“…elected officials are not saviors to praise but employees to hold accountable, and we do this by not backing down. Biden’s win does not signal an end to civic engagement and a return to brunches and blind allegiance. Voting Biden and Harris in was harm reduction; it doesn’t mean we can fall asleep at the wheel.” –Brea Baker, Elle
Given that I write a food blog about politics, it should come as no surprise to hear that I feel obligated to begin writing the first of numerous pieces about the incoming (dear God we hope incoming) Biden administration. Yet I’ve found myself procrastinating the task; they’re not even in the Oval Office yet and I’m already exhausted with their tone-deaf, centrist, corporatist fuckery and their bullshit “going high” in the face of a dictator trying to overthrow an election. (And not going high in the good way, mind you, since President-elect Biden still thinks marijuana is a gateway drug. Joy.)
Upon probing and interrogating my dispirited exhaustion, I realized that it comes less from Biden being exactly who he’s always been and never said he wasn’t, and more from the sinking realization that so many white and/or rich liberals have already stopped paying attention. They seem to show little urgency or even desire to hold Biden accountable, or to see that we’ve in no way eradicated encroaching fascism. The next four years haven’t even officially begun (except that they have!), and remaining civically engaged already feels lonely and pointless. I wallowed in this state for a few minutes, until I heard a small voice in my head. It started out a faint whisper, then grew into a full-throated chorus, until it culminated into a deafening stadium shout. It was BIPOC activists roaring, “WELCOME TO OUR WORLD, WHITE LADY!”
I’m choosing to see this as the swift kick in the ass I obviously required. No more wallowing, and get back to work.
Detailing all the aspects of the Biden administration’s emerging crapitude is far beyond the scope of one blog post, but don’t worry: we’ll get there, piece by piece. Right now I’ll offer a summary.
In a short six or so weeks, President-elect Joe Biden has managed to: irresponsibly and dangerously ignore an escalating coup by Trump and the GOP; state he doesn’t want to hold Trump or his administration accountable for unprecedented corruption, genocide, flagrant crimes, and human rights atrocities; valiantly try to hold hands and sing kumbaya with congressional Republicans who refuse to acknowledge his win and are participating in sedition; repeatedly lecture the marginalized people who voted for him to “reach across the aisle” and “find unity” with white supremacists who want them dead; blame – without any evidence whatsoever – “defund the police” for down ballot Democratic losses instead of the outdated, focus-grouped, losing campaign strategies of the DSCC and DCCC; condescend to Black civil rights leaders; deprioritize immigration reform, despite there being kids in cages, because – wait for it – the activists used harsh language and that apparently hurt his precious feelings; and thus far his Cabinet picks have mostly* been disasters – corporatists, personal favors, the tokenization of a formidable, qualified Black woman by carelessly tossing her into the abandoned ghetto of Cabinet posts, and Obama-era reruns who failed at their jobs the first time. (Although I suppose you could include Biden in that last category too, HEY-OHHHH!)
But we can parse and dissect all that out later. We’ll have the time. What I’ll harp on today is the absolute necessity and urgency for much of the liberal voting bloc to shift their mindset from blind trust and adoration of our politicians to scrutiny and demands of accountability. I’m not talking about policy or tactical disagreements. Those are fine, and unavoidable, given human nature. Amidst those inevitable disagreements though, I submit we should – no, must! – be able to agree on an overall framework of basic governance: that our elected representatives are public servants who work for us, the people.
We pay their salaries with our tax dollars. We give them power to govern and protect us. Thus, we have every right to make demands. We do not owe them unfettered trust in some ostensible secret three-dimensional chess plan (that they almost certainly do not have); they owe us transparency and results. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, et al, are in no way entitled to slobbery praise, hero worship, or excuses on their behalf. We are entitled to a functioning nation state, a healthy democracy, and an end to elite criminal impunity.
In my humble opinion, liberal voters repeatedly make four major mistakes between elections, and these mistakes contribute to America’s constant backsliding to the right.
- Forgetting there’s a significant power differential between politicians and people, and all the implications thereof;
- Valuing politicians’ words over their actions;
- Assuming and trusting – with no evidence whatsoever – that they have some “secret plan” that will save us; and
- Caring about “what’s in their hearts” and assuming good intentions, then allowing that to excuse their failures.
To the first point, this is just a restatement of an above paragraph: we pay their salaries, and they work for us. As elected officials, they have power we do not, and it’s a literal abuse of power when they refuse to use it on our behalf. Think of it like when a father is beating the hell out of his children, the mother knows it’s happening, yet refuses to call the police or leave him. That mother is being abusive, too. And she deserves to be held accountable. Or, you know, replaced in the next election.
Liberals have this tendency to be swayed and all but hypnotized by liberal politicians’ words, which just encourages ignoring whatever past or subsequent actions that always belie the promises – explicit or implicit – found in those words. It’s imperative we shift our mindset to one of skepticism and verification and accountability. Actions matter; words do not.
How many times have we been scolded to “Trust the Plan” over the past four years? People have always assumed Democrats, and Nancy Pelosi in particular, must be meeting in secret caves or wherever and hatching some brilliant scheme that will finally rid us of Trump. And every time Trump gains more ground, consolidates more power, or kills more people, the cries are the same: Trust the Plan! Pelosi’s got this! She’s strategic and playing seven-dimensional chess. Just be patient! Like I said earlier: there is no secret plan. They didn’t stop Trump from killing 300,000+ people and now they are letting Trump steal an election. When it looks like they are doing nothing to stop a crisis, it’s almost always because they are. It’s past time to normalize that, and then find our outrage and dissent. Also, secret plans have little place in a healthy democracy. We are owed transparency and information.
To my fourth and final point: liberals love getting caught up in hand-wringing sessions about the possible inherent goodness of their leaders, and this leads directly to investing in their comfort instead of our pain. We shouldn’t spend one nanosecond pondering “what’s in their hearts.” The only question is, how are they governing? Are they using the full extent of their powers for us? This is why, during the general election, I kept imploring people to stop jerking off to Biden’s Decency Porn. I do not think he is a good person, but if you do, that is fine; but also, that argument matters not one bit. What matters is whether he’s willing to fight for us and use his power to structurally change our government to work for the people, not the one percent.
I sympathize with the palpable relief we all feel at having voted out Trump by a nice margin. But Biden is not our savior. He is a deeply flawed person who champions destructive austerity policies. He’s a notoriously lazy, statistically dead, sentient bowl of oatmeal who won a decisive victory thanks to negative partisanship. He is our employee now. And it is past time to take a thousand metal forks to Biden’s seemingly Teflon exterior. Holding elected officials accountable is not divisive, it’s democracy.
*Congresswoman Deb Haaland for Interior Secretary is an excellent choice, and proof positive that activism and dissent can work!
Kale and Bacon Hash Brown Casserole
- About 1 tbs room temperature unsalted butter, for greasing the casserole dish
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
- ½ a medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 bunch lacinato or curly kale, ribs stripped and torn or chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- 12 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tbs Dijon mustard
- 1 8 oz. brick of low-moisture mozzarella cheese, not the fresh mozzarella, shredded
- 6 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1 20 oz. bag frozen hash browns, thawed and patted dry
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x13” baking dish, or equivalent oven-safe skillet, with unsalted butter. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.
- Leave 2 tbs bacon fat in the skillet; pour any excess off (but save it!). Set the skillet back over medium-high heat and add the onion. Saute until softened but not browned. Add the kale and garlic and saute until the kale is wilted, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Remove from the heat.
- In a small bowl, combine the two shredded cheeses. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and mustard. Add half the cheese mixture, as well as the hash browns and 1 ½ tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp cracked black pepper. Mix well.
- Add the kale mixture and the bacon into the egg mixture and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into your buttered casserole dish. Top evenly with the remaining shredded cheeses. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. If you cut into it right away, you’ll discover that the eggs haven’t set back up, and a lot of water will run out. It’s not ruinous, but it’s neater and tastier to let those eggs fully set up before cutting. Slice into squares and serve.