Earlier today, in anticipation of tonight’s address to Congress, President Joe Biden met with news anchors. The president told them that his many meetings with foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, have convinced him that the story of this moment is whether democracy can survive the challenges of the twenty-first century. As things speed up, is it possible, he asked, to achieve the consensus necessary for democracy in time to compete with autocracy?
Dear Dr. Richardson,
You said you would write LFAA through Biden's first 100 days, and here we are.
As I read your Letter about Biden's address to Congress, my eyes welled up with tears--relief for Biden's humanistic, rational governance, along with a mix of pride for how you have inspired our civic engagement and sadness that it might end. Sadness not just about losing this nearly nightly connection with you and your wisdom, but also sadness for the possibility of diminishing that ongoing spark of civic engagement of about 1.5 MILLION readers between Facebook and Substack.
We readers clearly support your self-care, taking breaks, living your life, having a day job. I hope you find a way to continue LFAA in some sustainable fashion. Cut back on frequency, invite guest Letter writers, post your seed questions and watch 1,000 comments quickly sprout...
Maybe with the Republican Party in the midst of an epic phase of its history, the intrigue will have you holding on a little longer.
This past year with you has had a significant impact on my life with having raised my political awareness, understanding, and activism by quantum leaps and bounds. Whatever direction you take, I'm certain that I am not alone in expressing my deep gratitude for your time, dedication, perspective, and courage for writing these Letters.
Do keep dynamic balance in your life, stay well, and thank you!
I did not expect Biden to be a transformational president. After watching him always in the background for the better part of my adult life, it is quite honestly breathtaking to see the strength and vision of his leadership and its focus on all Americans, but especially the most vulnerable ones.
Despite its multiple mentions in this issue of LfaA, no one here noted that the VP and the Speaker are both women. Perhaps it’s a mis-read on my part, but here’s hoping that means many of us accept leadership and decision-making by women.
Regarding equal pay for equal work, I’m a direct beneficiary of the state legislation signed into law this January. My employer increased my annual salary by 7%, after reviewing it according to the provisions of the new law. As an educated, experienced and successful systems engineer/technical project manager, I truly believed that my compensation was commensurate to that of male colleagues with equal education and experience. What a shock to learn otherwise.
Thank goodness a legal remedy exists!
President Biden completely demonstrated my position taken here on several occasions, that he is "the man for this moment." He wasn't that guy the first two times he ran for president, but when the moment arrived, all the reasons why he "wasn't the guy" before are why he "is the guy" now.
Yes, Heather, President Biden nailed it. Joe Biden nailed all of it. And he departed from his text often giving the feeling he’d memorized all of it. Tonight was a masterpiece. Sheer political genius. He credited many others again and again and had Republicans standing once or twice. He sold his unique tax policy, linked that to history and FDR, IKE and our founders, and he was calm and firm. Trump was forgotten. There’s a new man in town, and he’s open palm with a fist in his pocket. He had Sen. Manchin nodding yes.
Joe pushed all the buttons and offended no one.
As Professor Richardson alluded to in today’s Letter, and President Biden described in his comments to news anchors last night, the battle between the forces of autocracy and democracy is well underway in the world.
Just this week, Hungary took another step toward cementing control of the country in the hands of Viktor Orban. The NYT’s reports, “Hungary’s Parliament voted on Tuesday to transfer control of 11 state universities, along with billions of euros in related state assets, to quasi-public foundations led by close allies of the country’s prime minister, Viktor Orban.” This is just Orban’s latest move to undermine democracy in Hungary – he has been at it for quite some time.
Closer to home, I have begun the slow process of unpacking Florida’s latest foray into democracy smashing. It is heavy reading, not just because of the language, but because it approaches, if not crosses, the line of criminalizing public protest. I have written to the Brennan Center and asked if they would consider reviewing the law to see if it passes Constitutional scrutiny.
What follows is from the Florida Senate’s website for the new Combating Public Disorder bill, signed into law by Governor DeSantis on April 20th.
Curiously, this bill was introduced on January 6, 2021. A link to the bill is provided below.
CS/HB 1: Combating Public Disorder
Combating Public Disorder; Authorizing specified elected officials to file an appeal to the Administration Commission if the governing body of a municipality makes a specified reduction to the operating budget of the municipal law enforcement agency; providing that a municipality has a duty to allow the municipal law enforcement agency to respond to a riot or unlawful assembly in a specified manner based on specified circumstances; reclassifying the penalty for an assault committed in furtherance of a riot or an aggravated riot; prohibiting cyber intimidation by publication; prohibiting a person from willfully participating in a specified violent public disturbance resulting in specified damage or injury; creating an affirmative defense to a civil action where the plaintiff participated in a riot, etc.
In my opinion, the most powerful part of tonight's speech was Biden's reminder of who we are:
‘We the People"... "it’s time we remembered that We the People are the government. You and I.
Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over. It’s us."
That's revolutionary talk.
If the oligarchs and authoritarians get us to forget that part, they will have won.
Talk about someone rising to the moment, that is President Joe Biden. Here’s someone who has finally reached the pinnacle he has sought most of his life and is making the most of it. Joe has had a lot of time to consider what is good and what needs to be improved in our Democracy. He sets out his vision in such a deliberate, measured and compassionate way that it really gave me pause to think:
Damn, maybe we can really fix what’s needed fixing for so long. Wouldn’t that be a legacy.
After the last 4+ years all I can say is thank God Joe Biden was here when we needed him.
I wonder if President Biden feels a sense of destiny and whether he feels his entire life has been preparation for this moment in history. Even that his focus is on children is deeply embedded in his personal history. Churchill had a sense of destiny. Here are two quotes on destiny from him:
"The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits—not animals…. There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."
"I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial... I thought I knew a good deal about it all, I was sure I should not fail."
My heart is so fearful and my head is overtired. I will continue my prayers for all people of good will and stronger even prayers for Joe Biden and all of the brilliant, focused helpers who surround him. And for all of us holding the light through so many dark nights.
It seems the US democracy was the first in line. The French Revolution followed 15 years later. During the world wars we saw the effective end of the worldwide system of autocratic monarchies and the beginning of the era of democratic nations.
Correct me if I’m wrong, history is not my strong suit.
Here in this forum my historical perspective on society has deepened and clarified dramatically. I am convinced that the old society of power hierarchy is crumbling. I am equally convinced that the new society of the absence of power hierarchy is upon us, and growing. Thank you Joan Friedman, and everyone else.
Will we have a Republican Senate again? Could be. A Republican president? Could be. But I would suggest that we let some time pass, rather than jumping to conclusions. I thought we would have a Republican Senate already. We do not. From here, it looked like a miracle, clearly with Stacey Abrams and her allies as the miracle workers.
The future of global society is not autocracy. That was the theme of the past several thousand years. The trend is clearly heading ever more powerfully in the direction of democratic society, a society where everyone has equal power and standing. It looks like a black-and-white issue. Either you are supporting a world where non-whites, women and LGBT+ people have equal power, or you do not. Either you want whites, men, and straights to still come first, to be the favored classes, or you do not. It’s as polarized as can be. Normally I am not a black-and-white thinker, but the contrast driving this moment of social transformation gets clearer to me all the time.
It might be that civics appealed to me because I was a kid who got picked on a lot, but I've always been in love with the egalitarian vision of America. One person. One vote. I've always known it's never been real, but it's only recently I've begun to understand how far we've come and how little we've progressed.
Especially how little we've progressed willingly.
The Republican Party of the last 50+ years was always filled with nihilists and arsonists. Mostly they worked in the shadows writing for obscure magazines or appearing on public affairs shows that few ever watched. They were happy to leave the mass messaging to the holier Evangelicals who could throw rhetorical bombs without real consequence. They softened a lot of ground working together.
Likewise, their cult has been conditioned by talk radio and Fox during each extreme step of the way. They accept as normal each escalation and even rejoice in the mayhem, because it's hurting the people they want to hurt. This was once a manageable situation for Republicans.
Only now the cult IS the party, and their elected representatives aren't just nihilists and arsonists. They carve their faces like the Joker and openly walk around with a can of gasoline and a blow torch.
So many people believe them. We have years, probably decades just to fix this. If we even can. The root is so fucking deep.
I am a West Wing stan who knows the names of almost all of my reps and votes in almost every election. I think I'm a pretty good citizen. I take it seriously. Yet now even I am barely hanging onto a thread of the spirit of democracy.
I applaud the President's effort with this message, and with the legislation he and the Congress have passed. I hope beyond all hope he can turn the tide.
2020 ushered in an historic inflection point of the century. Biden has the perception and wisdom to seize the day. Talking heads crowed that he was “too old” which is raw ugly ageism. At 78 he brings America a lifetime of political history and a mature personality tempered by losses and tragedies. He exemplifies post traumatic growth that We the People can achieve if we only come together as a nation. This is not an alien concept but one deeply ingrained in our National experience and values. Our coins bear a motto: “E Pluribus Unum” expressing the ideal that we are many people who come together as one people—Americans. Let’s hope this is a moment of mature patriotism recognizing the existential threats posed by oligarchy and authoritarianism. We’ve faced this in the 1930’s and 40’s; and in the civil war era. Let’s come together and invoke our “better angels” and bind up our wounds. I am grateful that enough Americans saw through the tragic destructive actions of the reactionary forces and elected Biden who exemplifies decency and wisdom.
I've never been much of a Joe Biden fan, but listening to him tonight, I felt I was listening to a President. He seems to be rising to the occasion. The biggest question to me: Can he stop supporting repressive governments, stop the drone murders ... put the US on a path of responsible global citizenship...
I simply do not see what is in it for TFG’s supporters of autocracy. How would they benefit? We have seen many times over how trump sheds “friends”—everyone except family—as soon as he is through with them. His test is “what have you done for me today?” The Movement Conservatives seem mean, selfish and lacking in charity of empathy. Biden shows a vision of America where the government takes care of its citizens and its country’s assets.
Dear Prof. HCR,
I just finished reading the musings of a great historian and profound patriot. Thank you so much for your interweaving of history with the present -- you bring such vital insights into the unfoldings of our country's reality in this historical now.
Last night, we heard the words of a true president -- a man with vision, a humanitarian leader, a wise and venerable sage.
Despite the rumblings of the insurrectionists, the above revelations fill me with a serenity I have longed for over the past five years. May the Force be with us.