Suddenly, it's Joe Biden Unchained
It’s as predictable as clockwork. Every January, we plan on making New Year’s resolutions, and then forget to. Or we make ambitious resolutions – and promptly break them. But not Joe Biden.
President Biden clearly made one bold New Year’s resolution for 2022: “No more Mister Nice Guy!” And, on at least two occasions so far, he proved he’s sticking to it.
For a whole year, true to his nature as an optimist and his 36-year experience in the Senate, Biden tried it the old-fashioned way: quiet persuasion, speaking softly, lots of phone calls, one-on-one meetings, always positive, not picking fights, never speaking ill of anybody. But he finally realized (what took him so long?) that Mr. Nice Guy doesn’t work anymore.
Joe Biden may not have changed, but American politics has. There are no longer two political parties working out their differences in good faith to make America better. Today there’s one political party and one religious cult: the Democratic Party – not always with the best ideas, but at least with some ideas, on how to make this a better country for all Americans; and the Trump Party, formerly the Republican Party, whose stated purpose is to do nothing – solve no problems, pass no legislation, accomplish nothing – other than restore Donald Trump to the Oval Office. Remember: they don’t even have a party platform anymore. They replaced it with “whatever Donny wants.”
Everything that once worked so well for Biden simply doesn’t work anymore. Bipartisanship is dead. Reaching out across the aisle is out. Compromise is impossible. Because one party won’t even come to the table. So Biden had no choice but to hang up his Mr. Nice Guy clothes and put on his Spider Man suit.
The new Biden showed up first at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6: in Statutory Hall where, exactly one year earlier, an armed mob of Trump supporters had stormed the Capitol, desecrated the sacred chamber, destroyed property, and assaulted Capitol police officers. Biden’s very presence at that location sent a powerful message: The Insurrection failed. Democracy survived.
After a year of holding his fire, hoping Trump’s plaintive whining about losing the election would just go away, Biden went nuclear. He became the first president to openly attack his predecessor, repeatedly accusing Trump, without mentioning him by name – he didn’t have to! – of lying to the American people and “holding a dagger to the throat of democracy.” And, in the cruelest blow of all, Biden hit Trump where it hurt the most, reminding Trump and the American people of his deflated status: “He’s not just a former president. He’s a defeated former president.” Ouch!
Then, with nine immortal words, Biden crushed Trump’s insane argument that those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, are actually “patriots” who love their country. “You can’t love your country only when you win,” Biden declared. Nobody ever uttered a more succinct summation of what democracy’s all about.
Veteran reporters I talked to said they’d never seen a Biden so on fire. But the whole world saw it again five days later, on January 11, when Biden went to Atlanta to talk voting rights. Just as there’s nothing more essential to our democracy than the right of every American to cast their vote and have that vote counted, there’s no legislation more important today than voting rights – not even the Build Better Act. The original Voting Rights Act passed the Senate in 1965, 77-19, with 30 Republicans voting for it. In 1965! It’s disgraceful that today not one Senate Republican supports the voting rights bill. Neither, unfortunately, do two Senate Democrats.
On this issue, too, Joe Biden has had it. “I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months,” Biden told the crowd of voting rights activists in Atlanta. “I’m tired of being quiet!” he roared, as he pounded the podium. Calm persuasion, he insisted, was no longer an option. Standing at the grave of the great civil rights leader, Biden bluntly challenged every Member of Congress: How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?”
Funny. All last year, Biden was criticized for being too timid. Now, some are slamming him for being too tough. I strongly disagree. This is Biden at his best: taking the gloves off, not taking any crap, telling the truth. He may not win the battle on voting rights, but it’s worth fighting for.
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of the new book, “Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him).” His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)
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