The Reckless Inauthenticity of Joe Biden
As the Biden administration's progressive agenda rages on, shell-shocked Americans are asking themselves, "How could so much go so wrong so fast?"
From inflation to energy, immigration to crime, Afghanistan to fentanyl, President Biden has kept America lurching from crisis to crisis, failed policy to failed policy, debacle to debacle — obsessed with dismantling the Trump legacy and deliberately charting a radical course that is proving ruinous to the country. America is burning, and Joe Biden doesn't seem to care.
After his surprising win in the 2012 South Carolina Republican primary, Newt Gingrich explained his victory on Face the Nation: "I think the number one thing people look for in difficult times is authenticity. They want somebody who is what he seems, somebody who is comfortable with himself, somebody who's able to have force in what he's saying or she's saying because they actually believe it."
Well, difficult times are here, and when Americans look at Joe Biden, they see a man divided, a man who isn't present in himself, a man without a defined sense of personal identity or an expressed set of values. Joseph Epstein, former editor of The American Scholar, noted, "Because Mr. Biden seems so without solid principles, so without clear politics, so unpresidential, the U.S. feels sadly leaderless," which "has contributed greatly to the deflating sense of hopelessness that seems to have swept over the country."
French philosopher Michel de Montaigne maintained, "The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself" — the idea that a person thinks of himself as an individual with a distinct identity and interior life, whose deepest sense of personal identification informs and inspires how he lives in the world. And when this interplay between the inner self and its expression in the outside world is harmonious, consistent, and aligned — then it can be said that one is living an authentic life.
Authenticity takes on paramount importance with respect to our elected officials. Ben Jones, assistant director of the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State, wrote, "When individuals entrust the responsibility of governing to representatives, they seek to know their representative's core commitments." Authenticity demands of those who speak for us, who do our bidding, and who are charged with maintaining our rights to exhibit the same high moral standards both in their personal lives and in the congruent exercise of their political duties.
Joe Biden, as our premier "representative voice" in government, portrays himself as the Healer-in-Chief. At his inauguration, he preached unity, to "right wrongs," "to stop the shouting and lower the temperature," and "to restore the soul and secure the future of America." We were asked to hear him out and to "take a measure of me and my heart." For almost two years, America has listened and taken his measure and has found him sorely lacking — body and soul. The Healer-in-Chief has become the Divider-in-Chief, who has done nothing to end "this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative against liberal," and in the process rails against the unvaccinated, MAGA Republicans, and the "semi-fascists."
Like an erratic king, he decrees cancelation of student debt to a select few — thumbing his nose at the poor and the working class — making fools of those millions who have worked and scrimped and saved to pay off their loans. Like a petulant king, he berates us for deigning to question the wonders of his Inflation Reduction Act, which Mitch McConnell (and Penn Wharton, the CBO, et al.) said "won't reduce inflation any more than the 'American Rescue Plan' actually rescued America." Even one of Biden's own, Democrat congresswoman Elaine Luria, admits, "The Inflation Reduction Act. That might be the name, but it's a huge environmental bill."
In truth, Joe Biden's nearly 50-year tenure on the political stage reveals an astonishing lack of authenticity. Like electricity, he steadfastly seeks the path of least resistance. His record of about-faces on a whole range of policy issues is legendary: the filibuster, redefining marriage, mask and vaccine mandates, Saudi Arabia, the Hyde Amendment, fracking, and of course "China is going to eat our lunch? C'mon, man." The list is as long as his time in office. Joe Biden has virtually patented the art of the flip-flop into his own signature aesthetic, and whenever expediency calls, he's more than willing to do a quick one-eighty, slip a dagger between America's ribs, and walk away without shedding a tear.
But flip-flopping reveals deeper issues within Biden's inauthenticity. As a political chameleon, his lack of defining values and sound critical judgment doesn't inform any identifiable ideology, which has made him susceptible to dangerous shifts in the political winds — with his presidency succumbing to what many contend is an authoritarian mindset. Fearing rejection, Biden's constant shape-shifting is a result of what Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D. believes is a marker of the inauthentic person: "instead of showing up as yourself, you show up as the person you think everyone else will like."
All of this brings us to President Biden's latest incarnation — a precipitously aging man without agency in the world. Almost daily, he proves that he lacks the belief and ability to act independently with a sense of self-direction, motivation, and control. More and more, he reveals the hands of puppeteers and the influence of handlers — making him appear psychologically unsteady and unable to think on his feet, a leader unerringly late to the table on important issues and ill equipped to face adversity and change.
As Biden and his manipulators see their political power in danger of slipping away, they seem untroubled by the unhappiness and suffering they have caused Americans. We are told to lower our expectations; reduce our standard of living; settle for less; admit that we are "spoiled," "high-class," and "unaccustomed to inconvenience" — or as Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, explains, "[t]his is about the future of the liberal world order and we have to stand firm" — decline is necessary, worse is better. How long will Americans have to endure these ever-increasing hardships? "As long as it takes!" Joe Biden barks. Suck it up, America. Live with it.
Now, amid the tempests of inflation, massive spending, illegal immigration, political polarization, plummeting poll numbers, and increasing voter backlash, many feel that the great implosion of the Biden presidency has begun. Its appetite for victims and chaos, dependency and impoverishment is fast approaching critical mass. Its delivery vehicle, the churlish, unrelenting progressive agenda, is proving to be intolerable and casting too dark a shadow over the lives and spirit of America and its people. The ideas that "America is not enough" and "If only America weren't America" ring more and more hollow every day.
In the end, we need a president who is fearlessly authentic, and in Joe Biden we do not have an authentic man. A piece of him is missing — there is no center. He's a bad salesman with a bad product, and simply put, he's not the one. There is nothing left in Joe Biden that America can live with.
Russell Paul La Valle is a New York-based political commentator whose work has appeared in many major newspapers, magazines, and online opinion websites. He is a former contributing editor to the philosophical think-tank the Atlas Society, and his commentaries can be found at https://russellpaullavalle.com/other-writing.