How often can Joe Biden pull off his old-man-shakes-fist schtick? Whatever that number is — assuming Biden hasn’t already exceeded it — his party’s activist base wants more of it. Politico once again reports on this summer of Democratic discontent over Biden, this time in his lack of demagoguery over gun violence:
Biden’s response Monday to the mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade — America’s birthday marred by an American ritual of violence — seemed flat to many Democrats. And there is fear the piecemeal bill didn’t just sap momentum to continue addressing gun violence but was already giving cover to Republicans. Following the shooting, they worried that it was another lost opportunity to define the stakes of the upcoming midterms.
“He’s missing the boat here. This is our time to dig in and be absolutely furious because these one-half measures are not working. He’s got a real excitability problem,” said Camille Rivera, a Democratic strategist and partner at the progressive firm New Deal Strategies. “Our rights are being infringed upon and then there were two shootings [another in Philadelphia] on the exact day that people are supposed to be celebrating their ‘independence.’ I really don’t understand where this passivity comes from in this situation.”
“We’re not going to change the hearts and minds of Republicans,” Rivera added. “The fight is for independents and Democrats to get up and fight back and come out. And he is not meeting the moment. He has to meet the moment.”
So they’re angry that Angry Joe hasn’t delivered enough performative-outrage sound bites. Have those performances helped move the needle on other policy issues, though? Or have they contributed to an emerging consensus that Cranky Joe is both too old and too infirm for the job? At least according to the evidence at hand, it suuuuuurrrre looks like the latter.
And Democrats might agree about Biden’s age, at least. Politico notes that the activist base in his party have become openly restive about Biden’s lack of energy on the whole range of issues, as well as his team’s “lack of urgency” on “defining issues of the moment”:
Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated at what they perceive has been the White House’s lack of urgency on what some officials and voters feel are the defining issues of the moment.
The critique extends beyond guns. Democrats have criticzed Biden’s seeming lack of fire in responding to a series of crises, including the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion rights and escalating threats to democracy that grow with every primary win by Republican 2020 election deniers. …
And while the White House has defended the president’s response, pointing Tuesday to several past speeches he’s given on guns and coming action to help protect access to abortions, others fear that Biden remains trapped in a prior age of political decorum and unquestioning fealty to institutions and has been slow to recognize both the existential threat felt by some of his supporters.
Ahem. I don’t think the president who once told black voters that Mitt Romney would “put y’all back in chains” is trapped by “political decorum.” More recently, Biden had no problem calling Republicans as well as Joe Manchin supporters of “Jim Crow 2.0” for opposing his radical voting-process bill that would have federalized elections even further than is the case today. Biden has spent the last two weeks accusing gas-station owners — overwhelmingly small-business operators — of being greedy and unpatriotic for pricing gasoline rationally under the supply crisis that Biden has created. It’s an exercise in blamethrowing that is even more despicable than Biden’s “corporate greed” demagoguery in how far it punches down, and how much it sets up these small business owners for potential protests and misdirected anger.
The problem isn’t a lack of emoting on Biden’s part. It’s that his agenda directly contradicts his election promise to seek centrist solutions and bipartisanship, and that Biden lost the confidence of the electorate as the results of his choices became clear. That began with Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan which precipitated this confidence-crisis cascade, and escalating inflation along with Biden’s denial of it and then blame-shifting for it has only made the situation worse.
We’ve seen far too much of Cranky Joe. What Democrats need is Competent Joe. And they’ll be waiting a very long time for that version of Biden to arrive. That reality appears to have belatedly dawned on Democrats and progressives, and it looks like they’re all running to the media — but especially Politico — to distance themselves from the trainwreck that they created in 2020. It’s way too late for that in the midterms and almost certainly too late in 2024 at this point.