Biden Is Boring, And I’m Starting to Appreciate That

Ryan Fan

During the Trump years, I couldn’t go an hour without seeing a notification on my phone about the latest outrageous and inflammatory thing Trump did or said. It wasn’t that I could just mute Twitter — it was every New York Times headline, half of my friends’ Instagram stories, and half of my friends’ Facebook feeds. It was literally impossible for me to tune Trump out because his outrageous actions and statements were so amplified.

Trump news always made me amplified. It always made me outraged and looking to pile on like and replies on Twitter. He constantly broke the unspoken rules of political engagement and seemed to suffer no consequences, which made me even more outraged. I understand this might have been his intention, but I couldn’t help feeling the way I did. And the comments and tweets just kept getting more inflammatory, even when I didn’t think they possibly could, culminating in Trump supporters storming the Capitol on January 6.

To say the same is not true of the Biden administration is an understatement. I have to go out of my way to stay informed because Biden is boring. He doesn’t make the gaffes he even made as a candidate. He doesn’t sweep up Twitter in outrage.

To be fair, it’s not like the Biden administration is flawless. Biden’s response to the Israeli-Palestine conflict left much to be desired, especially from his pro-Palestine allies on the left. Biden’s border policy has also presided over an unprecedented number of children in US immigration detention facilities.

But Trump and Biden lead and govern in incredibly different ways. Everything Trump did was, for better or worse (usually for the worse), very much in your face. The media amplified that notion, and I didn’t find it difficult to stay informed given the reality TV nature of the presidency, and it was nonstop relentless for over four years.

It’s much more difficult to stay informed with Biden. I didn’t even know the name of the Secretary of State until last week. I have to actively pursue the news with the goal of staying informed, instead of having it pushed down my throat.

I’m starting to appreciate a boring president. After four years of Trump, I’m glad we can get more done in politics and governing through legislating than tweeting. Amanda Marcotte at Salon, says a boring presidency is exactly what we need. Biden himself first made a press conference on March 25, 2021, over two months into his presidency. Even that press conference was drama-free. Trump’s press conferences attacking CNN’s Jim Acosta was, in no way, drama-free. Biden shying away from the press conferences ended up being a good thing, not a bad thing.

Complimenting Biden for being boring is new for me. I’m starting to really respect our new president, and this is terribly ironic because I used to be super critical of Biden for being the embodiment of the neoliberal status quo. I was so vocal about my distaste for Biden compared to more progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that friends used to ask me whether I wanted Trump to win.

As someone who has more socialist than moderate Democrat friends, I used to launch full-scale, profanity-laden tirades against Biden’s imperfections, gaffes, and previous policies (like working with segregationists and being against bussing) in group chats, in all caps words, that some friends said: “for someone who claims not to like Trump, you sure do sound like him.”

I was especially critical of Biden for just representing the “I’m not Trump” stance during his campaign, but maybe the events of the past year have pushed me to become the very neoliberal status quo defender I hated (that would be an awfully depressing interpretation of my Biden appreciation), but I prefer to think I, like many on the left, just grew so tired of Trump that either of my grandparents, who can’t speak English, would have made a better president.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine also comments on Biden’s boring first hundred days. The article was published on April 26, but not much has changed since then. Chait jokes that the joke about Biden being “Sleepy Joe” on the right actually makes him a “formidable adversary” for the right. One Republican senator, John Corbyn, said “it’s always harder to fight against a boring person” because people usually give someone like Biden the benefit of the doubt.

This means I drastically underestimated how skilled and experienced a politician Biden is. Someone who is nice to Republicans, who many of my friends on the left may unilaterally classify as bigots and fascists (I don’t, but I see where it comes from) is seen as weak by the extreme left. Someone who crosses the aisle and reaches tries to reach bipartisan support seems like an anachronism in today’s increasingly polarized age. A politician who is a “decent person” and “nice guy” might be cool in real life, but in politics, you want the person who shouts and fights fiercely for your policies.

Needless to say, I was wrong. I was very wrong. Some might chafe against my about-face, but there have been various times I thought Biden and Nancy Pelosi’s moderation against the extremes of my own side have averted Democrats from disaster. Chait says Biden isn’t the first politician to be a nice and likable person. Clinton, Bush, and Obama, the three presidents before Trump were also nice people. The critique of neoliberal or neoconservative politicians like Clinton, Bush, and Obama is that nice people can implement terrible policies. But since we compare Biden to Trump so often, it is a welcome return to a previous norm of decency:

“Treating everybody with unfailing courtesy is (or was) standard advice for any aspiring politician,” Chait says.

Biden isn’t just nice, but he pursues ambitious legislation, including expanding the Affordable Care Act and implementing stimulus packages (and I’m eternally grateful for that $1400 check). He has recognized the Armenian genocide and acknowledged and commemorated the Tulsa Race Massacre.

And he’s been incredibly boring and quiet doing it. Chait notes Republicans can’t stop Biden because he’s so boring. In his inaugural address, Biden told us:

“Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.”

These days, in this low attention span, highly polarized world, not destroying everything in your path is the antithesis of the galvanizing and electric most of Twitter wants. Earlier in his career, Biden used to overshare and be a “gaffe machine.” Now, he is so boring, tedious, and drama-free in his approach, according to Chait, that he becomes more productive as a president.

While the media might not like it, and while it’s harder for an average teacher like me to stay informed, Biden is a breath of fresh air. He is most certainly not the most galvanizing president either, much to the chagrin of activists. Chait says Biden’s boringness “offends the sensibility many progressives, who see popular mobilization as the highest form of political organization,” and I would include myself in that category, or at least I would have in the past.

Because Biden is so boring, he isn’t very divisive. Boring legislation is more productive legislation, and by being so sparing in his media engagement efforts, he is boring someone like me to death. Biden has returned politics to an “uncool thing to care about” and returned the presidency to the old idea of normal.

Perhaps just being the anti-Trump isn’t just good enough. Maybe it’s exactly what we need right now.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Originally published on June 5, 2021 on Medium

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