Pictures of Chairman Mao

Dakota Hall is the head of something called the Alliance For Youth Action. As far as I can tell, the organization’s top priority is for taxpayers to pick up what college grads owe on their student debt. You know, the amount they owe on the educations that opened the door to their making twice as much as people who didn’t go to college. The debts they promised to repay in a contract they signed.

In a recent story in the New York Times, Hall expressed his frustration with the incrementalism of Joe Biden. He conceded that sometimes modest change is the best you can get, “But that is not the change that people went out and voted for. They want somebody who’s going to show their anger, to slam their fist onto the podium and say enough is enough. They don’t get that from Biden, right?”

Well, right, but I don’t want or expect that from Biden in the first place. Who are these people who wanted all this radical change or who expected it out of a president with the slimmest of Congressional majorities? I’m a person and this doesn’t include me. I didn’t vote for a podium slammer. Frankly, I’ve had enough of people getting angry and slamming fists and all that. I want calm. I want stability. I want reason. I want statesmanship. I most definitely do not want a revolution, political or otherwise. I don’t want Donald Trump back and I don’t want Ron DeSantis to replace him, but I also don’t want Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I want to support centrists who know how to make steady, incremental progress and can do it without getting all hot and bothered about it. I don’t want my leaders to channel anger; I want them to calm the rough seas.

You really want more of this?

My criticisms of Biden aren’t about his incrementalism. My problems with Biden come when he tries to be somebody he’s not, when he tries to placate the hard-left, which, by the way, is impossible. For example, I thought he was off the mark when he went to Georgia on the eve of certain defeat for his voting rights bill to call the election laws that had been passed there “Jim Crow 2.0.” That charge was unsupported by facts and his effort at bluster fell flat with even the hard-left. As I’ve written before, there is no satisfying hard-left activists like Hall, so Biden should stop trying.

Part of the problem is that news outlets, like the Times, interview activists, who do not represent the bulk of average Americans or, for that matter, more than a fraction of a fraction of a minority. (The Times did find one 19-year old who is frustrated that Biden hasn’t paid off her student debts yet — even before she’s actually graduated.)

Biden’s problem is not that he doesn’t slam his fist into podiums around the country or even in the White House. His problem is a run of bad luck (if he’s responsible for inflation then how come Europe’s inflation rate is the same as ours?), a perception that he’s too old and frail (which might not be unjustified) and an activist sector that cuts him no slack. The prescriptions are to change his luck (gas prices are going down, which has as little to do with anything he’s done as their going up, but if you’re going to blame him for the one you have to credit him for the other), a concerted campaign to make him look and sound more vigorous (Reagan pulled that off) and a purge of the hard-left from his administration and from his consciousness. He should just ignore entitled whiners like Dakota Hall.

My sense of it is that most Americans are not looking for another flame thrower. They yearn for normalcy. If Biden dispenses with the hard-left and goes back to being himself he might yet stave off utter disaster this November (Democrats will still take a beating) and win a second term two years from now.

And as for Dakota Hall, he should heed the advice of another group of young men from long ago, who were wise beyond their years, and who eschewed anger. “But if you go around carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.”


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

9 thoughts on “Pictures of Chairman Mao

  1. Whatever Biden has accomplished, he can’t be the nominee in 2024. And he won’t be.

    It’s not just the “activist left” that doesn’t want him. It’s 75% of Democrats, according to a recent CNN poll.


      1. OK. But do you at least acknowledge the tremendous vulnerability that deep unpopularity with your own party presents to a general election candidate? Who is going to be motivated to knock on doors for Joe Biden? How many otherwise Democratic voters won’t be motivated to vote at all –– or to vote third party?


      2. I most certainly acknowledge it; I’m just not ready to rush to judgement. I can see a path where Biden’s approval is back up above 50% by 2024. He’s rolled up successes with infrastructure, gun control, computer chips, the first Black female justice, and now it appears drug costs and climate. Gas prices are plummeting and employment remains at historic highs. Don’t count this guy out just yet.


      3. He’s signed a lot of good legislation (even if it breaks my heart the e-bike credit isn’t gonna make it into the climate bill).

        But I just don’t think it matters. Dem voters still want someone new, and I don’t think it really matters whether Biden decides to run or not. Someone, whether it’s a conventional candidate or an unconventional outsider, will announce their candidacy and polls will show them beating Biden in Iowa and New Hampshire. At that point it doesn’t matter what the party establishment wants. Sort of like Trump in 2016.


      4. Maybe. That might even be more likely than not. But Democratic voters remain, I think, intensely practical. If, at crunch time, it looks like Biden is a good bet for four more years, they’ll stick with him. I agree he’s got a long way to go.


  2. Would love to see the blog mention the new third party: the Forward Party. The current design of our system is what pushes both parties to the left/right extremes. They have no current logical motivator to do anything but that.

    Ranked-choice voting and a new centrist third party could upend the status quo and provide exactly what Dave seems to be looking for. Let the left have the left, let the right have the right, let the center have the center. Give us choice in who we vote for, no longer force us to always vote against candidates.


    1. Funny you should mention that, Rollie. I had a blog about Forward cued up to go this morning, only to bump it in favor of something on the KS abortion vote. The Forward blog will post tomorrow.


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