Monday, September 21, 2020

How Madness Shaped History Author Chris Ferguson: Biden-- The Placeholder We Need



A Guest Post
by Dr. Chris Ferguson

As we approach elections in November and the end of President Trump’s first term, it’s worth taking a look at the stressors facing our country and the two leading contenders for the throne. In my book How Madness Shaped History, I write about how important individuals can find themselves in a critical historical moment, playing a pivotal role in the fortunes of their culture or nation. I think we can say that the United States is at one of these critical moments as we nervously approach a kind of cultural precipice.

Though there are often multiple contenders for the presidency, like it or not, it’s typically only realistic to think the candidates of the two major parties are truly competitive. So, let’s have a look at them.

Recent decades have seen several books emphasizing the role of the environment, geography and even luck as contributors to history. Popular wisdom has seemed to deemphasize the Great Person model wherein specific individuals have a powerful influence on world events. Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel has been perhaps the best known of these and we’ve certainly had plenty of these in 2020.

So, I don’t want to suggest these other factors are unimportant. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the difference an individual can make. Do we honestly think we’d be in the same position we are today if Hilary Clinton or even, say, Mitt Romney had been president? I don’t think so.

In Donald Trump, we got exactly what was on the tin. Other mental health professionals have diagnosed Trump as an extreme narcissist, and a danger to our country. With the caveat that any mental health impression is, by necessity, based entirely on public behavior not a mental health assessment, I tend to agree. When things were humming along, it was something of an embarrassing carnival sideshow. But his inability to handle the catastrophe of 2020, whether covid19, race relations or even establishing law and order in the face of violent looting and riots (the denial of which, let’s be honest, is not casting the left-leaning mainstream news in a great light), highlights the degree to which he and his administration are ill suited for this particular moment. Even if one is a conservative worried about law and order (which is not unreasonable), do we really think four more years of Trump is going to bring more of that?

That said, I still understand why some people vote for Trump. To be clear, I don’t believe the majority of Trump voters are racists, white supremacists, transphobes, etc. Rather, the far-left has worked with remarkable diligence, whether via “cancel culture,” some surprisingly stereotyping views of ethnicity, and their elitist disdain for working-class people to make themselves as obnoxious as possible to mainstream voters. I don’t believe these voices represent the majority on the left any more than the QAnon "masks are tyranny" folks represent the right. Unfortunately, both our news media and social media environments promote and amplify the most extreme voices in our society. These, in turn, make it more difficult for us to remember our shared humanity.

What we need, more than we’ve needed in decades, is a truly great leader to light our way through the darkness and unite us, liberal and conservative. Is Joe Biden that person? Well, no probably not. I actually met Joe Biden back in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting when he held hearings on the role of video games in the shooting (TL/DR: there wasn’t one.) I think he’s a talented politician but the odds of his (or Trump for that matter) having at least mild cognitive impairment are not trivial.

That said, he’s the placeholder we need (yes, I know that’s not the best political slogan) until that great person can come along. To be fair, like a stopped clock, Trump has been right on a few things, such as the update to Title IX hearings in universities, which restored necessary due process to those proceedings. But my best guess is that Biden is the better choice for stability moving forward. If we’re to have any hope moving forward as a country, we need to work together and as individuals to end our partisanship, find empathy for one another and stop indulging our anger and fear. We should find the better angels of our nature, even if our opponents don’t reciprocate. That’s a choice each of us can make as individuals. We can move forward together or, divided, come to our end.

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At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of "madness shaping history" is the propensity of idiots to rationalize something insipid in order to avoid pondering the imponderable.

to whit: "The placeholder we need".

Obamanation was such a placeholder. but he accomplished more evil while undoing none.

slick willie? same.. except eviler.

biden? a lifelong racist misogynist corrupt neoliberal fascist and, likely, a rapist? the motherfucker we "NEED" to await our savior?

note: why do all voters in a democracy even NEED a savior? can they not just elect better people? and, yes, that is a rhetorical question.


Bernie would have been a halfway decent placeholder. Ditto Warren. But American lefty voters are too fucking stupid to do THAT! We have to have our Nth consecutive worst goddamn nominee ever.

When everyone who votes (and 99.9% of the pundits) in a particular "democracy" is nucking futs, why, that will surely shape the history of that particular "democracy"... think? Why... yes. It most certainly has.

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm doubtful that Biden is going to be able to stabilize things, because the only real common source of agreement within his coalition is that Trump needs to go. Once Trump's gone, then what? For a more privileged segment of the political and economic elite, there's a belief that Trump is the source of all the country's dysfunction, and that when he's gone, we can tweak things in a way that restores the status quo of 2016. I think this is a naive view. I think Trump is a symptom as much as a cause at this point. He is a byproduct of the failed response by the Dems to the 2008 financial crash, the failure to appropriately deal with the Bush years, a byproduct of a country that sanctioned and used white supremacy to benefit a narrow sliver of the population. He has been aided and abetted by a Republican Party that has abandoned any kind of sense of national or public purpose and which is in the process of looting everything it can before the lights get shut off. Still the choice is easy in this election. Every day Trump and the people in his administration through their actions and words make the argument for Joe Biden, better than Biden has done for himself. I think Biden is too out of it and compromised to actually really understand the nature of the crisis. His rumored Chief of Staff, Steve Richetti has been part of the problem for years. Kamala Harris is a political hack without any vision. Still, compared to Trump's venality, malice and incompetence, it's a low bar. We may not be able to afford four years of Biden-Harris, but we unquestionably cannot afford four more years of Donald Trump.

At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nowhere in this dimension is the mainstream media "left-leaning". To believe this to be true only shows that the observer doesn't get out much.

To assist with the edification of this poor misinformed waif, the mainstream media -corporatist through and through- is no further to the left than center-right. One must know that there is far more media outside the limits of the two-party Overton window to understand this.

But to those who reside within the two-party Overton window, to travel out so far from safe corporatist harbors means risking falling off the edge of the flat corporatist Earth.

Here There Be Monsters!

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any time they start with the bothsider bs, I know it's time to move on. This person has not been awake and listening to the news for my entire lifetime. Nixon started this whole slide into fascism. Newtie and Limbaugh cemented it into our politics. Trump is just the flowering of what has bedeviled us for a century.
SB Gypsy

At 10:35 AM, Blogger hurin said...

Remember that time Mike Pence got one of his kids hired by a mining company in some African country, and then forced them to fire their state attorney?
Neither do I.

At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great rebuttal from hurin hiding in the Socialist nation of Denmark!

The Ukraine is not in Africa, and it was a gas drilling company and not a mining firm.

Biden is again the worst possible candidate the Democrats could nominate, something the Party excels at doing. You won't see me definging that racist criminal.

But to you, I suggest that you apply that due diligence you exert looking at Biden's foibles and see what you can come up with against Pence - much less Trump himself.

You might be amazed!


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