Yesterday, an eighty-three-year-old retired farmer named Merle Gorman addressed Joe Biden at a New Hampton, Iowa campaign event.
Gorman rightly questioned his son Hunter’s qualifications for a lucrative post he once held on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, a job which saw him compensated up to $50,000 some months. (Though Gorman more dubiously insinuated that the former vice president had “sent” him to work there.)
Instead of correcting him the best he could, or addressing his concerns, Biden responded with absolute vitriol. “You’re a damn liar, man.” He then touted his physical strength and mental alacrity, and appeared to call Gorman fat: “Look, fat — look, here’s the deal.” (His campaign has unconvincingly claimed he was trying to say “facts.”) As his supporters cheered on, Biden encouraged the man to a push-up competition or to compare IQ scores with him.
Gorman, who said to reporters afterward that he was leaning toward Elizabeth Warren in the primary, told Biden that he was asking a question based on what he heard on MSNBC. The former vice president scoffed at that idea, insinuating that he had in fact heard it on Fox News.
Watching the episode, we couldn’t help think that this would be a story that would destroy a Hillary Clinton campaign — in fact, her comment that much of America was little more than “a basket of deplorables” quite possibly did deliver the fatal blow to her 2016 run. We suspect Clinton, after all, of elitism, even though Joe Biden, if anything, was a far more fervent handmaiden of the Democratic Party’s neoliberal turn — an “early adopter.” Biden, however, gets away with open displays of contempt for the public and the public’s right to ask powerful people questions largely because of his self-created “Amtrak Joe” persona — a persona as cheap, thin, and manufactured as a drug-store Halloween mask. This time, however, the mask slipped.
But Joe isn’t the only one wearing it. For far too many people in the Democratic Party establishment, the masses are just disinformation-consuming fat-asses who sit around watching TV and complaining about personal failures of their own creation. The credit card companies’ favorite former senator doesn’t just pursue policies that hurt workers, he harbors an unearned sense of superiority to them, one he hides behind focus group-tested appeals to “middle-class” American values and old-timey, folksy slang like “malarkey.”
It’s a truly staggering arrogance. Why wouldn’t a farmer and former Marine Corps veteran know anything about the exercise of power? Why wouldn’t he be right to suspect elites of using their connections for financial gain?
While the right-wing media is relishing the Hunter Biden story, that doesn’t make it all a lie. In fact, there’s a profound and disturbing truth right at the center of it, for everyone to see. At a time in which Americans like Gorman are actually seeing their life expectancies decline hardly a decade after much of his generation saw their household wealth wiped out in a financial crash that Biden helped engineer, it is indeed pretty vulgar that that same senator’s failson secured the equivalent of a no-show job based on nothing but his last name. Hunter Biden didn’t just fail up — he failed up to the tune of $50,000 per month, roughly the median annual household income.
Joe Biden has long played up his “middle-class” credentials — the regular guy from Scranton, Pennsylvania — but if he wins the Democratic nomination and keeps letting the mask slip, there should be no surprise when people like Merle Gorman tell him to fuck off in November 2020.