Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Joe Biden Is Not Jimmy Carter, and This Is Not the 1970s

This article makes for an important counterpoint to the adjacent article on Biden/Carter comparisons. But the author leaves out the most important differences between now and the late 1970s: The Cold War is no longer taking place. The reach of the USSR was far greater than that of contemporary Russia and China (despite MSNBC and FOX claims to the contrary). The post-bourgeois proletariat (“working to middle class”) was still experiencing the residual benefits of the postwar economic boom. Back then, economic discontent came from middle-class people who were concerned about taxes and inflation undermining their upward mobility. The neoliberal era and the Third Worldization of the US economy were only beginning at the time.

Now, 40 years later, we actually have a Latin-American class system, with the former working to middle classes experiencing massive downward mobility. Additionally, the cultural left was still fairly marginal in those days. For example, gay rights was considered to be a fringe cause, and gay marriage wasn’t even on the radar. Nowadays, the cultural revolution of the 1960s is normal, mainstream, hegemonic, and institutionalized. The religious right was a rising force at the time, but now it is very much in decline. Each of these circumstances provides the liberal/left side of the spectrum with advantages they did not have in the late 70s.

By Ed Kilgore, The Intelligencer

There’s a long-standing tradition among conservative pols and gabbers to compare every Democratic president to Jimmy Carter. It’s hardly surprising: Carter was the first and last sitting Democratic president since the 19th century to lose a general election. His presidency, moreover, led to a sort of Republican golden age with the landslide election (and 49-state reelection) of Ronald Reagan and the first Republican-controlled Senate since the early 1950s. It was natural for many pundits to compare the southern governor Bill Clinton and the foreign-policy novice Barack Obama to the 39th president, and Republicans, of course, loved to point to signs (falsely) indicating that both these men would be one-term presidents.

The Jimmy Carter Redux game has returned with a vengeance in negative assessments of Joe Biden. For one thing, Biden was something of a contemporary (and supporter) of Carter’s; he was already in the Senate when the idea of a Carter presidency seemed like a preposterous long shot. For another, there is a rapidly emerging narrative on the right that some of the problems that sank Carter in 1980 are returning on Biden’s watch: inflation (combined with lagging economic growth), rising crime rates, feckless foreign-policy management, and a divided Democratic Party. So you are now routinely getting the kind of take Forbes reported back in May:


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