This Op-Ed was written and submitted by Paul Plante.
A “demagogue,” according to the Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, is “one who leads the populace by appealing to prejudices and passions; an unprincipled politician.”
It is my premise herein that Democrat Joseph Robinette Biden, Junior, is just such a “leader,” especially on the issue of abortion, leading his portion of the populace by appealing to their prejudices and passions, as we see in a Reuters article titled “Biden to codify abortion rights in January if Democrats keep Congress” by Jeff Mason and Nandita Bose on October 18, 2022, as follows:
“I want you to remember that the final say does not rest in the Court now.”
“It does not rest with extremist Republicans in Congress.”
“The final say about your right to choose.. rests with you.”
“And if you do your part and vote, Democratic leaders in Congress I promise you will do our part.”
“I’ll do my part.”
The president also cited a part of the Supreme Court ruling that said women are not without electoral or political power, suggesting they could mobilize and elect lawmakers to guarantee abortion rights.
“Let me tell you something.”
“The court and extreme Republicans who spent decades trying to overturn Roe are about to find out,” Biden said.
With those words of Joe Biden in mind, that same source, the Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, then defines the term “demagogic” as “pertaining to or like a demagogue; given to unprincipled political agitation,” and “demagoguery” as “the spirit, method or conduct of a demagogue.”
It is my premise herein based on those words of Joe’s in that Reuters article above, with regard to abortion, specifically, that Joe Biden is indeed engaging in “unprincipled political agitation” which marks him out as a modern-day demagogue.
“Demagogue” is a word that seems to have fallen out of our political lexicon, probably because it is hard to spell and has so many characters in it that it would play hob with composing a TWEET on TWITTER, although for a time, the term was being applied, rightly or wrongly, to Donald Trump,
Before that, in my memory, we have to go back to George Wallace to find an American politician branded as a demagogue.
According to an article in The Bulwark titled “Demagoguery in America” by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 30, 2020, which article is a review of a book titled “The Demagogue’s Playbook – The Battle for American Democracy from the Founders to Trump” by Eric A. Posner, we have this American history to consider, as follows:
Andrew Jackson, the earliest American demagogue Posner identifies, “was able to win the presidency because by his time the original constitutional bulwarks against populist demagogues had eroded.”
Under Jackson, “the new populist ideology could justify destruction of the institutions, not just reform, including institutions that constrain, or lie outside the power of, the executive.”
“Only the president himself was powerful enough to lead this assault.”
In short, the new ideology justified “a leader who derives his power from the people rather than from a set of political institutions, a demagogue.”
Notwithstanding the creation of a technocracy — and the administrative bureaucracy that preceded, grew with, and enabled it — Posner tells us that populist demagogic impulses returned with a vengeance with the arrival on the scene of Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy, to whom the press “flocked” because he was (here Posner borrows from historian David Oshinsky) “bizarre, unpredictable, entertaining, and always newsworthy.”
Despite the fact that McCarthy was ultimately repudiated by his Senate colleagues, the demagogic strain remained, and found at least some resonance in the public career of Alabama governor George Wallace and the presidential candidacies and presidency of Richard Nixon.
So we have had presidents before Joe Biden who have been deemed to be demagogues, which takes us back to that article for this, which is directly relevant to the times we are in today and the dangerous demagoguery of Joseph Robinette Biden, Junior, to wit:
The Demagogue’s Playbook is a well-written and -sourced work of pop-scholarship, with a narrative style that moves briskly without skimping on important historical and cultural details.
Posner’s historical judgment, however, is sometimes lacking.
For example, in discussing the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, Posner concedes that Roosevelt “used some demagogic tactics,” but argues that those tactics were justified:
First, [Roosevelt] acted during a serious emergency — actually two emergencies, the Great Depression and the start of World War II.
And think about today, and the excuses Joe Biden is using for his demagoguery – the economy and “a war raging,” as Joe was just quoted as saying in a Reuters article titled “U.S. sells oil reserves as Biden tackles pump prices ahead of elections” by Nandita Bose, Jarrett Renshaw and Steve Holland on October 19, 2022.
Going back to the article for more similarities between the demagoguery of FDR and the demagoguery of JRB, we have:
The creaky American constitutional system inhibits executive action, and while that may be tolerable in normal times, in a national emergency a timid executive may spell doom.
The Great Depression was already three years old when Roosevelt took office, and a new banking crisis had begun just months earlier.
Hoover was not up to the task.
Roosevelt also faced an extraordinarily complex situation in the run-up to World War II, when he sought to signal to Germany that America would come to the aid of the Western alliance while avoiding a domestic political backlash that could have hamstrung the eventual war effort.
One will not find many people nowadays who will deny that Roosevelt faced extraordinary challenges during his presidency, and that an extraordinary response was necessary.
But it is more than a little unsettling to read Posner claiming that those exigencies justified “some demagogic tactics.”
Were we to confine the use of judicious demagoguery to Roosevelt’s presidency and his response to the likes of massive global recession and another world war, perhaps we would not have much to fear from the prospect of demagoguery at the presidential level.
The obvious problem, however, is that while few presidents may encounter twin crises like the Great Depression and World War II, the emergency powers of the president are vast, and the combination of presidential demagoguery and the exercise of presidential powers at the merest suggestion of an emergency is frightening to contemplate.
Think about how many “merest hints of emergencies” there have been under Joe Biden that are requiring him in his own view to keep expanding his powers through executive orders.
Going back to that article, it continues with this following warning, to wit:
It is worrisome enough that the powers of the presidency have considerably expanded through the decades and show no sign of lessening.
It would be worse still if we turned a blind eye to the unbounded ability of a president to engage in demagoguery in any circumstance he labels an emergency — even if no real emergency exists — because in part we are occasionally given to excusing “some demagogic tactics.”
And with that in the record, let me pause here for all of that to sink in, and most certainly, if we do turn a blind eye to the unbounded ability of a president, in this case, clearly Joseph Robinette Biden, Junior, to engage in demagoguery in any circumstance he labels an emergency — even if no real emergency exists — because in part we are occasionally given to excusing “some demagogic tactics,” then we are asking for serious trouble as a nation and as a people!