Monday, March 07, 2022

Play Taps

On Friday's episode of The View, Elie Mystal of The Nation joined the cast to talk about what he called "a couple of missed opportunities" in President Biden's State of the Union address. In the segment (seen  beginning at 14:08 of the video below), Mystal noted.

One, I would have made a connection between the authoritarians we're fighting in Europe and the authoritarians we're fighting in Washington, D.C. Like, you figure the insurrection caucus literally heckled him and I wouldn't have gone out like that. If they would have heckled me, I would have come right back at them with- I don't see how you get through the entire State of the Union without mentioning the attack on our capital.

Just as a Democrat could sometime go at the media for obsessing on alleged Democratic disunity and not continually accommodating Republicans for comity's sake, Biden should have confronted the GOP enemies of the nation and connected them to the insurrectionists abroad. Leaving the "you're bad, we're not" terrain to the GOP is tactically unwise.

Mystal acknowledged that the President issued his declaration endorsing increased police funding because "he's trying to be nice. This is why people elected Biden." Though especially true in Biden's case, this is how Democrats get elected when they get elected.  Democrats want to project "comity" and as Mystal pointed out, "he wants to bring people together, so that's why he did it."

If Biden was elected because he's seen as trying to play nice with others, I believe he was nominated for a slightly different reason. Turning to "the other big missed opportunity," Mystal argued

... that's Mr. Fund the Police. Look, can we just talk as adults? Does anybody in good faith think that the problem with police brutality in this country is tha the police aren't funded enough?

I'm guessing that's a rhetorical question, and Mystal continued

Do we think there's a cop on the street saying (mocking voice here) "like, you know, I was gonna let that man live but I just didn't have the funding and the training to understand what humans look like. If only I had gotten a raise, that black man might have lived. Like, that's not what's happening," alright.

So when Biden says fund the police, fund them, fund them, what I hear is "I don't care anymore, I don't care, I don't care, I don't care." Yeah, that's his commitment to police reform. He's done with it.

You will notice at 17:22 scattered, approving laughter. Scattered. What you will not see or hear during Mystal's emphatic, eloquent remarks is applause. There was none.

There was none because it's not only Biden who is done with police reform. It's the American people who are done with police reform (assuming we ever weren't). To be sure, it will die a fitful death, one step forward, one or two steps backward. But it is over.

Its moment was relatively brief.  It was during the summer of 2020, into the autumn of 2020, soon after the presidential nomination was assured for the man who in 2008 bragged that the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 could be called the "Biden Crime Law." That was the law which was credited, or blamed, for mass incarceration, particularly of young black males- or for what is worse for many Democrats, exclusively black males.

Yet, that was the Joe Biden who, despite early missteps in the campaign, ended up easily dispatching his last remaining challenger, Bernie Sanders.  Having been arguably the Democrat most (aside from President Clinton) responsible for passage of legislation enormously- supposedly- very unpopular among the Democratic (and many unaffiliated) voters of 2020, Democrats across the country hoisted Joseph R. Biden Jr. upon their shoulders and carried him to the ultimate political victory.

Citing job approval by blacks that is tepid for a Democratic president, Mystal noted "tell me, please, the black voter that he won with that speech last night. I'd like to meet him." Or her.  That weakness could prove problematic for a President, if his approval is very low, seeking re-nomination in a Party whose base is comprised of non-young black women. However, Biden probably believes that is a storm he could weather and that if the American people have little confidence in him 18 months from now, standing for re-election might be an option he can pass on.

Biden could declare, to Mystal’s displeasure, “we should all agree. The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to FUND the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”  It seems that for the American people generally, as for The View audience which did not rally to Mystal's genuinely stirring rhetoric, the black lives matter movement is over. It had its day, actually its several months. But it appears that an exceptional slogan, in this case the inarguable and inspiring "black lives matter," is not enough to sustain a movement.

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