Some Questions for Joe Biden

Even before Donald Trump forced members of the GOP into a continuous state of physical discomfort around reporters, Republicans were no strangers to controversy or scandalous misconduct. Why do we know what so many members of the Republican Party thought about Chris Lee’s shirtless escapades on Craigslist, Trey Radel’s cocaine habit, and Mike Crapo’s drunk-driving arrest? Because reporters asked those Republicans about their wayward fellows.

Joe Biden should be thankful that he isn’t held to the same standard. He became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee only after managing to avoid the traps into which each of his competitors fell as they courted the radically progressive vote. And yet, though that experience has largely inoculated Biden against the charge that he is a closet revolutionary (at least, relative to his fellow Democrats), the same cannot be said for the coalition he is set to lead.

In August, Biden will accept the presidential nomination from the Democratic National Committee, which appears to be staffed at some level with people who do not share Biden’s cautious embrace of American monuments. On Monday, the DNC’s official Twitter account posted a note attacking Donald Trump for “glorifying white supremacy” by, of all things, holding a rally at Mount Rushmore. The Tweet was quickly deleted, which is evidence of some deserved contrition. But we shouldn’t overlook the pathology that led to this tweet just because its author became aware of its political consequences post-publication. We wouldn’t, after all, absolve the president of momentarily boosting the signal on white-supremacist rhetoric. Is Biden willing to denounce his party’s political organization or, at the very least, commit to ferreting out the staffer for whom Mount Rushmore is representative of racism? Who knows? No one has asked him yet.

Likewise, urban centers around the country are facing a new wave of violent crime—particularly in cities that have embraced the literal interpretation of the notion that we must “defund the police.” In Minneapolis, the number of homicides has increased by nearly 100 percent from this time last year. Within the last month alone, authorities were privy to more than 1,600 reports of gunfire. Over the course of eight hours on Sunday, five people were injured in five separate shootings. All the while, the city’s elected officials have remained focused on one mission: abolishing the local police and replacing them with a set of aspirations, most of which remain undefined.

New York City faces similar conditions. The city determined to meet the measure of this moment by dissolving the plainclothes detective unit responsible for preventing violent crimes and ridding the streets of illegal guns. The somehow unforeseen result of this policy has been a dramatic increase in gun crime. The city’s homicide rate reached a five-year high in May, with more than 100 homicides. Shootings increased by 127 percent from this time last year, with 70 New Yorkers shot just last week compared to 26 in 2019.

Nevertheless, the city is determined to forge ahead with its effort to strip the NYPD of funding. On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to repurpose $1 billion in police funding, most of which takes the form of moving officers posted in city schools to the education department. For her part, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was not happy. “Defunding police means defunding police,” she said in a condemnatory statement. “The fight to defund policing continues.” Biden has expressed reservations about (literally) defunding the police, but would he go so far as to intervene in this progressive civil war? Not if he isn’t asked about it, it seems, and he has not been.

After spending several weeks defending the enclave of lawlessness and anti-American separatism that sprouted up in the middle of her city, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan belatedly conceded that her critics had a point. Only after the so-called “autonomous zone” was host to a series of criminal acts—including a homicide that was abetted by a mob that refused to allow first responders to access the scene—Durkan announced that police would roll up those protests soon enough. More than one week and another double shooting later, this time involving the killing of a minor, the “zone” remains unmolested by police. Now, the city’s stakeholders, residents, and business owners are suing the city over its incredible derelictions. What’s Biden’s take on the matter? We may never know.

The reporters who have declined to tug on these threads should not be let off the hook merely because the mob is as critical of Democrats as they are of Republicans. So, too, was the Tea Party. Republican officeholders were routinely blamed for its alleged violence, attacked for tacitly accepting its supposed racism, and constantly harangued for failing to rein it in. If the same rules apply, and they should, the Democratic Party’s leader cannot be allowed to remain silent.

When Republicans are asked to comment on their embattled fellow partisans, the objective is invariably a sound bite or two to lend color to the portrait of a party at war with itself. But that doesn’t mean this line of questioning is of no value. Voters deserve to know what a political party stands for, and you could be confused for thinking the modern Democratic Party stands for entirely incompatible ideals. Public safety in a nation without conventional police and the protection of public property from defacement by a mob (the integrity of which public officials will bend over backward to preserve). The contradictions here are irreconcilable. Is Joe Biden the titular head of the Democratic Party or is he serving as a mere placeholder while the radical factions consolidate their power? The public deserves to know.

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