Joe Biden is a decent centrist Everyman, fronting a party hewing ever closer to its fiery left-wing base
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, like recycling columns from a month ago.
Shortly before the Trump administration exited, I penned an open letter to then president-elect Biden, saying that if he truly thought that it was “time to heal America,” as he’d declared post-election, there was a simple thing to do: “put progressivism on ice for four years,” and only advance measures broadly acceptable to both sides of the aisle.
Democrats, I suggested, could lower the flames, because they were in many ways responsible for turning them up. “Simply put, on social issues, Republicans have mostly stayed the same; Democrats have done the changing,” the piece continued. “Millions of Trump supporters are simply ordinary Americans who resent being told that their social views are antiquated, and their conservative morality bigoted. Stop trying to socially engineer American morals by bureaucratic diktat, and many conservatives will be prepared to hear the sensible policies you propose on any other subject.”
Well, now we know how closely my columns are being read in the West Wing. Because with the honeymoon blush still fresh on this administration’s cheeks, Joe Biden demonstrated his social-engineering prowess with a raft of executive orders.
Sprinting out of the starting blocks with an alacrity belying his years, Biden signed into law progressive orders on climate change, mask wearing, a stimulus bill, and immigration (see Washington Wrap).
Amid the flurry of action, one stands out for sheer transformational power. It’s an executive action calling for “advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice” across “the whole of our government.”
Noting that most people wouldn’t spot the difference between equality and equity, conservative columnist and GOP critic Andrew Sullivan accused Biden of “culture war aggression.”
“Equity means giving identity groups a specific advantage in treatment by the federal government over other groups” he writes, “in order to make up for historic injustice and ‘systemic’ oppression. Until equity is reached, equality is postponed — perhaps for ever.”
The paradox, notes Sullivan, is that to achieve equity, which depends on affirmative action, you have to take away equality for individuals who were born in the wrong identity group. “Equity means treating individuals unequally so that groups are equal.”
Faced by the dry legalese of the executive orders, it’s hard to envision the real-life ramifications of the government’s quest for this radical action to satisfy the demands of so many identity groups.
But perhaps it helps to realize that the idea of America as a profoundly racist place found its most potent expression in the fire and fury of the summer’s BLM riots.
And perhaps these legal pieties are a fitting parable for Biden’s social policies. Because unlike the cartoonish view of the president found pre-election on scare-mongering conservative media, as some left-wing monster, plotting a socialist takeover with AOC, the truth was always more subtle. Joe Biden is a decent centrist Everyman, fronting a party hewing ever closer to its fiery left-wing base.
So although some outlets assured us that, once in power, Biden would junk the margins and govern from the center, this executive order blitz speaks for itself.
On social policy at least, left is the new center, and culture wars are the new unity.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 846)
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