the fucking United States to put off an important overseas trip for a week or three to rest up. Seriously, Pete: go fuck yourself.)
Historically, incumbent presidents win a second term unless they REALLY screw the pooch (Hoover, Carter, Trump). So Biden is going to run, and unlike his twice-impeached predecessor, Biden is going to prevail. Our job is to make sure that Biden’s presidency—which remains the best one of my lifetime—is widely understood as successful. This is an especially important message to get out on social media because the mainstream press, including presumed liberal institutions like the aforementioned New York Times, are all-in on tearing him down, amplifying the bad news and glossing over the accomplishments. Like, the foreign policy stuff, the strengthening and expansion of NATO, is a BFD! FJB? More like JBFTW.
That doesn’t mean the president should never be criticized. Indeed, our right to bitch about our political leaders—to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” as the First Amendment puts it—is the greatest gift the Founders bequeathed us. The very first lesson in Timothy Snyder’s On History: Twelve Lessons from the Twentieth Century is: Don’t obey in advance. The worst thing we can do now is be silent, because if the fascists take over, that silence will become permanent.
Our voice may take the form of protesting in front of the home of a fascist Supreme Court Justice, or the shitty steakhouse where he goes to dine with his unctuous FEDSOC cronies. It may take the form of a critical tweet, a full-on op-ed, a letter to our House Rep or Senator, a call to their office. We have the right—nay, the civic duty—to speak our mind. Do not surrender it, now or ever. As long as the criticism is constructive and lobbies for certain outcomes (“Why has Mike Flynn not been recalled to active duty and court-martialed?” “I wish Joe would stop calling Republicans his friends.” “Fire DeJoy!”) and isn’t pointless bitching (“Biden sucks!” “Joe looks old.” “I just don’t like Kamala.”), it’s fair game.
Also, like, I just checked my datebook, and it’s July. The midterms are four months away. So much shit will go down between now and November that will hurt the GOP: more mass shootings, more stories of raped tweens having to leave the state to secure requisite medical treatment, more revelations by the January 6th Committee of rank sedition by Trump and his cronies (including perhaps the wife of our worst SCOTUS judge). Joel Greenberg is singing like a barbershop quartet. Lindsey Graham has to appear before a grand jury in Georgia. Tish James got more Trump documents from Cushman-Wakefield. Congress is going to investigate Jared Kushner’s sweetheart deal with the Saudis. The dollar is dead even with the euro and getting stronger. Gas prices are going down and will continue to fall. We may even, who knows, get an indictment or two, now that Cassidy Hutchinson has reportedly stirred Merrick Garland from hibernation. (Warning: If the AG sees his shadow, it’s six more weeks of “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law.”)
Polling has been unreliable in recent elections, and poll numbers four months before a midterm election are meaningless regardless. Just as a football team has to work out the kinks of the new offense during training camp, Biden and the Democrats must tinker with their messaging now, so it’s ready for October, when it really matters. Far from hurting the President’s re-election chances by depressing the vote, this is the best moment to offer constructive criticism. There is still plenty of time for Biden and his team to learn from their mistakes.
The ruling in Dobbs has energized voters, especially young voters, who will be in no mad rush to vote for the party that wants to deny them medical treatment, police their bodies, and further accelerate the destruction of the planet. So far, the Dems have not figured out how best to tap into this collective outrage. The Chuck Schumers of the world seem particularly baffled. They need our suggestions. They need our help.
Also, as my friend Allison Gill points out, pressure works. The Biden Administration is sensitive to what’s going on. It responds to the hue and cry, if that hue and cry is reasonable and focused on a specific outcome. We will have no such luxury in a Ron DeSantis regime. That strongman wannabe already removes members of the media he doesn’t approve of from his press conferences; you think a promotion will soften him? One party responds (albeit not quickly enough) to the will of the people; the other foists its puritanical belief system on the rest of us and refuses to listen. Keeping the former in power is absolutely essential to safeguarding our democracy.
In short: Vote Blue, and hold Blue accountable.
Yes, there are chaos agents on the left. But—and I may be stating the obvious here—not everyone who is critical of the Administration is a chaos agent. The lion’s share of commentators on social media are centrist Democrats who are rightly terrified that the DNC is going to fuck this up. Because if they fuck it up bad enough, Biden will lose to Benito DeSantis, and it’s curtains for democracy. Also, if fucking things up were gymnastics, the DNC is Nadia Comăneci. (Hey, no pressure!)
There is already one party that brooks no criticism of its leaders, that treats its ex-president as a cult leader, that believes he alone can fix it, that refuses to even listen, much less compromise. We don’t want the Dems walking that same path.
So we need your voice. That’s what democracy is, after all—We the People.
Democracy doesn’t die in darkness. It dies in silence.
Photo credit: President Joe Biden delivers remarks to Department of Defense personnel, with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando).