Charles Pierce summarizes the the man exposed by his tax returns.
But he stands also exposed as a failure who was allowed to thrive because he failed at a time in which politics and government were rearranged to keep his particular genre of failure ever from being fatal. In fact, if he hadn’t run for president*—and, especially, had he not been elected president*—he likely would have floated gracefully into eternity, leaving a complex disaster for his heirs to straighten out, and remembered in history as a crude, wealthy wastrel with some interesting eccentricities. And measured only against his fellow plutocrats, posterity might have gotten away with remembering him that way. But measured against the presidency, he was what Wayne Barrett said he was in 1979: small and venal, with no ideas big enough to transcend profit, a fitting epitaph for the republic in the age of the money power.
Good stuff, but let’s never forget that he successfully tapped into a vein of national venality and rose to extraordinary power, which could happen again in November. He’s going into a national presidential debate tonight, which I’m not going to watch, because I know what he’s going to do: he’s going to mug and preen for his base, which will happily glug down the lies he vomits up, and at the end of the evening, he will have solidified his support among the American troglodentia. It’s what he does. It’s how he won (well, that and the Republican cheating and vote suppression).
Tonight, Biden has to show up strong and clear-eyed and confident, which I’m giving 50-50 odds he can do, and he’ll probably “win” the debate, in the sense that polling will show a slight increase in his support. But remember the debates with Hillary Clinton! I watched those, unfortunately, and Trump came off as a creepy bully and Clinton was definitely far more competent, and the polls all showed Clinton as the “victor”, but we all know how that turned out.
To be uncharacteristically optimistic, though, an incremental gain might be enough and is all we ought to expect. Debates aren’t a football game, although way too many people see them that way: there will not be a battle in which one side is definitively declared the winner. We’re in the final grind of the election, and shaving off a few fence-sitters here and there is the best we can do. Biden just has to come off as slightly better than Trump to a few people who are swayed to vote for him in November, and mission accomplished for the night. Don’t expect to wake up tomorrow morning to learn that Trump was like a punctured bladder flopping to the floor and immediately fading away — won’t happen. You still have to show up and vote. You still have to fight the anti-democratic strategems of the Republican party.
So get to work, throw the pig out.