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Biden at 100 Days: Boring as a Secret Weapon

Biden at the Joint Session of Congress on April 28.

It is a little odd to me that the very best thing about Joseph Biden in his first 100 days is that he is boring. First and most obviously, that’s in contrast to his predecessor, a narcissistic chaos engine who essentially held the nation’s attention hostage for four years; the idea that one might not have to think about one’s president several times in a day is delightful. Biden almost never uses social media and when he does (or more accurately when his social media staff does) he does it blandly. We never have to worry about a 4am rage tweet from the toilet from good ol’ Joe Biden, which an entire governmental apparatus will then have to bend to rationalize the next work day. You don’t realize what a gift that is until you’ve had to live through its opposite.

Second and slightly less obviously, there’s almost nothing for the GOP outrage machine to latch onto. Why did the GOP spend two days rather ludicrously screaming that Joe Biden, of all people, is going to take away your steak? Because that’s all they can manage with Biden. Biden and his team spend almost no time engaging in the GOP outrage machine; the most they get is White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki bemusedly schooling Peter Doocy on whatever patent bullshit Fox News is trying to push on its audience of ancient racists that day. Otherwise, Biden and his people are doing other things.

Third, and speaking of those ancient bigots, Joe Biden is a bland and genial old white dude who doesn’t trigger a “fight or flight” response on the sort of people who spent eight years forwarding horribly racist cartoons about Barack Obama to each other on Facebook. Oh, don’t get me wrong, these people are still there and now they’re gunning for Kamala Harris; it’s not for nothing that Kimberly Guilfoyle was just this week trying to push the idea that Harris is secretly running the White House. But it doesn’t really seem to stick. Biden is rather obviously not as mentally enfeebled as the right hoped they could portray him as, and Harris seems to be doing mostly normal Vice President-y stuff, working from the Obama-Biden mode of “first in, last out” executive collaboration. Turns out Biden is both in charge, and is the proverbial president you’d have a beer with. Even for ancient racists, that has an effect.

The political right in the United States has spent so much time turning politics into a loud grift that it forgot (or deemed it inessential) that the actual goal of politics is governance. Joe Biden, however, has not forgotten that. It turns out he’s pretty good at it, as are his people. As a result Biden can claim real and concrete accomplishments in his first 100 days, and all the right can do — all it’s trained itself to do, over the course of decades — is to whine and scream about socialism, or whatever. Trying to stick socialism onto Joe Biden is difficult. Joe Biden does not scream socialism. He doesn’t even hoarsely whisper it.

But his programs are socialist through and through! One, lol, no, and two, even if they were, it turns out “socialism” is pretty damn popular — lots of Americans like the idea of spending money to create jobs and fix infrastructure and future-proof the US rather than to simply cede the 21st Century to China. Biden’s address to the joint session of Congress had the word “jobs” in it dozens of times: good jobs, he said. Blue collar jobs. Union jobs. Jobs you can raise a family on. And so on. Biden is genial, and he’s also not stupid; it’s harder for the outrage machine to scream “socialism” when the mantra of Biden’s people is “jobs.” They’ll still do it! Again, it’s all they know how to do at this point; they’ve let their governance organ atrophy into nothing. They’ve staked outrage as the game. Biden and his folks are playing a different game, a boring one that’s not flashy but actually does things, and they’re doing all right at it so far.

Biden wasn’t my first choice as president and I’m not going to pretend he or his administration have done everything perfectly or even well. Left or right, if you’re looking for things to be pissed at the Biden administration about, they’re there, as Biden either moves too fast or not fast enough, or hasn’t delivered on something important to you, or has done something you vehemently oppose. You’re not wrong! We have not entered a golden age. We’re still dealing with the aftereffects of four years of a malign and incompetent US administration, and this current administration has an extraordinarily narrow legislative window to get things done in. It can’t and won’t get everything done, and they’ll be lots to be unhappy about as we go along.

But I have appreciated all the boring. I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week that aside from any executive or legislative accomplishment the Biden Administration wanted to claim for its first 100 days, another is that it allowed me to write a novel in that timeframe — after having to junk a novel that I’d been working on for the better part of a year, but which never gelled because of various reasons which included lack of focus brought on by pandemic, election and sickness, I thought up, wrote and turned in an entire damn novel between first week of February and the third week of March. Again, many reasons, but I would be lying if I said one of them was not that I was no longer immediately worried about the state of governance in the United States. Joe Biden and his people being boringly competent (or competently boring, take your pick) gave me mental headroom to write. In the grand scheme of things, this is one the administration’s lesser accomplishments, to be sure, and one I doubt it will take much credit for. But there it is.

100 days in, I like Biden being boring. I also think Biden being boring is working for him and his administration in terms of getting things done. I hope they continue being boring for a long while to come. I think the nation will benefit from it, and so will I. I think that because in both cases, we both already have.

Thanks, Joe Biden. Keep it up.

— JS

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Big Idea

The Big Idea: Corry L. Lee

Are you the hero or the villain in your own life’s story? How about in someone else’s story? This is a key question in Corry L. Lee’s newest addition to The Bourshkanya Trilogy, The Storm’s Betrayal. Dive in to her Big Idea to see just how morally grey a protagonist can be.

CORRY L. LEE:

I love when fiction forces a character to confront deeply held beliefs and, through struggle, become a better human. So often, however, this is where the story ends. Victory! Success! Enlightenment! 

But what happens if the character must return to the world that originally shaped them? It’s far easier to be a good person and make the right choices when the people around you agree with and support your actions. But what if your newfound convictions run in the face of everything you’re expected to do?

In The Storm’s Betrayal, Gerrit is the son of Bourshkanya’s fascist leader, raised to believe in the State’s might and right. In Weave the Lighting (Book One of The Bourshkanya Trilogy, which I discussed in an earlier Big Idea post), Gerrit opened his eyes to the horrors of his father’s rule and thew in with the resistance. 

Now he’s back inside his father’s regime, and the only way to keep himself and his friends safe—and achieve the resistance’s impossible-sounding mission—is to convince everyone, including his despotic father, that he’s exactly the heel-clicking mage they want to see.

If Gerrit plays his role right, the resistance could deal the regime a terrible blow. But playing that role means embracing the authoritarian power he once dreamed of, and which now sickens him. Where, then, is the line between playing the role and becoming it? And how fully did Gerrit turn his back on the boy who once dreamed of wielding power at his father’s side? 

Bourshkanya’s storm magic provides fertile ground for exploring these questions in splashy, deadly, and magical ways. To create new magical objects, a mage must enter a realm of needs and ideas, a landscape shaped by their core personality. Reshaping that reality is central to creating magic, but in Gerrit’s quest to play the loyal regime son, he uses his training to reshape himself into someone who can better wear that mask, thinking he’s doing what is necessary. But is it possible to do the wrong thing for the right reasons, yet remain “good”?

Walking Gerrit along this tightrope between his personal convictions and the expectations of others, his desire to be good and the pressure from the regime to appear “strong,” was my Big Idea in The Storm’s Betrayal. Getting it right was a challenge. Various drafts had Gerrit slipping too far to one side of the line or the other, becoming irredeemable or not going far enough. In the end, with the help of lots of insightful readers, I think I nailed it.

Does Gerrit make all the right choices? No. But he does the best he knows how, struggling to make the world a better place and hold onto himself in the face of tyranny. I find his story an interesting one and hope it rings true, in some way, to choices we all make in our world.

The Storm’s BetrayalAmazon | Barnes & Noble |Indie-Bound | Powell’s | Bookshop.org| Google Play | Apple Books

Read an excerpt. Visit Corry L. Lee’s website. Follow her on Twitter.

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