Biden at 100 Days: Boring as a Secret Weapon
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.