The Myth of Perfect Leadership
It’s time to put our faith in the people we’ve elected instead of comparing them to our ideals
I cried tears of joy and relief as President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn into office.
President Biden. God, I love how that sounds.
Know what I love even more? Having a man and woman as leaders I can feel proud of. Finally seeing glimmers of hope that our country might be on the path towards healing, after all. After the absurd debacle that was the past four years, seeing these two get elected and finally inaugurated restored a little of my faith in humanity.
Yet some liberals are upset that Biden won the election, already criticizing him for various shortcomings, and already doubting what he will accomplish in office. And they’re entitled to their feelings, you know? Everybody doesn’t have to love the guy.
But after the years of chaos and the huge uphill battle that he faced just getting into office — and how close we came to getting another four years of Trump — why are we picking Biden apart right now instead of celebrating the fact that he won? Why all this negativity about him when he has barely even gotten started as our president?
And why are left-wing activists in Portland and Seattle rioting and burning flags?
What’s Wrong with Biden, According to Some Liberals
As of early 2020, Biden wasn’t getting much traction with younger liberals, according to Perry Bacon, Jr. of FiveThirtyEight. He didn’t have much support from Democrats under age 45, and he polled especially badly with liberal voters under 30.
Why? Well, partly because many of those voters supported Bernie Sanders at the time. Of course, then, Bernie lost the Democratic nomination and was out of the running. So did Bernie’s supporters later turn out and vote for Biden? Many of them did — but they weren’t exactly thrilled about it.
The bigger issue, Bacon says, is that younger voters tend to be more liberal and more anti-establishment than their older counterparts. Many of them view Biden as being too moderate, not far enough to the left, and too steeped in the institutions that helped him gradually rise to power over three decades.
But one of Biden’s biggest strengths as a candidate — and one that ultimately helped him win the election — is that he is more of a centrist than Bernie or the other Democratic candidates. Biden may not align with progressives on a lot of issues, but being in the middle of the political spectrum means he represents more of what more people in this country want — meaning, he’s more electable than someone further to the left.
As a progressive myself, I definitely don’t agree with all of Biden’s views. And I’m not a fan of some of the allegations that have been brought against him. I’m not saying we should ignore all of that or compromise on our values when we go to vote. But when it came down to it, the choice was essentially: him or Trump. No other candidate really stood a chance of winning.
It sucks to be pigeonholed and to have your choices narrowed to two candidates: red or blue. But it’s the system we have. So for now, the best we can do is choose the person who better represents our values — even if we don’t agree with them on every single thing — and rally behind them.
For Those Who Wanted Bernie But Got Biden Instead
Many people’s number one complaint about Joe Biden seems to be: he’s not Bernie Sanders.
Well, no, he’s not. But Bernie Sanders didn’t win the Democratic primary, and if he had, he almost certainly would have lost to Trump. There’s no way most of the Republicans who defected and voted for Biden would have voted for someone so far to the left.
To everyone who had hoped to see Bernie get some more traction and win the Democratic nomination this time: I’m sorry. I am. I like Bernie overall, and I hope to see him have more influence. But I respectfully submit that now would be a good time for Bernie’s supporters to get behind Joe and Kamala instead of being upset about not getting everything they may have wanted.
When Bernie himself didn’t win the Democratic nomination, he endorsed Biden, and I hope as many of his followers as possible followed suit. And I also hope the liberals rioting right now will let go of their preemptive anger and hostility and give Joe a chance to do some good while he’s in office.
The Two Party Dilemma
I used to vote third-party out of protest. In my ideal world, there would be more than two dominant political parties in our country.
I would love to see third parties have more of a voice and an influence in American politics, and I understand that the way we get there is not by only voting Democrat or Republican. We need a wider spectrum of color options, a broader diversity of voices informing our views.
In previous elections, where the stakes were lower, I was more willing to take a chance on third-party candidates. But when the 2016 elections rolled around, I knew Trump was bad news. Really bad news. And truthfully, I would have voted for just about anyone who I thought would be able to beat him.
I didn’t care for Hillary Clinton, truthfully, but I voted for her because she was the best shot we had at keeping Trump out of office. She wouldn’t have been a perfect leader, but can you imagine how different the past four years would have been if she’d become our president instead of Trump? How much better they would have been?
In Defense of “The Establishment”
I also understand and can get behind some of the critiques of “establishment” politics. I went through an antigovernment phase. Laws and institutions are far from perfect, and some of them absolutely do need to change.
Yet, as we saw with Trump, laws are essential. The law obviously didn’t stop him from doing all manner of shady business, but our legal system did keep him from stealing a free and fair election. Institutional checks on his power stopped him from doing some of the outrageous things he fully intended to do. And I am so grateful for that.
One of Trump’s selling points to his supporters was that he was not a “career politician”. Actually, he had no political experience and no real concept of how our government works (which became obvious when he tried to run it like one of his businesses).
I don’t know about you all, but after four years of Trump, I’m glad to have an experienced politician back in office who can restore some normalcy. There’s plenty that needs fixing about our system, but we are in such a volatile and precarious state as a country that right now is probably not the time to overhaul it.
Right now, personally, all I want is for things to be normal and boring for a while.
There Is No Perfect Leader
I’m not pinning my hopes on Joe Biden being the perfect or ideal president. But he’s who we got. When it came down to it, he was the one who was able to defeat Donald Trump. And he did it with grace and class.
He reminded us all of how a president should act (what a novelty!), and he brought with him an uplifting message: one of compassion, empathy, and bringing our fractured country together.
Will he be able to do everything he’s promised? Hopefully, but nothing is guaranteed. Is he everything I could possibly want in a president? No. But no leader can be all things to all people. In a country with this many people, this many unique value systems and points of view, no president could possibly live up to every person’s ideal vision.
Biden will probably have his rough patches, and he’ll more than likely hit some speed bumps along his way. To say he’s got a tough job ahead of him is a huge understatement — it’s going to take our country a while to bounce back from the trauma of the past few years. But I do believe in his ability to bring people together and start healing our wounds.
He and Kamala are exactly what we need right now. And I look forward to seeing what the two of them will do.