Sunday, September 1, 2019

Biden and Bernie in 2019: Not a Primary for Old Men


I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary elections in 2016, and I am grateful that he's bringing into respectable political discourse some important ideas on economic justice and just general decency. 

like Joe Biden personally, and he's the only candidate I can literally like personally since he's the only one I've met. (Although with the number of candidates still in double digits, it's possible most Americans will be able to meet at least a couple.) Anyway, in 1984, I attended a conference on — wait to it — George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, in Akron, Ohio, and we all got stuck in the hotel by a blizzard. I ended up in the bar, and was sitting there alone, I think, when the Honorable Joseph R. Biden, U.S. Senator and one of the hot-shot guests of the conference came over, and we had a drink or two and talked. Or, as I recall it, he talked mostly, but he was a good talker, and I appreciated the company. He's a good guy.

But I'm not supporting either of them now, because I want the Democratic nominee to be an anti-Trump; and the major worry we should have with Trump (age 73)  — what should "scare the hell out of the American people" — is that he's a declining old man, losing words and syntax and his train of thought and what he's policy tweets were yesterday … and he has following him the "nuclear football" and immediate access to "the Gold Codes" for launching a nuclear strike. 

I'm suggesting that Democratic Party operatives, not the candidates, should go full Barry-Goldwater 1964, Daisy ad ageist on Donald Trump's ample ass and make clear that you don't want an increasingly incompetent old man making life and death decisions for a large portion of the human species and other complex forms of life on Earth. 

Such attacks are more difficult to make if your candidate is old and tends toward gaffes.

That's my main reason for not supporting Sanders (77) or Biden (76): just too old for the central question of this campaign: United States Doctrine is that we will use nukes first; Who do you want to make that call?

Also, I'm betting that young people will vote heavily against Trump on global warming alone and that the problem there is getting them registered and to the polls. Old people will be where a fair amount of the action is, and I think a lot of old folks just want a rest from the constant mishugaas of Trumpian governance by Tweet and shouted interviews. Part of anti-Trump is being calm and calming, which Biden can do, but not always; and just isn't in Sander's repertoire. 

Also, a campaign against Sanders would get very dirty very quick: an agnostic Jew from the East coast who calls himself a "democratic socialist" and can be easily presented as excitable and extreme. 

He's certainly stubborn: Sander is a social democrat, which has the word "democrat" in the stressed ("climax") position and back in 1967 could be presented casually in a comedy routine on prime-time television as where to locate the US political Center (about 1:45 in in "Mort Sahl Explains Politics"). He can't do it now, but Sanders once couldhave been more prudent and more exact, if less consistent, as in stubborn.

Again, Biden can be comfortable and comforting, but he slips up now and then, and he has a history. Most of that history is good; part of it makes it more difficult to attack Trump for his profoundly creepy — to start with — attitudes and actions toward women. 

The anti-Trump must be careful with his or her hands, and Biden has not always been.

So, Bernie and Joe: Thank you for your service; may you long continue it. But not as the Democratic candidate in 2020 against Donald J. Trump.

*

Having said that — this much for context for Biden's over-active hands: not excuse, but context.

In addition to the gender/power issues, in the deep background of Biden's history may be another turn of the wheel on base-line standards of personal space, modesty, and "touch" (an important word — usually but not always positive — in the writings of Ursula K. Le Guin). 

In the late 20th c., some of my Miami U (Oxford, OH) colleagues and I discussed briefly generational differences on nudity in both the men's and women's locker rooms on campus. The sample was small, but all and sundry from both groups had noted stricter nudity taboos among younger people than with our generation. (Gay liberation and cell phones with cameras both figure in here, but also the principle, "It's never 'just' fashion": there are fashions even in customs and morës [2 syllables], and fashions usually cycle. If the old farts are walking around the locker room with just a towel covering their for-real shame — or over the shoulder — "da younger guys" and gals may not get undressed at all and shower at home, or not.)

And there were tendencies in the late 20th c. sneered at as "touchy-feelie": eliminate the sneer, and there's a significant point here. I like Le Guin's work and her praise of "touch," but personally would prefer that good old republican slight bow in greeting one another and have little patience for the politics of personal physicalcontact ("pressing the flesh," manipulative PDA ["Public Displays of Affection"] where there really can't be more than a bit of abstract affection, as one might have for an actor one likes [rather precisely as for actors]).

So here's a long quote from  Le Guin's The Word for World Is Forest (1972, 1976) on Terran ("Earthling") colonists vs. the native forest people (Athsheans) of a world being colonized, on touching and Touch:

Touch was a main channel of communication among the forest people. Among Terrans touch is always likely to imply threat, aggression, and so for them there is often nothing between the formal handshake and the sexual caress. All that blank was filled by the Athsheans with varied customs of touch. Caress as signal and reassurance was as essential to them as it is to mother and child or to lover and lover; but its significance was social, not only maternal and sexual. It was part of their language, it was therefore patterned, codified, yet infinitely modifiable. 'They’re always pawing each other,' some of the colonists sneered, unable to see in these touch-exchanges anything but their own eroticism which, forced to concentrate itself exclusively on sex and then repressed and frustrated, invades and poisons every sensual pleasure, every humane response [...]."


Times change, baselinesfor behavior change. And those changed times on "touchy-feelie" taken too literally is another reason the Presidential campaign against Donald J. Trump is no contest for old men.