One of the many things we’ve lost in the years of the Catastrophe is the ability to enjoy Joe Biden. Before 2009, he was just a hack moderate Senator from the biggest, littlest ATM known as Delaware, who was most distinguished for harassing Anita Hill and being bad at running for president — hilariously money-laundering his own supposedly working-class persona in 1988 and coming in with, what? Less than 1% in Iowa in 2008?
Then he became Barack Obama’s goofy white sidekick, and the Biden Mythology blossomed.
The Onion is in no small way responsible for creating the character of the Freewheeling Bi-Dillin’: shirtlessly washing his Trans-Am in the White House driveway, cooling his heels in Mexico, and just being a terrific foil to Obama’s cerebral, regal posture in general. (He also loved Liquid Swords.) When Uncle Joe leeringly rambled about how hot Dr. Biden was, or groped some biker leather-mamas, it showed that uptight liberals could be totally chill up to (and only up to) the extent their funny uncle was.
Then your really nasty uncle (Trump) showed up, and things weren’t so funny anymore. Everything was in a different mirror. Obama’s administration wasn’t so nice after all (though immigrant-rights advocates could have told you that). Try as he may, if he did, Obama couldn’t accomplish anything about unchecked police violence or mass shootings, and those who believed Black Lives Actually Did Matter faced the awful prospect that this — a feckless liberal president who means well but has nothing to give — was as good as it gets. And things were about to get much worse.
In a period of regnant fascism and a resurgent sense of leftist possibility, though, it’s no longer possible to ignore how uniquely terrible Biden’s record has always been. The Obama years, when we frolicked with the Democrats’ white-boy id, were a simpler time. As Shakespeare put it:
My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear;
That love is merchandized, whose rich esteeming,
The owner’s tongue doth publish every where.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,
And stops his pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
Therefore like her, I sometime hold my tongue:
Because I would not dull you with my song.
But we’ll always have Uncle Joe. Except when we don’t.
Here are the best readings of the week, rounded up by our editors:
- “This is a bunch of stuff!” A ToM Biden Flashback
- Kim Phillips-Fein on Darren Dochuk and The Gospel of Oil (Boston Review)
- Reporter Emily Atkin’s new blog on climate change: Heated
- California Passes Landmark Bill to Remake Gig Economy (NYT)
- The Democrats’ Shameful Legacy on Crime (New Republic)
- Sex Work Is Work—And Its Laborers Are Officially Unionizing (Vice)
- Study: How smooth-talking professors can lull students into thinking they’ve learned more than they have (Inside Higher Ed)
- Revisiting America’s Little-Known Experimental Suburbs (Metropolis)
- A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked (Atlantic)
- Back to Work: Review of David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs (nonsite)
- Innovation is overvalued. Maintenance often matters more (Aeon Essays)
- In National Ranking of School Systems, a New State Is on Top (EdWeek)
- The Sterling Affairs: A 30 for 30 Podcast (ESPN)
- William Y. Chang, Whose Newspaper Spoke to Chinatown in English, Dies at 103 (NYT)
- How New is New Urban Renewal? Class, Redevelopment and Black Politics (nonsite)
- How Neoliberalism Changed the World (New Republic)
- ‘They are riding a rubber ducky into alligator-infested waters’ (Politico)
- Geedis: An Internet Mystery For The Ages… Gets Solved! (Endless Thread)
- Ms. America: on Lana Del Rey (New Inquiry)
- Low Wages, Sexual Harassment and Unreliable Tips. This Is Life in America’s Booming Service Industry (TIME)
- France announces anti-femicide measures as 100th killing recorded (BBC)
- Jarrid Wilson, a megachurch pastor known widely for his mental health advocacy, dies by suicide (WaPo)
- How I Was Treated at a Hospital After My Suicide Attempt Was Humiliating (Flare)
- America, the Gerontocracy (Politico)
- Paraguay investigates human remains found on ex-dictator’s former property (Guardian)
- Saturn Could Lose Its Rings in Less Than 100 Million Years (Smithsonian)
- N.J. man did ‘donuts’ on Trump’s Bedminster golf course days after breaking into Taylor Swift’s mansion, cops say (NJ.com)