Will Biden and His Progressive Ideology Fall Together?

July 21, 2022 Updated: July 21, 2022


As with any rainstorm, there were at first only a few big, fat drops down the backs of our necks or on our outstretched hands. Enough so that we could tell what was coming—and soon.

And soon it came: the deluge thus foretold.

The first drop in the case of the latest Democratic fashion for dumping on the Democrats’ own President Joe Biden fell from the pen of the eminently progressive political reporter Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic. “Is Biden a Man Out of Time?” he wrote at the end of June.

At about the same time, David Axelrod, the psephological wizard behind Barack Obama’s two election victories, spoke with Jake Tapper on CNN about Biden’s stewardship of the government, noting his own “sense that things are kind of out of control, and he’s not in command.”

My friend Steven Hayward was quick to spot in such criticisms what he called a “pincer move to oust Biden” among Democrats—especially when taken together with the results of a Harvard CAPS–Harris Poll by Democratic pollster Mark Penn, which, he noted, “finds 71 percent of respondents don’t want Biden to run for a second term in 2024.”

Just as senior Democrats sought unsuccessfully to dump Jimmy Carter from the ticket in 1980 in order to save their own skins, wrote Hayward, author of the magisterial “Age of Reagan,” so would those now predicted to lose their majority in Congress later this year try to get out from under the shadow of Sleepy Joe.

He also noticed the delicacy with which these first defectors from the party line showed about attributing Biden’s inadequacies to what those less friendly to him didn’t scruple to call the ravages of old age.

As more drops fell and the torrent of criticism from frustrated Democrats began, such diplomatic euphemisms as “out of his time” and “not in command” also went by the board.

By July 10, even The New York Times was openly suggesting that the president wasn’t mentally or physically up to the demands of the office.

“If he mounts another campaign in 2024,” Peter Baker wrote, “Mr. Biden would be asking the country to elect a leader who would be 86 at the end of his tenure, testing the outer boundaries of age and the presidency. Polls show many Americans consider Mr. Biden too old, and some Democratic strategists do not think he should run again.”

The following day, The NY Times reported on another poll with even worse news for the president: Even 64 percent of his fellow Democrats didn’t want him to run again in 2024, while “only 13 percent of American voters said the nation was on the right track—the lowest point in Times polling since the depths of the financial crisis more than a decade ago.”

In Salon, of all places, Brian Karem wrote that “the president of the United States is a role played by a septuagenarian in a reality show” in which he fronts the “most stage-managed presidency in history.”

Not coincidentally, the heavens shed their bounty of criticism on Biden just as the progressive elite were melting down over the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, which returned the long contentious question of abortion to democratically elected state legislatures rather than unelected judges to decide—a decision they paradoxically characterized as a threat to democracy.

Many of his critics thought that the president was insufficiently alarmed by this supposed threat and that he wasn’t exercising sufficient political and legal ingenuity to counteract it.

But then, at the beginning of this week, Jason Nichols of the Department of African American Studies at the University of Maryland attempted to raise a note of caution against this new Democratic fashion of dumping on Biden.

Writing in Newsweek, he pointed out that “the truth remains that Democrats chose Biden and Harris to lead them. Quickly casting them aside would be politically disastrous because it would signal to the rest of the country that the Democrats by their own admission can’t choose someone to lead the nation.”

“It’s hard to see how they recover from that politically for generations to come,” Nichols said.

These must have been hard words for Nichols to write, even as they must have brought joy to the hearts of Republicans already inclined to an unaccustomed bout of schadenfreude at the Democratic discomfiture.

And yet I wonder if what he said is true.

There can be few things that the Democrats haven’t tried in their herculean effort to get a mediocrity such as Biden installed into the Oval Office and, now, to retain their majorities in Congress.

I say nothing about the extent to which these efforts have been honorable or ethical—or even legal.

But one thing they haven’t tried is admitting they were wrong.

There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s our misfortune to live in an age of revolutionary ideology, and ideology is the intellectual’s insurance policy against being wrong, as we non-ideologues can’t help being from time to time.

If you’re of the revolutionary persuasion, so long as you stick to your ideology, you know you can never be wrong—because it can never be wrong. Even when the whole world outside of a few college campuses knows that, for example, men can’t get pregnant, you can be confident about being right, along with Professor Khiara Bridges of UC–Berkeley inside her ideological bubble, in saying that they can.

I think it possible that popular disenchantment with Biden may be part of a larger skepticism about the ideology that he has ridden into office and that, as is every day more apparent, has gone far to produce the present sorry state of the nation’s economic and political life.

And even if it isn’t, an admission by senior Democrats that they were wrong about Biden could also signal the end of their ideologically-based claims of inerrancy and a return to much-needed humility in U.S. politics.

There must be millions of non-ideologues who would vote for that if they were given the chance. Not, of course, that they ever will be given it, not so long as the revolutionary storms continue to rage.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

James Bowman
James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for The New Criterion.