MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

There Really Is Nothing Smart about Joe Biden | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on September 30, 2020

The superficial nature of presidential elections may not be a new phenomenon, but it is worth noting that this was not always the state of American politics. Once upon a time, party platforms offered substantive analysis of important issues and candidates were expected to have an operational understanding of serious questions. During the election of 1896, for example, the gold standard was such a prominent election issue that it was featured prominently in both campaign literature and candidate posters.

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The big winner of last night’s presidential debate may have been H.L. Mencken, as his opinion of democracy seemed to be embraced by Americans all across the nation.

On one side you had President Trump staying true to his WWE persona, unlike his milder first performance four years ago with President-Assumed Hillary Clinton. On the other, you had Joe Biden, whose combination of short temper and low energy makes him resemble a disappointing Chinese firecracker. In the middle, you had Chris Wallace reduced to begging the participants to follow the rules of the whole affair.

Nothing of real substance was discussed, of course. We still do not know if Joe Biden stands with the mainstream of his party when it comes to stacking the courts and eliminating the senate filibuster (though we can be confident that his opinion on the subject would matter, even if elected). We do not know if President Trump recognizes the fragility of the debt-fueled economic recovery, though in the eyes of Chris Wallace this is “free market ideology.” We do not know if anyone watching these debates is even capable of having their mind changed, or whether the goal is simply to not discourage any would-be supporter from mailing in a ballot (or two).

We do however know two things: people are recognizing the failures of American democracy, and there really is nothing smart about Joe Biden.

The first point is important. First of all, the act of “recognizing” a problem does not mean that the problem is a new one.

While the media will predictably spin last night’s circus as the latest example of Donald Trump embarrassing the presidency, the truth is that presidential debates have long been farces. The 2012 debates were defined by an inaccurate fact check by Serious Journalist Candy Crowley and the phrase “binders full of women” taken out of context. Prior to that, SNL skits ended up doing more for framing candidates than any debate performance (perhaps the decline of SNL is the real tragedy in American politics).

The superficial nature of presidential elections may not be a new phenomenon, but it is worth noting that this was not always the state of American politics. Once upon a time, party platforms offered substantive analysis of important issues and candidates were expected to have an operational understanding of serious questions. During the election of 1896, for example, the gold standard was such a prominent election issue that it was featured prominently in both campaign literature and candidate posters.

Unfortunately, there tends to be an inverse relationship between democratization and serious political campaigns. In much the same way that products intended for mass consumption on the marketplace tend to be of lesser quality than those of specialty niche stores, a political system based on who can convince simply the majority of American adults to vote for them can resemble an intellectual race to the bottom.

This is not true with every election, however. For example, the single issue of school choice was found to have had a decisive impact in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial election. Studies found that Republican Ron DeSantis won 18 percent of the female black vote, even while running against what would have been the first black governor of the state. The recognition that Andrew Gillum’s defense of traditional state schooling would have a direct impact on the quality of their children’s education was enough to transcend a lot of the typical tribalist instincts that tend to shape national politics.

For those interested in improving governance in America, this is a strong argument in favor of decentralizing democracy. (For those not interested in improving governance, there is another option.)

The second point may seem petty, but it’s also important—Joe Biden is an example of the sort of mediocre talent rewarded by the current political system. Prior to his 47-year career in elected office, he had a brief career as a lawyer with the ambitions of being elected senator and president. To achieve those ends, he falsified his resume to appear far more talented than he was.

His record in the Senate was significant, but he has spent most of his presidential campaign running against the positions he once had. Understandably so. His history of prior presidential runs did more for television comedians than his own legacy. His greatest asset was his relationship with Barack Obama, though much of the Democratic Party is far to the left of the former president. His instincts are so good that he picked for vice president someone who appears to be a true sociopath and is the elected Democrat who has made the most personal attacks on his record.

Of course, none of this matters to Biden true believers who seem to view the former vice president as a shortcut to reviving the nostalgia of the fictional West Wing. The alliance of former Bush and Obama administration officials wants voters to believe that Biden is a return to normalcy.

These are the very same people that mock red America for being gullible.

Be seeing you

 

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