I had vaguely registered some backlash against Joe Biden’s comments about James Eastland and Herman Talmadge, and I couldn’t help but wonder (1) was there some malapropism in Biden’s comments that wasn’t being reported and (2) is there anything at all to commend in the backlash?
The answer to both my questions appears to be “no.” This is not just an instance where the younger generation has apprehended some truth my generation has trouble seeing. It is an instance where my generation is right and young progressive pearl-clutchers are out of their right minds.*
I base this opinion on Bret Stephens’ Saturday OpEd in the New York Times, which completely vindicates my antecedent bias.
I cheerfully admit that I haven’t read Biden’s critics on this point, and I cheerfully admit it because life is too short to explore every rabbit trail, or, as my late father once said, “you don’t have to dig through garbage to find food in this country.”
Here is the key passage in Stephens, in my estimation:
All of this is evidence of what psychologist Pamela Paresky calls the “apocalyptic” approach to politics that increasingly typifies today’s progressivism. “It is an apocalyptic view, not a liberal one, that rejects redemption and forgiveness in favor of condemnation and excommunication,” she writes in Psychology Today. “It is an apocalyptic perspective, not a liberal one, that sees the world as needing to be destroyed and replaced rather than improved and perfected.”
Paresky contrasts that to what’s been called the “prophetic culture” in American politics, which takes human nature as it is and gladly goes to work with its crooked timber. Abraham Lincoln was a part of this prophetic culture, as was Martin Luther King Jr. John Brown was part of the apocalyptic one — as is, in its way, the new “cancel culture” of the left.
The irony here is that the left’s apocalyptic tendencies have everything in common with the behavior of the Trumpian right: the smash-mouth partisanship; the loathing for moderates on its own side; the conviction that its opponents are unbelievably stupid as well as irredeemably evil; the belief that the only political victories worth gaining are total ones.
The apocalyptic view (remember “The Flight 93 Election”?) does not bode well for political peace any time soon. I can only hope that the press has amplified it a hundredfold for commercial reasons, and that its prevalence in the electorate at large is negligible.
* Update: Okay, okay, okay. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son’” was a malapropism, and since Biden never is Mr. Malaprope, he must have meant something totally toxic and un-American by it.