Bari Weiss: Worries about Biden and the Dems

January 22, 2021 • 12:30 pm

I just talked to a friend, and we shared our feelings about the new Biden administration. We were both relieved and hopeful, but when I expressed some of the same worries that Bari Weiss does in her new Substack column (below), my friend admonished me: “Oh, don’t look for needs in haystacks, enjoy the relief!”  I responded that I was a Jew, and therefore could be elated for one hour at most—the duration of the Inauguration. After that, the worries set in again. I think this is a legacy from our history: a pogrom was always around the corner. If one was a genetic determinist, one could argue that a form of natural selection was at play: the nervous and anxious Jews who were the ones who survived.

At any rate, I told my friend that the best one can do as a “glass-half-full” Jew is complacency, not unalloyed happiness.

Perhaps that’s also true for Ms. Weiss, also Jewish but, unlike me, religiously so. She’s worried about the Biden administration, or, rather, that people are ignoring potential problems with the administration down the line. Click on the screenshot to read about Weiss’s angst. Her site will be free for the time being, but do consider subscribing. I am waiting a few weeks to decide. This week, though,  it’s pretty good. For one thing, she limns the content of her column, which emphasizes political hypocrisy and inconsistency:

I’ll be focusing on topics where the mainstream media gets . . .  confused. Remember this summer, when it decided that anyone who did not want to defund the police was considered a right-winger? Or that to use national guardsmen to keep the peace was considered unthinkable on June 6, but by January 6 was bipartisan national policy?  Or that Big Tech’s power was terrifying and evil, until it was used to put down Parler? Or that anyone who violated the lockdowns denied science, unless they were marching for the right political cause?

After the ritual (and necessary) statement that Weiss detested Trump and voted for Biden, she says a few words about her fractious experiences at the New York Times:

If I were still at a newspaper, I’d be compelled to write something about the inauguration — a riff about how it’s morning again (again) in America; the powerful symbolism of Eugene Goodman, the heroic police officer who faced down the rioters, escorting the vice president; Lil Wayne’s pardon.

But I am no longer at a newspaper. That’s because my politics — center-left on some issues, center-right on others, a centrism that most Americans still occupy — were unwelcome. I see the ideological capture and institutional transformation that occurred at The Times as a sign of what’s to come these next four years. Which leads me to the purpose of my newsletter and what I hope to cover in the Biden era.

I voted for Joe Biden. I think that he is past his prime. I also think he is an eminently decent and kind man. That fact that his decency seems positively refreshing is a tragic sign of where we are. But it does. And I welcome it.

I’ve said it many times, but I will say it here again: Trump was a malignant narcissist. Seeing that did not require a psychology degree. He coarsened everything and everyone he touched. He trashed all of our guardrails. He hastened our undoing.

. . . The truth is that Joe Biden is a fig leaf. He is a fig leaf for the deep problems that roil our country, for the totalizing ideologies spreading through the nation like wildfire, and for the dramatic political realignment that we are living through.

Weiss, properly, sees problems on both the Right and Left: the polarization that leads to the unrealistic expectations we’ve heaped on Biden, the Woke on the Left and the bigotry and fascism on the Right, with authoritarianism at both poles.

And so Weiss proposes “five litmus tests for the Biden era”. I’ll just give her headers and a few of her words (and my take) on each, as you should read her column (and consider subscribing).

Will the Biden administration make the case that America is good?

That’s not sarcastic or rhetorical. And it’s not a question about what’s in Joseph R. Biden’s heart.

I mean: Will his administration embrace the new re-understanding of America that shot through the streets this summer and issues forth daily from the mouths of our elites? That view goes like this: America was born for the purpose of upholding white supremacy and it remains irredeemably racist. Our founders were not primarily political geniuses but slaveholders who wanted to find a way to hoard their property. And while the rioters may have gotten a little out of hand, they weren’t wrong to target statues of men like Lincoln. . .

Yes, Biden will embrace that woke re-understanding. It’s already doing so. I didn’t realize that the power of the Woke rests in their ability to demonize others on the Left by calling them racists or bigots.

Will neo-racism be normalized?

A few months ago I spoke to a Trump administration official who confirmed that the president wouldn’t know what Critical Race Theory was if it smacked him in the face. Nevertheless, in September of 2020, Trump passed an executive order banning training for federal agencies and federal contractors that relies on this ideology. . . .

Biden just reversed this order, so CRT can be taught to our kids again. Not a good move, and another Biden order that worries me. It is not a conciliatory move, but a divisive one. Every white kid in America will now be taught that he/she/etc. carries a burden of guilt and is a racist whether they know it or not.

Will cancel culture become the culture?

Cancelling has become a normal part of American life. We are no longer surprised when someone is fired for a bad tweet, or when a publisher drops an author for an unpopular view, or when teenagers spy on one another like little Stasi and adults applaud.

But all of that could be child’s play compared to what will come from the strong alliance between the Democratic Party and the press, which are advocating that major tech companies crack down on “hate,” or “disinformation,” which has quickly become a synonym for “information I don’t like.”

Yes, expect more censorship and even more cancellation of those with the Wrong Opinons.

Can you make a living in the wealthiest country in the world?

One in five small American businesses will not make it through this pandemic. Dave Portnoy from Barstool Sports seems to care more about that number more than anyone in Congress.

We live in the wealthiest country in the world, yet the three jobs with the most projected growth all earn less than $28,000 a year. They are home health and personal care aides at $25,280; fast-food and counter workers at $22,740; and restaurant cooks at $27,790, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. . .

Economics is beyond my bailiwick, so I’ll just wait and see.

This is what I worry most about: the continuing division in America that Biden has promised to heal. But I think if you’ve kept your eyes and ears open over the last few years, you’ll know that while Biden’s words sound good and soothing, they’re malarkey. How will Biden bring together Democrats and Republicans, each party hating the other and thinking it’s the embodiment of Satan?


Is there a way to end our ongoing uncivil war?

When the 46th president said at the inauguration that “disagreement must not lead to disunion,” and that “we must end this uncivil war,” I nodded along. Then I thought about the fact that serious people are calling for enemies’ lists and the banning of Fox News, and I wondered how, really, we could put an end to our current uncivil war.

Half of Americans say that other Americans — not poverty; not China — pose the biggest threat to the country.

During one of the presidential debates, Marianne Williamson set off a thousand memes when she said: “If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in the country, then I’m afraid Democrats are going to see some very dark days.” People laughed. But she got it mostly right.

If you think stability and normalcy are about to return to America, ask yourself if you said that there was no way in hell that Donald Trump could win the White House.

That last sentence should make you stop and think.

There’s also a podcast interview in which Megyn Kelly, conservative former broadcaster for Fox News (and then NBC News) interviews Weiss. I listened to 40 minutes of the 100-minute interview, and it wasn’t bad—so long as Weiss was talking. I found Kelly’s take too conservative and predictable, and I still remember her cringeworthy statements at Fox.

I suspect I’ll wind up subscribing to either Weiss or Sullivan (I already subscribe to him) but not both. In the meantime, I’ll read their weekly columns.

35 thoughts on “Bari Weiss: Worries about Biden and the Dems

  1. I think I will go one week – one frakking week – into the new Presidency, before indulging in the liberal practice of self-flagellation for not doing everything right.

    Heck, I might go two.

    1. Well, the noble Woke crowd in Portland, OR is not waiting a week. The headline of the print edition of the 1/22/21 NY Times is, “Federal Agents Tear-Gas Demonstrators in Portland After Biden Inauguration.” I might have missed it, but the Times gives no explanation/justification for the tear-gassing. Imagine that. I’m reduced to speculating that authorities were concerned about the protesters getting too close to and possibly damaging the ICE building. Well, they got close enough, spraying graffiti on the building, as is their sense of entitlement. (The assaults on the Portland federal courthouse last summer and the January 6 assault on the U.S. capitol perhaps were sufficient motivation for the tear-gas response. One less opportunity for the media to question why federal property was not adequately protected, but perhaps another opportunity to allege police over-reaction.) Among other sentiments offered by these estimable folk is that Biden is a “feckless puppet.” I genuflect in the direction of these rarefied, elevated souls.

  2. Weiss says: “Leaving aside Majorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, Trumpian forces don’t hold much power in American life.”

    My question is this: what planet does she live on? Has she not heard of the Republican Party that is still under Trump’s sway? Has she not heard of Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley? Has she not heard of the 140 Republicans in the House that voted against certifying Biden’s victory? Has she already forgotten the insurrection of January 6th? Has she forgotten that about 76% of Republicans still think Biden won by fraud?

    Her statement is so divorced from reality that I consider it a waste of my time to read anything else she has to say.

    1. Okay, once again you’ve said that if somebody makes one statement with which you agree, you will never read anything else they have to say. I consider that a narrow minded and petulant attitude. You might well be right about her statement, but you’re really immature about your attitude.

      You’ll have to take a one-week time out from this website until you develop a mature intellectual attitude. It’s not like you haven’t said things that are off the wall either, you know.

  3. No one can an predict the future, just point things out they feel might influence. Otherwise, it’s a prophecy (and treated as such) and those can be negative or positive determined to some extent by bias, the sunshine and an ice cream.
    All in all, some points in this case are worthy of consideration given the recent and current atmosphere. Keep subjective emotions in check so as to deal with the real, imo.
    One hurdle at a time.

  4. Views on politics, like politics itself, have become hyperbolic. I’m waiting for the media and the politicians and the critics to settle down. I hope they can. Four years of trump have spun the tops of people whose careers center around politics, and they spin the heads of those, like me, who follow politics. I pretty much stay in touch with the world on a daily basis, though I’m not a media junkie, but four years of trump have made me hyper sensitive to what I can tolerate media-wise.

    The inauguration, the entire day and through the night, especially the great performances during the “concert” worked to soothe many rough edges. Something so simple as normalcy stirred my emotions. Since then, I have noticed in myself a general relaxation that I welcome. Though I admit that when I hear on the radio “President…,” I cringe for a mili-second, thinking I’m going to hear the name Trump, but of course the name that follows is Biden’s. It tells me that I’ve been conditioned to fear the continuous lies, distortions and propaganda that flowed freely for the last four years . So I hope that as Biden gets a handle on the most pressing issue that faces our country right now- Covid, and I have confidence that he will, the country will rally around him, and perhaps even as soon as the Summer, much of America will be in a “post-Covid” reality. That alone will lift a black shadow across the land.

    Well, sorry for the rambling, this one got away from me. Perhaps I’m feeling the audacity of hope. 🙂

    1. Hyperbolic is a theme these days. I have to wonder how much of the rage against Trump might have been directed at anyone elected from the republican party. Those of us who have never had strong feelings about Trump have been a bit mystified at the raw, naked rage he inspires, as well as the adoration.
      Conversely, reading the words of a mainstream journalist who saw Hillary Clinton as the goddess Athena made real, or the CNN political director stating that the lights around the reflecting pond are “extensions of Joe Biden’s arms embracing America” seem to say more about the authors than they do about the candidates.
      I suspect Biden will not enjoy this level of veneration for long. Even if he wanted to, he could not satisfy the conflicting demands of everyone in his coalition. Some of the hyperbolic people are going to find their utopian expectations are not being met, and likely will feel enraged and betrayed.

  5. I used to like Weiss but I’m not so sure any more. Perhaps she, like Sullivan, need to have an editor, or be part of a journalistic ecosystem, to restrain their thoughts a bit. Her reaction to Biden just seems over the top. It worries just a bit too hard about what might happen if some small action taken by Biden is extrapolated.

    A good example is the repeal of Trump’s executive orders outlawing CRT training in government. I’m no fan of CRT but this move could just be Biden deciding that the president shouldn’t be dictating such things. It is an attempt to maintain neutrality in the culture wars. It’s not like he replaced it with his own executive order mandating CRT training for all federal employees. (If he did that, I missed it.)

    Trump’s departure has a created a vacuum for commentators like Weiss and Sullivan, one they are trying too hard to fill, IMHO.

    1. My thoughts about this Weiss article seem to correspond pretty closely to yours. I could write more, but I’m feeling a bit low at the moment and it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. I think I’ll go home and have a drink instead.

    2. I wonder if Weiss is upset that Biden dissolved the “1776 Commission”…Maybe she mentioned it, I didn’t read the full article.

    3. Hear hear: “the president shouldn’t be dictating such things.” I’m no free-marketeer in economics, but I still think it’s appropriate for the marketplace of ideas.

    4. I’m sorry Paul, but on this occasion I am going to have to respectfully agree.

      I had exactly the same reaction as you about that CRT EO and it has already occurred to me that many people in the media are scratching around for things to say.

      As an example, for the last four to five years I’ve watched Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers on youtube and to a lesser extent Trevor Noah. Their shows generally contain a roughly 15 minute segment in which they monologue to the audience – or more recently, just the crew. In pretty much every show the monologue is about whatever latest outrage T***p has been involved in. Now thy are going to have to find something else to talk about and the material generated by the new administration is unlikely to be as ripe for comedy..

      The liberal media has had really easy target to write about for the last four years. Biden is going to fill a lot of the space but he is unlikely to provide such outrageous material, so the commentariat is going to have to exaggerate significantly to generate the same levels of interest from the audience.

  6. “Will the Biden administration make the case that America is good?”
    The woke is his adversary in this endeavor. The NYT claims the country was founded in white supremacy. Half of American are deplorable racist. Our system is rooted in systemic racism, etc. The left has written Putin’s and Xi’s propaganda releases.

    We are a country founded on good ideals. Because we are human, we repeatedly fail to live up to them but over time we get closer and closer. The last four years have had significant setbacks but also advances. Gays won the right to marriage and significant work protection with Gorsuch wring the decision in the second case.

  7. I am still basking in the warm glow of seeing the backside of tRump leaving town. I figure there will be things I don’t like about Biden, but right now I don’t care. Happy days!

  8. Megan Kelly has said too many stupid, bigoted, hard right things over the years for me to forgive her – and I am a forgiving man. Let her gab and blab but I’m not listening to her anymore.

    As for Bari – I have little time for her, either. She is a Professional Jew, as identitarian as any MAGA or BLM fanatic. My thought is — be suspicious of anyone, of any race or gender who “leads with” their race, nationality or gender – these are the least interesting parts of us. The starter “Speaking as a _____” always turns me off.

    Bari’s entire worldview consists of in-group loyalty, in-group promotion and an unhappy obsession with anti-Semitism (which exists, for sure, but it is not the entire motivating factor of everything – as she often seems to allege). She’s right on the woke problem, but that’s it and my enemy’s enemy is not my friend – they’re probably just an enema.
    She’s a clumsy writer also.

    Go with Sullivan I say – he’s odious also but one of the few conservatives who aren’t insane or utterly Jesus-fueled.


  9. Sorry – (Posting too much probably) but I think it isn’t out of the question that President Biden doesn’t know what CRT actually IS — like a lot of people who don’t follow these things as closely as we (fellow commenter friends here and PCC/E) do.
    He might think CRT is just being non-bigoted to minorities as it does take some digging, clicking and time expended to understand the whole dynamics and danger of it.


  10. I’m surprised that you don’t mention the Wall Street Journal. After all, it’s a national news publication, with circulation falling between the NYT and Post. It’s an interesting study of an alternative path that the NYT and Post could have taken if they’d had stronger leadership. Though the news staff has shifted left over the years and now embraces identity politics and other progressive positions like most of the mainstream media, the editorial team has defied this pendular swing and remains somewhat just right of center. One way they’ve maintained this independence is because of the Editorial Oversight Committee, which was put in place in order to both support and shield the editorial staff from interference from ownership and the pressures of woke bulling. I’d be interested to hear your opinion about how well this is working…
    Thank you.

    1. The Wall Street Journal has disgraced itself in recent times with its Trumpish editorials. Even before that, I would read it in airport lounges and doctors’ offices and find it lacking in terms of a general news source. I couldn’t put my finger on why exactly but now I don’t have to worry about it.

      1. My comment wasn’t about the content of the editorials themselves, but about how the WSJ has seemingly successfully navigated the division between “church and state” (i.e. newsroom and editorial), and that it’s worth it’s worth understanding how they’ve achieved this given how their peers have so demonstrably failed at this.

        1. I just don’t see any reason to trust their division between editorial and newsroom. This division is only difficult to maintain if the people that run it have a bias that overrides facts. Fox News shows us the problem. Even if we grant that WSJ is better at maintaining the division, so what?

          1. Perhaps your assumption that WSJ and Fox News are interchangeably flawed biases you against understanding that there is a substantive difference.

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