A few weeks ago, an Iowa man accused Joe Biden of landing son Hunter a lucrative job with a Ukrainian company, and thereby abusing Biden’s at-the-time position of Vice President.
I was initially glad when Biden took him to task and stood up for himself, since it was obvious from this man’s tone that he wasn’t asking for clarification but rather reproaching Biden with a narrative previously and repeatedly dis-proven.
But my stomach dropped when Biden’s exchange with this man eroded to “Look, Fat, here’s the deal…” Oh, Joe. That’s just wrong and regrettable on so many levels. Here are a few:
1. Fat shaming. If I must explain why it’s wrong, God help you.
2. Pigeon-holing someone’s identity as simply a single attribute of their person. This dehumanizes people, making them a characteristic, rather than a person. Left to fester, this practice is why slavery happened, why the Holocaust happened, why White Supremacy continues, and why hatred of all kinds exists. It’s hard to hate a person close up, but easy to detest a characteristic.
3. Potentially conflating an ignorant viewpoint with having a larger body. Boo.
4. Not bothering to ask someone’s name when addressing them. Again, dehumanizing and disrespectful. If you need a placeholder in lieu of a name, how about “Look, Sir,” or informally, “Look, Man”?
5. Inability to keep your cool and answer the questioner calmly. Do NOT succumb to the antics of the Name-Caller in Chief. We CANNOT let President Trump’s behavior become the new norm and continue to erode common decency in this country.
But Biden didn’t cut his losses there to return to safe waters. When the man announced he wouldn’t be voting for Biden, Biden went on to say “you’re too old to vote for me.” Another insult — this one ageist — and a confusing one at that: so Biden doesn’t want votes from older Americans, or fat Americans for that matter? Good luck with that approach, buddy.
He went on to accuse the man of being sedentary and challenged him to a push-up contest! Wow. I mean, wow.
I don’t blame Democrats for losing their cool occasionally. They’ve had hundreds — if not thousands — of examples of tantrums, name calling, bullying, and mean-spiritedness from across the aisle in the past few years. Of course it’s going to affect them.
(This is exactly the tactic of Fox News other fringe media — the more inflammatory their language, the more biased and inflamed their viewers become, and the easier they are to manipulate from this unstable, irascible temperament.)
Yet, that’s exactly why Democrats can’t go down that road. I’ve been everywhere from discouraged to shocked, to despondent to enraged, at some of the ways Republican lawmakers have stooped to join Trump at the bottom of the bad-behavior barrel. Men and women who were once themselves Never Trumpers (Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry) throwing away their manners, civility, and in too many cases, their honesty and integrity, to appease a man who has no loyalty to spare for them.
Indeed, his lack of loyalty is a main reason for their kowtowing: they know that one small diversion from his narrative could bury them in a Tweetstorm of slander.
So I’ve been impressed by the ability of Democratic Congress-members to remain civil and on-point. A glaring and upsetting exception was when Representative Patrick Maloney (D, NY) rudely badgered Ambassador Gordon Sondland during his testimony at Trump’s impeachment hearings. Maloney toed the line of bullying, when he could have achieved the same result without being snarky and rude and stooping to the dishonorable tone and tactics so many of the Republican Representatives employed that day.
This type of discourse — anything but civil — is an enormous turn-off to most constituents. Perhaps it works with Ever Trumpers, who unbelievably may equate this bullish and bullying speaking style to some sort of power, but the rest of us see it for what it usually is: a smokescreen to hide either insecurity, lack of substance, or both.
I truly hope that Democrat politicians can maintain civil discourse as they proceed through this administration and the decades that follow. While Trump’s base may never balk at this course discourse, the mere baseness of it demeans us all.
Democrats…Republicans…America is better than this.