Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Or, The Ballad of Joe Biden’s Bad Night

Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

So come on and let me know

The Clash, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones

My wife is engaged with friends of ours over whether Biden should step aside. She believes Biden should continue to lead the ticket. They are adamant that he needs to step aside. It’s clear that even more intense conversations are going on about this in and around the Biden camp.

There is no question that Biden’s debate performance was an optical disaster. It reminds one of the Kennedy/Nixon debate, which arguably changed the course of the whole election. Biden seemed frail. He had trouble putting his thoughts together and finishing them. Although 45’s talk was a firehose of incoherent, non sequitur lies and disinformation, he appeared strong, vital and focused. Joe Biden, when 45 was speaking, often appeared to be off somewhere else. He appeared senile. In subsequent events both that evening and in the following days, he was apparently State of the Union Joe. What went wrong at the debate for him is difficult to know.

In his defense, he had a cold, and I am not sure how anyone stands up to the firehose stream of lies 45 spews. Probably better not to debate at all. Which begs the question. The Biden camp wanted the debate and made the challenge. They agreed to the terms and staging of it. How were they so clueless about how hard it would be to match up with 45 under those conditions? A part of me speculates that they need him to realize he can’t carry the torch anymore and should step aside, so they set him up for humiliation. I know that’s far-fetched, and it would be beyond cruel, but I am trying to make sense of the debacle.

Everyone who understands the stakes of this election and wants to preserve democracy is reeling in fear and painful anguish. We are all kinds of emotions all at once, and none of them are good. Cup of panic anyone?

I suppose the one silver lining in all of this is that the debate is very early, there is lots of time to recover before the election. An eternity in political time. Unfortunately, there are some choice clips of Biden stumbling that are sure to find their way into attack commercials in September and October. Maybe they already have.

Supposedly there was a second debate agreed to in September. That’s a hard one for the Biden camp. If they back out, it will be an acknowledgement that Biden isn’t up to it. If they go through with it, well, another performance like the one we witnessed this past week would absolutely be the death of democracy.

There will be lots of polling and lots more rollercoaster emotions in the next week. I wonder if the needle will move much at all. I think a considerable number of us know the stakes of this election and, while we wish we had a younger, more charismatic candidate, it really makes no difference who the candidate is. We are going to do what we have to do to preserve the chance to have a better choice next time around. We know this election is existential for the country.

There are reasons to like the Biden administration and reasons to dislike and be angry with it. But it all pales to insignificance when you consider the alternative, which is 45 and white supremecist, patriarchal, Christian Nationalism as far as the eye can see.

It doesn’t matter who is at the top of the democratic ticket. Change or don’t change. Democracy is at stake and the only party willing to try to save it is the Democratic Party. And I can’t see waisting energy arguing about it unless you actually are in a position to affect the decision. We all need to work on getting anyone who doesn’t understand the moment we are in to understand it. Then we need to join them in supporting whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be in November.

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

—Dylan Thomas

The position of those embracing a post-liberal order is a far cry from the Reagan Republicans’ claim to want small government and free markets. The new ideologues want a strong government to enforce their religious values on American society, and they reject those of both parties who support democratic norms—for it is those very norms they see as destructive. They urge their leaders to “dare to rule.”

Heather Cox Richardson

It is hard right now to decide if democracy is winning or loosing. It certainly is being challenged. If democracy prevails it will be by the skin of its proverbial teeth, or so it seems to me. We had three significant tests of democracy this past week. The indictment of 45. The election of a new Supreme Court Judge in Wisconsin. The expulsion of two black Democrat legislators and the near expulsion of one white woman Democrat legislator in Tennessee. In the indictment of 45 and the election of a new judge in Wisconsin, democracy took steps to steady itself. In Tennessee, the loss of democracy was on full display, along with attendant racism.

I had been thinking that I needed to write a piece about how angry Christians are making me right now. I can see they want to force their religious views on me and the rest of the country. A majority of the rest of the country doesn’t want this. Yet, somehow, they have managed to claim control over some crucial levers of power and are busy forcing their world view on the rest of us. Christians are pushing an intolerant culture war. As Aaron Sorkin put it so well in The News Room, they are the American Taliban. I abhor intolerance.

I realize though that it’s not all Christians and not Christians specifically I am angry with, it’s the white patriarchal structure it supports that I am angry with. I have no use for it.

This patriarchal structure is on the ropes. The demographics are solidly against it. The majority of the people are not aligned with them. In this democracy, they are losing power. They have reached a moment in time when they either seize control and move the country to authoritarian rule or they loose their grip on power. That power has been steadily ebbing away even as they have plotted a takeover, something that has been brewing since the Regan administration. We are now at the place where they are going for broke. I currently believe they will fall short, but it’s really a closer call than I would like it to be.

Their conviction that American “tradition” focuses on patriarchy rather than equality is a dramatic rewriting of our history, and it has led to recent attacks on LGBTQ Americans.

Heather Cox Richardson

The struggle is with the world as it has been. A world where white male privilege dominated. The framers of the constitution produced a document that reached for an ideal they were far short of meeting at the time of writing. We are still short of meeting it but we have continuously struggled to realize those ideals and progress has been made.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

–Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

It’s a difficult slog. The Enlightenment Humanist ideal expressed in the Declaration of Independence has always been ahead of its time, as good ideals generally are, and stands as a promise for each successive generation to deliver on. The seeds of the destruction of the patriarchy, or at least of bringing it to heal, were planted with this preamble. As the demographics of this country shift to a black, brown and Asian majority, as young people pursue the values of enlightenment humanism because their diversity demands it, the patriarchy is challenged and teetering.

However, on the first day of 2020, whites under age 18 were already in the minority. Among all the young people now in the U.S., there are more minority young people than there are white young people.

Among old people age 65 and over, whites are still in the majority. Indeed white old people, compared to minority old people, will continue to be in the majority until some years after 2060.

Hispanics and the other racial minorities will be the country’s main demographic engine of population change in future years; this is the most significant demographic change Americans will see.

PBS News Hour

With the demographics shifting and with the majority of the people in favor of bringing the patriarchy to heal and instituting a multiarchy1 that offers participation to everyone without prejudice as to race, sex, sexuality or circumstances, one has to wonder how the patriarchy has been able to come so close to cementing their control. The answer, I suspect, is an ability to be single minded and ruthless. Something liberals, enlightenment humanists, struggle to be.

One of the weaknesses in the humanistic temperament is a tendency to flail in the contest for power. Self-doubt, a cheerful disposition, and a joyous pursuit of knowledge are qualities that might make for wise leaders, but can also produce hapless political combatants. Or, as Mann once declared: “In all humanism there is an element of weakness, which … may be its ruin.” Bakewell’s subjects are for the most part critics who write on the fringes. Or, like Bertrand Russell, her primary 20th-century protagonist, a serial proponent of doomed causes.

Franklin Foer, The Atlantic

A multiarchy is humanist in its general character. The very nature of a humanist world view is to eschew the concentration of power, by distributing and collectively holding it. This is called democracy. This is a weakness that is exploitable by the white patriarchal structure which is nothing if not very efficient at producing aligned and focused power.

And so, here we are, saddled with a white patriarchal structure that refuses to “go gentle into that good night.


  1. This is the term I have coined to describe a liberal multiracial power structure I believe is struggling to be born. ↩︎