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.