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Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Biden style

 Traditional liberals of a certain age, like myself, have been disappointed too many times in the last 50+ years to get too excited about anything too quickly.  Liberalism seemed to be in the ascendant in 1965, but the Vietnam War, economic disruption and racial conflict reduced the Democratic vote by more than 15 percentage points four years later, and only four times since 1964 has a Democratic presidential candidate won a majority of the popular vote.  Bill Clinton moved the party into the center, signing NAFTA and "ending welfare as we know it," and Barack Obama passed up the opportunity to try to restore a safer, saner financial system after the 2008 crash.  Yet I felt enormous encouragement yesterday when I read an article in The New York Times on how Joe Biden makes decisions.  It told a very interesting story, both generationally and historically.

The Silent generation attended college in the greatest intellectual era of American higher education, before the events of the late 1960s began a long decline.  It is not clear how much Joe Biden reads, although he certainly had plenty of time for it spending four hours a day on AMTRAK during his Senate career, but the article tells us that he loves discussion and data.  In contrast to presidents like Johnson, Reagan, and George W Bush, who liked short meetings without much debate, he interrogates his advisers for an hour or two.  More importantly, he is not satisfied with pat or jargon-filled answers. "Let's talk plain English here" is one of his refrains, according to the article.  His top aides have learned that they must prepare very carefully indeed for meetings and that they are supposed to investigate issues with the same determination that he does.  He was rather angry, apparently, when senior aides at a meeting on the situation on the southern border had to admit that none of them had been down there to see what was happening themselves.  The article also suggests that while some of his aides may owe their jobs in part to their demographic, their identity will not serve them as an excuse in office.  He was reportedly very angry with HHS Secretary Xavier Bercerra when Bercerra could not answer questions about the care of migrant children.  

Like Barack Obama, Biden has drawn on the Boom generation for much of his Cabinet. Obama appointed  Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Eric Holder, and Larry Summers, and Biden's Boomers include Merrick Garland, Janet Yellen, Lloyd Austin, Xavier Bercerra, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Tom Vilsack.  Yet while Obama's Boomers had far more Washington experience than he did, Biden's have had less, and he remembers the US before the Boomers began to disrupt it.  He is apparently insisting that they make their policy case based upon facts--a great leveler, potentially, in our deeply divided world. 

For various reasons, the mainstream media has adopted the position--also popular in academia--that politics are a simple matter of right and wrong that allow for little debate.  Michael D. Shear, Katie Rogers and Annie Karni, the authors of the Times story, expressed distress that Biden had taken some time to think about allowing more refugees into the country.  Like so many of us in our 70s, Biden apparently feels too old to worry too much about current political or intellectual fashion.  His careful, data-based approach to policy is what the nation needs after decades of partisan, faith-based debate, and I deeply regret that we couldn't find anyone under 78 to re-introduce it.  Biden is the first, and surely the last, president from the Silent generation  If he can find a way to make his approach clear to the younger generations, he can perhaps get our politics back on track after nearly three decades of Boomer-dominated political decline.

6 comments:

Bozon said...

Professor
Interesting post. The Boomers on the block again.

Here was a passage from your prior post:
"... The first letter, signed by about 150 journalists, academics, and artists, was published early last week on the web site of Harper's magazine. While applauding recent protests for racial and social justice, they reject "a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity." .....the list does not, sadly, seem to be very diverse with respect to age. The vast majority of signatories come from the Silent and Boom generations." DK

Here is my earlier post distinguishing revisionist history from Whig history, and noting the continuity between modernism and postmodernism.

Thursday, August 27, 2020
NYT ESPECIALLY LERER HAS TURNED KEY TERMS INTO THEIR OPPOSITES REVISIONISM CANCEL CULTURE

Today, Lerer strikes again.
I have noted that villifying the so called boomers on S & H type cyclicality causation grounds, a la Steven Brill and DK, remains a species of Whig history.

Furthermore, liberals (Boomers or not) Impugning cancel culture liberals, or Lerer's "liberal" cancellation of the cancel culture Right are also Whig interpretations. The Boomers are no more and no less to blame, in my view, than so called silents or heroes, for anything.

All the best

Energyflow said...

Types according to year of birth in generations. I had once speculated here that nicer, more analytical, congenial presidents tended to be born towards the end of their generation, while more aggressive, energetic, emotionally leading presidets are born towards the beginning of their generation. This tastes a bit of astrology but anyway.

Bush Sr., Carter. 1924 End of GI generation fits the idea well
Reagan 1911, Johnson 1908, Kennedy 1917
Nixon, Ford 1913 All same generation from 1901-24
Kennedy is more analytical, later born. Johnson and Reagan more emotionally direct, confrontational. Ford and Nixon middling. This is of course subjective. It also should be considered age upon assuming office, carer beforehand, education, family background. Reagan' s poor beginnings and career made him naturally less intellectual although late to the presidency, he ruled by inspiration. Kennedy was young in office but well educated, from a wealthy family so analytical and inspirational. Nixon' s and Johnson' s neuroses might be the funnest biographical readings.

Silents were passed over till Biden. Tail end weakling nice guy steretype of typically nicest generational type and ruling as old sage at end of his years a one termer perhaps with nothing to lose, so hoping to atone for sins, get into heaven. Cheney could be counted here as a late silent. Nicknamed by secret service " Backseat" he fits his generation well, ruling from background. He was certainly analytical but extremely conservative.

Clinton, Bush, Trump were early boomers, full of energy, ego, low on deep thought. Fits to type.

Obama tail end boomer was easy going like Bush Sr., Carter, Biden all late in their generations.

Kamala Harris is born in late 1964, early Xer - I know too little of her behavior. However if I know enough about my comrades born plus minus my age then she will be scrappy, energetic but practical if we compare to Truman and Eisenhower both Lost gen. Born in first half of their generation they took direct action as military, atom bombs, cold warriors. Harris could be hard core against Russia, China and therefore historically a good fit like Truman. By the time we get a president born around 1980 they will be again like Obama or Bush Sr., compromising, thoughtful. By 2040 the Crisis era should be over however and this might be ok.

An early born millenial, early 80s might be a leftist activist. This would be Kennedy like, inspirational but heavy on big ideas.

Perhaps you could play with these ideas as you look at the inauguration speeches back to George Washington. In astrology I would look at this like the moon cycle, but on a 20 year basis of generations. Or alternately a physicist would draw a sine wave as on an ECG machine woith peaks and troughs denoting early and late generational births.

Bozon said...

Professor

Put in the simplest possible terms:

It makes as little sense to try to distinguish good modernism from bad postmodernism as it does to try to distinguish good pre Boomer generations from bad Boomer and post Boomer generations.

All the best

CrocodileChuck said...

The NYT article is a White House press release.

Why are dignifying this with a weekly post?

Bozon said...

Professor
Re Croc's note,

Defending Biden and pounding the Boomers, and by implication, later generations, frankly!

Lerer and NYT are doing another larger scale pass the blame, onto the entire US readership, the kind they claimed had just let Kitty Genovese die like a dog, according to their false account.

They claim it is their duty to call to account whoever they claim has fouled out!

Either call out the government, or call out the people, call out anyone, frankly, but yourself, NYT.

Freedom of speech and press has been the biggest boondoggle of the American Rebellion, and it was the case long before 1776.

"...he can perhaps get our politics back on track after nearly three decades of Boomer-dominated political decline..." DK

Now, it is the Boomers, not the NYT's multidecades of bullshit promoting on the one hand or calling things out, failed miserably.

Trust me.

Read about the Kitty Genovese Story and its pathetic aftermath.
This post is dedicated to Lisa Lerer. A pox on all her ways.

All the best

Bozon said...

Professor

Here's another example, just today, of the NYT landing on someone else.
The call out king of big print media here.
The Amherst Common Language Guide to journalistic coffectness
strikes again and again and again.
They always say: WE CAN FIX THIS! David Leonhardt's classic line!
The NYT could not fix a turd if the turd bit the NYT in the butt.
"How Congress has undermined gun regulators"
Today it is Congress that has fouled out.
Congress has been NYT meat and potatoes whipping boy for generations.
It has had so many whipping boys, it is jaded.

All the best