Joe Biden and the Politics of Extortion

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In the Trumpish Age, agitprop is probably just as important as—and exponentially more dangerous than—traditional propaganda. Fox News, and the Republican Party’s pseudointellectual apologists on talk radio, remind conservative voters twenty-four hours daily that their values, as meaningful as they are undefined, are under constant threat by a nefarious assemblage of cosmopolitans. Meanwhile, the omnipresent neoliberal media depicts a nation in crisis, melting amidst the apocalyptic flames fanned by the orange-peeled trickster in the White House. We won’t find a substantive difference between them, even in their interpretations of the conclusion to the controversy du jour: whatever transpires, Trump is still the President of the United States. The conservatives respond by sighing in relief; the neoliberals by grinding their teeth in disappointment.

Why have the latter ever been disappointed, even surprised, by Trump’s resilience? The Trumpish Age has been a regrettably humorless montage of boring, manufactured scandals, any one of which could have been exposed at the onset by an objective, if cursory, assessment of the available facts. Nobody who was reasonably informed about the Ukrainian affair would have suspected, even for a moment, that the Senate would vote to remove Trump from office, yet the neoliberal breadth of the corporate media saw his conviction as an inevitability. If you consumed only this particularly hollow brand of news, and if you were exposed to no other serious perspective, then of course you were astonished when the Republicans exonerated Trump. You were let down and saddened—but why? Because the corporate media (mis)led you to believe that your dream—the renunciation and abolishment of Trump—was finally about to be realized. You were deceived, deliberately so, and it is only a matter of time before you are corralled onto the roller coaster again.

The momentary rise and breakneck demise of Bernie Sanders may have been another ride. Sanders was denied the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, his campaign sabotaged by a gang of hustlers installed in the Democratic National Committee by Sanders’s primary competitor, Hillary Clinton. We will never know if Sanders would have won a fair contest, but we do know he was ready to emerge from the present primary process with the lion’s share of delegates, albeit not an insurmountable majority. Had this come to pass, still the DNC would have had an opportunity to overpower Sanders by consolidating all of the other candidates’ delegates within one campaign; in fact, Sanders’s competitors confessed to approve such a strategy at the end of the last televised debate.

While the average and benighted American took no heed of this shocking revelation, the attentive progressives recognized it as a not-so-concealed threat. Could the DNC really be so insecure that it would usurp Sanders if he held a plurality of delegates? Walker Bragman cautioned that such a desperate measure would be “the end of the Democratic Party as an American political institution”. The DNC has spared no expense, intellectual or monetary, to discredit WikiLeaks’s revelations in the summer of 2016, but even that almighty organization might not have been prepared to distract the public from a conspiracy executed in the open air. Nevertheless, the DNC had already revealed its sinister strategy to the entire world . . . Accordingly, there was nothing to do but unify the anti-Sanders faction now by instructing his competitors to drop out at once. This massive act of internal redistricting couldn’t be accomplished gracefully—even the most gullible of the party loyalists are cognizant of how unnatural it was—but now the DNC has eight months to remind us that we must vote blue, no matter who.

“Who”, in this case, is Joe Biden. Momentarily dismissed as an insipid has-been whom no amount of cash could ever resurrect, Biden has enjoyed a remarkable convalescence—politically, but not psychologically at all, for he continues to exhibit a Bush-worthy penchant for malapropisms. For a year now, we’ve been told, and probably even warned, that Biden simply has to be the nominee, for the simple reason that “he has the best chance of defeating Trump”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe anyone in the corporate media has ever asked who determined Biden “has the best chance”, nor has anyone requested to review the formula employed by this anonymous person to formulate each candidate’s “chance”. It would appear that Biden “has the best chance” because the corporate media decided he did, and a writer needn’t be as cynical as I to describe the corporate media’s priorities and preferences whereby it reached this decision. Biden’s campaign has been a protracted appeal to the omniscience of the monolithic press, which raises a number of distressing questions about our intellectual cowardice.

In my personal opinion, the most important of these questions is whether we still have intellectual independence. The twenty-first century has been the story of our submission to the authority of the state, in particular its increasingly toothless instruments of fearmongering. We’ve accepted without question a litany of lies, beginning with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before moving on to Russian cyberterrorists. Trump remains a source of nightmarish inspiration in the imaginations of the neoliberals, who emphasize his imaginary dangers while ignoring almost every credible threat he poses. Biden has seized on this distorted characterization because there is no organic enthusiasm fueling his candidacy: all of his success hitherto has flowed from the murky, repetitious claim of electability, of having “the best chance of defeating Trump”. Woven into this baseless description is a warning as well as a threat against voting for anybody else, lest the bad orange man’s reign of terror persist.

The so-called Resistance, a years-long publicity stunt sponsored by the DNC, has been predicated on fearmongering, including agitprop, with the intended effect of scaring people into disregarding the overwhelming evidence of the Democratic Party’s pervasive corruption. The first phase of this shameful exercise, the internal collusion against Bernie Sanders, almost fell apart, but there’s still plenty of time for the Democrats to discipline themselves—and the electorate, who will be bullied, slandered, and effectively threatened if they dare to express their dissatisfaction with Biden or the rigged process whereby he was nominated. Within hours of Biden’s predictable success on Super Tuesday: Part II, the neoliberals of Twitter announced that a write-in vote for Sanders in November was, in effect, a vote for Trump, and anyone who refused to stand Biden was tacitly approving all of Trump’s appalling policies. We were told we had to vote for Biden because he was the only one whom the independents and the moderates would pick over Trump, but now we’re being told that Biden won’t win because the progressives won’t vote for him?

It would be an arduous and dispiriting task to count the grotesqueries of this past primary season, but the fait accompli of Biden’s coronation was probably the most stupefying. However, we should not accept prematurely the fait accompli of his defeat in November of this year: his myriad moral and cognitive faults notwithstanding, still he is perfectly capable of winning, as long as the public buys into the panic that he and his party will inevitably sell. The stock market plummeted hours in advance of Tuesday’s contests, and future economic volatility will raise questions about Trump’s economic plan, the one subject on which the Democrats have refused to challenge him. In addition, we likely haven’t heard the last of his supposed desire to withdraw our military from Afghanistan, and the military-industrial complex can likely be persuaded to assist the Democrats on this front. The key to understanding Biden is to view him not as an ideologue or even as a candidate, but as a gauge of our collective susceptibility to fearmongering. Let’s see how the Democrats turn up the dial over the next eight long months.

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