by Hamilton Nolan
I don’t want to hear Democrats pretending that the fact that Biden’s son got a do-nothing $600k per year corporate handout is unremarkable. It is wrong
One of the peculiar stupidities of the American political mind is its resolute refusal to hold two separate ideas at once. Our dominant political narrative is like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book for morons, offering only a conservative red storyline or a liberal blue storyline, with nothing in between or outside those primary color bounds. Politicians themselves, out of self-interest, adhere to this narrative, which makes the political press adhere to the narrative, and before you know it you have an entire country that thinks about the ethical complexities of political economy with all the nuance of a Florida Gators fan hollering about why the Georgia Bulldogs are bad.
We are presented with politics as sports, even though sports are a terrible model for politics. A population that chooses a political party and sticks to it out of team loyalty is a good thing for political power brokers, but a bad thing for the population of people. Every hypocritical, lying, self-serving greedhead who uses politics for the most cynical possible purposes leans on the fact that, as long as they are wearing their team colors, voters will forgive them for anything. The decrepit, oligarchal state of democracy can be attributed in part to the fact that – as any sleight-of-hand magician can tell you – it is easy to pick people’s pockets when they are so easily distracted by shiny symbols. Sometimes the symbol is a Bible, or an American flag, or a shotgun and orange vest wielded by a congressman to show you that despite the fact that he went to Yale and spent his career as an oil and gas lobbyist, he shares your affinity for duck hunting. And sometimes, the distracting symbol that makes you dumb is the blue flag of the Democratic party.
The son of a longtime US senator gets his start as a lawyer with one of the biggest corporate donors to his dad’s campaigns; a friend of his dad’s gets him a job in the Clinton administration, and then as a lobbyist; later, while his father is vice president, he is given a $50,000 per month seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm, despite lacking any clear energy expertise. How does this all happen? It happened the same way that Chelsea Clinton became a “special correspondent” for NBC News, and Jenna Bush got a job as a Today show host, and the Trump children got jobs overseeing a real estate empire. It happened the same way, for that matter, that George W Bush – objectively, a flailing dumbass – became the governor of Texas and then the president of the United States.
When you are the son of a famous and powerful politician, you are showered with opportunity, whether you deserve it or not. This is nepotism, but it is also, if we are being direct, a form of corruption. Moral corruption. Not only because these prestigious positions are not earned, and because these celebukids are taking something that rightly should have gone to someone more deserving; but also because, even though there is rarely anything so crude as a direct quid pro quo, this undeserved largesse is always motivated to some extent by a desire by some powerful interest to take advantage of the halo of influence cast by the parents. That influence should properly accrue to the public, who their parents work for. The lavish lives afforded to famous kids are, in effect, stolen from the American people. Each coveted job handed to a president’s kid represents a small quantity of subversion of the spirit of the democratic process.
This particular form of injustice is often waved off as just be the way of the world. Seven-foot-tall people get to be in the NBA, and the children of presidents and vice-presidents get sweet, lucrative gigs whether they’re qualified for them or not. We shouldn’t take this so lightly. We should, in fact, be enraged by it. Politics is not just another way to get rich. It is a public service field, and the more important the position, the more stringent the ethical requirements it should carry.
The next three generations of a president’s family should have to work the checkout line at Family Dollar. What better way to stay in touch with the pulse of America? What better way to demonstrate how much they value hard work, and the gargantuan struggle to join the middle class? This simple rule would prevent political dynasties, which are always and everywhere antithetical to a well functioning democracy. We don’t need more Bushes in the White House, nor more Kennedys in Congress, nor more of the few good media jobs taken up by people who attended Sidwell Friends school while escorted by armed guards. An absurd share of life’s rewards are not a birthright for the spawn of public servants. Give the rest of the world a chance, you greedy little cloistered aristocrats.
Hunter Biden and his unearned riches are a moral failure. The same moral failure infects Democrats and Republicans alike. (This is a simple demonstration of the fact that “class war” is a much more accurate lens on politics than “red versus blue”.) Yes, the Republican party exists to perpetuate rather than destroy this inequality-generating system, and yes, the Trump family has taken nepotism, corruption, and cartoonish greed to previously unseen levels. These are reasons for Democrats not to do the same things. I don’t want to hear Democrats – members of the party that ostensibly stands for more equality and purer democracy – pretending that the fact that the VP’s son got a do-nothing $600k per year corporate handout is unremarkable. I want Democrats to demonstrate that we live our values. I want Democrats to send their kids to public school, unionize their workplaces and give money to the poor.
Send Hunter Biden and his peers right down to Family Dollar with name tags and a training manual. Lead by example. If the Trump kids refuse to join them, don’t worry – we’ll have the moral high ground. Surely that’s what matters to “Middle Class Joe.”
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