The Transitional Presidency

Vice presidential debates tend to be a bit more fun than presidential debates because two (and maybe Admiral Stockdale) people get to pitch their qualifications for the best do-nothing job in Washington. After all, the essential job of being vice prez is to be there in case the president dies, and what are the chances of that happening? But this time, the chances aren’t bad. In fact, they are fairly good, which means that the VP might well become the president. Suddenly, it all matters.

The New York Times endorsed Joe Biden for president, which certainly shocked no one. It wrote a lengthy editorial in support of its nomination, which could just have easily been one sentence: He’s not Donald Trump. That’s really all there is to say about Biden, who sought the nomination before, when he was younger, stronger and more vital, but America wanted nothing to do with him. It wasn’t that he was a bad guy. He wasn’t. He just wasn’t up to snuff.

The New York Times argument in favor of Biden was replete with the usual empty adjectives one deploys when there’s little of substance to offer.

A President Biden would embrace the rule of law and restore public confidence in democratic institutions. He would return a respect for science and expertise to the government. He would stock his administration with competent, qualified, principled individuals. He would stand with America’s allies and against adversaries that seek to undermine our democracy. He would work to address systemic injustices. He would not court foreign autocrats or give comfort to white supremacists. His focus would be on healing divisions and rallying the nation around shared values. He would understand that his first duty, always, is to the American people.

He would be for everything good and against everything bad. And, more importantly, he’s not Trump.

Mr. Biden has also vowed to “restore the soul of America.” It is a painful reminder that the country is weaker, angrier, less hopeful and more divided than it was four years ago. With this promise, Mr. Biden is assuring the public that he recognizes the magnitude of what the next president is being called upon to do.

What Biden’s nomination teaches is that the Democratic Party rejected the economics of Bernie Sanders and the social justice identitarianism of Elizabeth Warren. These are the dems, not the Trumpkins. These are people who see problems and want them addressed, but without a radical reinvention of America. Biden has two tasks, the first being to beat Trump and the second being to resist succumbing to the authoritarian left.

But Biden is old, and there is a lesson old people come to learn whether they like it or not. We don’t live forever. We aren’t what we used to be. We get tired. We wear out. Even if we survive, we move slower, think slower, hurt in places where we never used to hurt and just don’t have the will to make every fight an existential battle.

That we have two old men running is peculiar in itself, given that the torch had already been passed to President Obama. And yet it was the missed message then, that left us without viable younger alternatives, and so we’re stuck with Joe Biden as the standard bearer against Trump, our national punishment. Biden calls himself a “transition candidate,” which may well be truer than anything else he’s ever said.

That’s why tonight’s debate matters so much when VP debates in the past were mostly fodder for Saturday Night Live.

He is also offering a glimpse of the Democratic Party’s future in his choice of running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California. Ms. Harris would become a number of firsts — a woman, a Black person and an Asian-American — as vice president, adding history-making excitement to the ticket. A former prosecutor, she is tough, smart and can dismantle a faulty argument or political opponent.

This is a warning, even though it wasn’t intended as such. Harris’ “firsts” are the reason she’s on the ticket, because the left side of American politics is just as simplistic as the right, although they wrap themselves up in pseudo-intellectual gibberish like “systemic racism” while creating the Brave New World of race and gender discrimination. Harris checks boxes for those who vote would vote for Idi Amin if he wore a dress and pumps

But as Trump is the idiot’s version of a wealthy and successful businessman, Harris is the dolt’s version of a smart and tough prosecutor. She pretends to talk tough, although her ability to “dismantle a faulty argument” is of the sort that appeals to the left version of those who believe that Trump plays 8-D chess rather than acts upon infantile impulse.

Who knows which Harris will show up for the debate tonight? Will it be Kamala the Cop or Kamala the Progressive? She will put on whichever mask will get her where she wants to be, as Harris is nothing if not personally ambitious. Putting on whatever airs will get her where she wants to go is the politician’s way, and she is certainly a politician.

Of course, she will be debating Mike Pence, who is still coming to grips with the sexual evolution brought about by Queen Victoria. Calm, boring and a century behind the rest of us. For all the people who suffer from TDS (no, the other TDS, Trump Devotion Syndrome), excuses will be made in abundance for Pence, but let’s be real, nobody wants Pence to be president and the argument will be pounded only for the sake of supporting Darth Cheeto.

The long-suffering middle gains nothing by whining about the obvious, how did America end up, yet again, in the position of having to choose between these two candidates. But Biden isn’t Hillary Clinton, and while he will almost certainly do some serious damage on certain issues, such as his promise to return to denying male students due process in Title IX sex tribunals and buying off black communities with promises of Green New Deal riches, he’s no radical, even if Harris would be if it got her where she wanted to be. Then again, if the winds shift and we’re back to loving police,  Harris would be just as happy, maybe even moreso, to pull the trigger and mow down protesters in Portland.

There’s no question that Biden isn’t Trump, which is really the only argument to be made for the transitional candidate, Joe Biden. But do you want Harris to be the future? Remember, the alternative to bad isn’t necessarily good. It can always get worse.

17 thoughts on “The Transitional Presidency

  1. Keith Lynch

    America ended up, yet again, in the position of having to choose between two terrible candidates, because the near-universal unwillingness to vote for a third party enables this never-ending race to the bottom. I’ve been accused by both Democrats and Republicans of “throwing away my vote.” No. It’s only those who vote for a candidate they hate (because they hate his opponent more) who are throwing away their votes.
    Ideally we’d have a constitutional amendment that “none of the above is acceptable” should always be on the ballot, and if it gets the plurality the election has to be held over with different candidates.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s a facile answer. Its up to a third-party candidate to capture the imagination of a nation. Granted, it’s not easy to buck the duopoly, but don’t blame the duopoly for not making it easy.

      1. Kirk A Taylor

        The last time a 3rd party candidate captured the imagination of a nation it required being a billionaire and getting on the debate stage.

        The two parties responded with, “Well, we can’t outlaw being a billionaire but we can sure as fuck keep them off the debate stage!”

        And poof! Third parties are dead.

    2. JMK

      Douglas Adams put I best, I think:

      It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
      “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
      “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
      “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
      “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
      “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
      “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
      “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
      “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
      “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
      “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

    3. KP

      “Ideally we’d have a constitutional amendment that “none of the above is acceptable” should always be on the ballot, and if it gets the plurality the election has to be held over with different candidates.”
      So it should be for all democracies!

      “Harris checks boxes for those who vote would vote for Idi Amin if he wore a dress and pumps”

  2. Richard Kopf


    The great American story is that shit hasn’t fallen until now. Remember, however, it is an elemental principle of physics that shit always falls.

    Why do I think about The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire a six-volume work by the English historian Edward Gibbon? It traces Western civilization from the height of the Roman Empire to the fall of Byzantium.

    Gibbon’s work “became the essential guide for Britons anxious to plot their own imperial trajectory. They found the key to understanding the British Empire in the ruins of Rome.” An so would we.

    But we won’t look ’cause we’re exceptional. Ron Reagan said so but he was (unknowingly) merely mirroring the east coast elitist thought of his predecessor FDR (or perhaps, more accurately, the brains of the family, Eleanor).

    All the best. Have a swell day.


    1. SHG Post author

      History would have lessons for us, except I’m reliably informed by young people that they have achieved the pinnacle of human enlightenment and so nothing that happened before matters (other than to prove how right they are). Have a swell day yourself, Judge, you super-spreader of joy.

      1. John Barleycorn

        Beats waiting around waiting for a SJ post about the The Office of Inspector General.

        But don’t you worry, the Republic is about to be “saved” because the House Chaplin is soon to bless a ménage à trois, I set up, between between an old apprentice of mine at The Sergeant at Arms office, the new chick answering the phones at The Office of the Parliamentarian, and the only dominatrix at the Office of the Law Revision Counsel.

        I can give you a few numbers, when the whining gets old, if you would like?

  3. Turk

    Which Harris will show up tonight? A non-combative one (yeah, that a relative term) that focuses on policy.

    The more sedate and intellectual and policy-oriented the debate is, the more it highlights the incompetence and ignorance of Trump as he is intellectually and emotionally incapable of having such discussion.

    The subtext should be, if she does it right: Look how far we have fallen.

    Anything she does to focus on herself (and the transitional nature of a Biden administration) detracts from that point.

      1. Turk

        You know, my amateur punditry on what I think should happen is right at least 10% of the time.

        So I got that going for me.

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