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For the GOP the past is present, the future is 1984...
Older but Wise
So, voters questioned in a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll say that Joe Biden is too old to serve a second term. I am sure Joe Biden might agree that men his age are enjoying a well-earned retirement and are looking forward to their “golden years.” Some, however, remain in the game and have foregone the portrait planning for their obit. Biden has chosen the latter course and despite the fears of others, he seems to be relatively healthy and has withstood the demands of office well. Yet even Democrats agree, his age is a concern:
Biden’s middle-class roots have cleverly leveraged in the “Dark Brandon” meme that damn near perfectly expresses the President’s dismissive attitude toward detractors. Peering out from behind the dark glasses and disdainful stare one could almost hear Biden’s snarky alter ego snarling response to the polling, “So what” and “What a bunch of malarkey!” Feel free to add a suitable rejoinder featuring Biden’s Irish roots and using the words “blarney. and/or “stones.”
Unlike his likely opponent next fall, Biden's calendar is free if and when he decides to run. POTUS hasn’t released a mugshot nor does his calendar for the next several years include him juggling his presidential duties with court appearances. If the 2024 election ends up between Biden and his bête noire, Donald Trump, while age will be an issue among the voters, so will their records both in and out of office. Dark Brandon would suggest his age may for some be a legitimate concern, on the other hand, as Biden’s age approaches Trump’s IQ— a second Trump administration is downright terrifying.
…Swallowers of Slogans…
Among stalwart MAGA followers, it is clear that character is not an issue unless it refers to Hunter Biden. Trump, whose son-in-law weaseled $2 billion from the Saudis while still serving as a White House advisor, has survived a series of legal and ethical transgressions that would warm Lady Macbeth’s cold heart. From Access Hollywood to E. Jean Carroll; from twice impeached to four times indicted, Trump has managed to limbo under the lowest bar of expectations for the neo-deplorable set he inspires. In short, he just might be the “friend” that Garth Brooks sings about knowing in low places.
While Biden’s health has become an issue due to the usual actuarial tables that predict decline with age, the more obvious challenges of mental acuity and health that hound his rival endear him to those who see themselves in him. They put aside the obvious fact that Donald Trump is also “age-enhanced” and at a self-reported and strapping 6’ 3”, 215 lbs., gives us ample visual proof that he is a liar who assiduously avoids mirrors. Most of us fudge a bit when asked to report these personal statistics, but this one is literally and figuratively, a whopper.
Somewhere in the back of minds, however, is a thought that should help allay their fears. Kamala Harris is a worthy and competent successor if Biden cannot complete his term. Trump's successor, whoever emerges from his dirtied pool of MAGA followers, is destined to be worse and more fawning than Mike Pence. While no person serving as president can predict their future, Joe Biden’s chances of being alive, sane, and not on bail are somewhat better than Trump’s.
The Democrats and Joe Biden will face other trials that are wholly manufactured and promoted by the GOP grievance machine and fed to willing and ignorant followers very much like the propaganda machines envisioned by Eric Blair using the nom de plume, George Orwell, parodied in his writings a century ago:
The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.
— George Orwell, 1984
The age issue which admittedly does have traction in this election allows the GOP to exercise their two most timeworn smears. Whether Trump or one of his competitors for the nomination faces the Democratic team of Biden-Harris, GOP operatives have already begun their less-than-subtle dog-whistle attacks on Kamala Harris that began with a cynically sardonic suggestion— one publicly stated on her campaign tour by Nikki Haley predicting that Biden would not serve out his term:
“He announced that he’s running again in 2024, and I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden you really are counting on a President Harris, because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely...”
Bless her little heart! From her lips to her craven followers’ ears! Haley was the first to mouth what GOP strategists will surely make a centerpiece of their campaign strategy. It fits in nicely with the profile of prejudice embraced by the core of their base. Harris represents the sine-qua-non of what surely will animate their voters to come out and support the GOP slate of candidates both national and local. While the Democratic vote is more issue-oriented— often to its disadvantage— the GOP brand eschews policy issues and prefers grievance and a plague of “-isms.” Biden is a present threat, Harris represents the future.
The Orwellian Party
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'”
— Orwell, 1984
But ageism, in the Republican playbook, is the more acceptable starter to the darker underbelly of their problems with a Black woman who threatens their white, chauvinist base. Already Haley and others have taken to attacking the Harris-Biden ticket. The GOP base has been indoctrinated to hate Joe Biden more for his fathering Hunter than for the policy victories that have advantaged red-state citizens and MAGA voters, their hatred for Harris comes without any need for persuasion. As Biden’s VP she has been castigated as being both “lackluster” and underperforming as well as being too forceful and overly ambitious— uppity in less polite terms. She cannot win. Compare her to the fawning turn of her predecessor who was betrayed for his troubles after January 6. The differences are apparent— he is white and male. On that one day the press made him a hero for simply doing his job, his boss’s minions set out a rope to hang him on the steps of the Capitol— for simply doing his job.
Kamala Harris is the new threat among the Democrats because she really does reflect the nation’s demographic in a way it has rarely been represented before. A nation that has regarded competence and ambition as traits to emulate, must now agree to accept the fact that these attributes are not the sole province of white males. Hillary Clinton’s competence and ambition were once sacrificed on that same quaint altar. Harris for her part has shown that the color of her skin can not preclude her from the presidency nor does her gender prohibit her the gumption to seek it. The GOP will delusionally rely upon scurrilous attacks on their Democratic rivals by dredging up prejudices that have been allowed to fester among us for far too long. They will try to demean the accomplishments that have earned her the second-highest office in the nation. In truth, her qualifications are as good as, and frankly, better than any presidential hopeful who made an appearance at the Milwaukee debate— all but one or two vying for the vice presidential slot on a Trump ticket— secretly hoping while defending his “right to crime” that the slammer closes on him first. The GOP acts like the villainous O’Brien in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four who blithely redefines sanity to fit his own madness:
O’Brien: I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.
— Orwell, 1984
Orwell passed on long before the emergence of Donald Trump as the embodiment of “the party” he wrote about in the novel. But as chilling as his novel was as a warning about the dangers of totalitarianism, the fascist threat posed by the takeover and reshaping of the Republican Party is the homespun version of an updated fascist regime. Orwell was a man of his time. His disdain for the growing totalitarianism that was engulfing Europe and presaging the Second World War overshadowed personal failings that tempered his vision. His final work, Nineteen-Eighty Four (1949), was published the year before he died. Were Orwell alive today we should hope that his own biases against Jews and homosexuals would have evolved along with his vision of the future. Considered prescient by modern readers, his gift of prophecy was rooted in a satiric view of his times and an exposé of the frailties of human nature on display in America today. For those on the other side of sanity, the authoritarian despots who plunged the world into darkness then, and whose descendants live on with us today, their fears might best be rooted in the rise of women like Kamala Harris and the realization that Big Brother finally has competition he should underestimate at his peril.
Joe Biden may be old, and Kamala Harris may scare the hell out of the racist misogynists who support Trumpism and its dystopian vision of a world turned upside down, but their reelection should unite the rest of us.
For the 7 in ten Democrats polled above who cite age as a problem for Biden, you might be reminded that the alternative is a problem for democracy.