Awakening from the Biden Dream

I’ve had the rare experience recently of encountering scary and embarrassing scenes – and then realizing that it’s a dream;  I can get out of it.  And deliverance.  It’s not as bad as the late David Daube’s story about a British aristocrat who dreams one night that he is giving a speech in the House of Lords, only to wake up to discover. . .that it was true!

But I’ve had this dream, persisting, that Joe Biden, the most implausible figure, a nominal Catholic who has come now to reject everything of moral consequence taught by his Church, whether on abortion or same-sex marriage or transgenderism – that this man may actually be elected president.

And here I haven’t been able to say the magic words that get me out of this dream.  But perhaps the electorate will have an access of wisdom, and release me from this dream this evening or tomorrow morning.

In 1988, Biden ended his search for the presidency when it was discovered that, in reciting the story of his life, he had plagiarized a speech given by Neil Kinnock, the leader of the Labour Party in Britain.  The late Bernard Nathanson quipped that the reason it took Biden so long to withdraw was that he was waiting to plagiarize the withdrawal statement of Ted Kennedy.

It may be a problem worth probing: to find out how a man can spend 47 years in politics without having any principle,  or sentiment, that would not be changed to suit the constituency whose approval at the moment he is craving.

He was strongly against the public funding of abortions, though never able to explain just what was so wrong with abortion that he was unwilling to shower public money in support of it.  And now, with a party that has become even more radically pro-abortion, Biden has suddenly overthrown that last, thin strand that might have connected him to the teachings of the Church.

George Eliot once cited, as I recall, Thomas Browne, remarking of a man of this kind: that if there were ever to be found, in nature, the least vacuity, it would be in him.


And yet, it has not been fully realized, even by the Democrats quite willing to use Biden as an empty vessel, that Biden has been, for his party, the source of a gift that never stops giving.

When he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, he worked closely with Ted Kennedy, and with malicious deceit, in defeating the nomination of Robert Bork.  That led in turn to the nomination of Anthony Kennedy.   Justice Kennedy would lead a defection of Republican appointees in 1992 to block the overruling of Roe v Wade.

And after securing the right to abortion for another generation, he laid the groundwork for removing, from the laws, any adverse judgment on the homosexual life. (Romer v Evans, 1996, Lawrence v. Texas, 2003).  With that, he installed the premises that led, step-by-step to same-sex marriage (Obergefehl v. Hodges, 2015).

It remained then to his acolyte, Neil Gorsuch, to finish this part of the war on nature, and the truths grounded in nature, by respecting the claims of the transgendered that, in the things that truly matter, they had changed from one sex to another.

All of this may be put on the resume of Joe Biden;  his party owes him big.  He not only helped set in motion a trend of policies on sexual liberation but, in the course of doing that, he would transform his party.

The Democrats would become the Party of the Courts: they would depend on judges to put across the most advanced parts of the liberal agenda, the parts they would not openly defend in their campaigns for office.  Barack Obama professed to be opposed to same-sex marriage.  But he would make supportive moves behind the scenes and appoint the judges more likely to move in that direction.


All of this explains why appointments to the Supreme Court have become such poisonous affairs with conservative nominees.  Unelected judges have become far more important than elections in imposing on the public the agenda of Left.

Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal remarked that this is far from a normal election, even in the experience of older people, for we have never had a liberal party so despising this country and its institutions – so disposed to think this nation began with a commitment to slavery, and that it continues as a racist country in its operations, even as our laws have been reworked to fit the ethic of the Left.

And it is the same ethic, powering the culture wars, which has taken over most of the leading institutions in the academy, the media, and even the corporations.

And that is what puts me at odds with friends who say that we have two “flawed candidates” for President, and so a prudent choice may simply be to keep a Republican Senate.

But the decision runs beyond “flawed” candidates, for flawed candidates there will ever be.  The hard matter here is that it’s a choice between two different Administrations, with strikingly different views of the regime itself and a notably different cast of people exercising the powers of office.

There is Roger Severino heading the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health & Human Services, protecting religious freedom.  There are prolifers at every level, and such reliable conservatives as Pat Cippolone as White House Council, William Barr as Attorney General, Eugene Scalia as Secretary of Labor, and Mike Pompeo at State.

There is an old adage that only a wise man can be wisely counseled, for he can recognize the sound advice when he hears it.  Donald Trump does not always speak in sentences, but he can recognize nonsense at a hundred yards, and like that man of practical judgment described by Plato, he seems to have the wit to find his way even when the landmarks are down.


*Photo: Candidate Joe Biden at the “We Decide: Planned Parenthood Action Fund 2020 Election Forum” [Adam Schultz / Joe Biden Campaign via Facebook]

**Photo: Candidate Kamala Harris at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund “We Decide: 2020 Election Membership Forum” [Jeff blake:]

Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus at Amherst College and the Founder/Director of the James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights & the American Founding. He is the author of Constitutional Illusions & Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law. Volume II of his audio lectures from The Modern Scholar, First Principles and Natural Law is available for download. His new book is Mere Natural Law: Originalism and the Anchoring Truths of the Constitution.