Is Joe Biden An Unappreciated Philosopher King?

By Donald A. Collins | 13 October 2023
Church and State

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

As all of us try to sort out the complex, seemingly unsolvable issues such as choice and immigration policy, we face a Presidential re-play that evokes widespread skepticism and displeasure from both party’s voters.

I can hear the partisan screams from all parties at my title, but the word king is not the definition that applies.

As Wikipedia defines it, “The philosopher king is a hypothetical ruler in whom political skill is combined with philosophical knowledge. The concept of a city state ruled by philosophers appears in Plato’s Republic.” As you will recall, Plato’s teacher, Socrates, is skeptical that perfection of such a rule can ever be achieved, but Wikipedia lists many rulers who partially fitted history’s list. None of course were perfect, but all brought progress and stability to their rule.

A few names on the Wikipedia list: Alexander the Great, Marcus Aurelius, Frederick the Great, and Thomas Jefferson! None perfect, but able to forward good rule in forms appropriately fitted to their times.

Could this be the case with Biden if elected for a 2nd term?

In a wonderfully sophisticated October 6th NY Times opinion piece entitled “Can we talk about Joe Biden”, David Brooks paints a career wart and all about Joe Biden which begins with these paragraphs:

Nearly two decades ago, I tried to write a group biography about the senators whose offices happened to be on the second floor of the Russell Office Building on Capitol Hill. The group included John McCain, Joe Biden, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Hagel. I got to know and study each of those senators during that long-ago-abandoned project.

The more I covered Biden, the more I came to feel affection and respect for him. Then, as now, he could be a tough boss, occasionally angry and hard on his staff. But throughout his life, Biden has usually been on the side of the underdog. I’ve rarely met a politician so rooted in the unpretentious middle-class ethos of the neighborhood he grew up in. He has a seemingly instinctive ability to bond with those who are hurting.

Our politics have gotten rougher over the ensuing years but that hasn’t dampened Biden’s basic humanity. When he was vice president, I remember a searing meeting with him shortly after his son Beau died, his grief raw and on the surface. And like many, I’ve felt the beam of his empathy and care myself. A year and a half ago, the day after my oldest friend fell victim to suicide, Biden heard about it and called me to offer comfort. He just let me talk about my friend and through his words and tone of voice joined me in the suffering. I experienced the solace of being seen.

Too old? Brooks takes the ageing issue head on:

The thing that so many of us are stuck on is Biden’s age, of course. On this subject I have some personal observations. I’ve been interviewing the man for a quarter-century, including during his presidency. The Republicans who portray him as a doddering old man based on highly selective YouTube clips are wrong. In my interviews with him, he’s like a pitcher who used to throw 94 miles an hour who now throws 87. He is clearly still an effective pitcher.

People who work with him allow that he does tire more easily, but they say that he is very much the dynamic force driving this administration. In fact, I’ve noticed some improvements in his communication style as he’s aged. He used to try to cram every fact in the known universe into every answer; now he’s more disciplined. When he’s describing some national problem, he is more crisp and focused than he used to be, clearer on what is the essential point here — more confidence inspiring, not less.

Brooks concludes with words I wish I could have written:

Something almost spiritual is at play here, about not just whether the Democrats can win in 2024 but who the Democrats are.

As I’ve thought about Biden’s chances in 2024, I find myself deeply conscious of all the disadvantages that he and the Democrats have as they try to retain power, and preparing for what that could bring. But I also find myself arriving foursquare at the conclusion that rejecting the president now would be, in the first place, a mistake. He offers the most plausible route toward winning the working- and middle-class groups the Democrats need, the most plausible route toward building a broad-based majority party.

But it would be worse than a mistake. It would be a renunciation of the living stream of people, ideas and values that flow at the living depths of the party, a stream that propelled its past glories and still points toward future ones.

Read Brooks entire piece here.

After 50 years as Senator, VP and President, Biden at 80 has clearly come to a place where his views and actions will be less seen as seeking political gain versus will his decisions be made consistently for what he perceives as to be better for the country and the world.

Choice, rights for all citizens, reasonable limits on government, and real immigration reform cap a list most Americans embrace. Wide disagreement prevails, but working in some reasonable level of cooperation seems beyond the ken of the Trump’s GOP.

GOP racism, meaning young voters are whites not embracing minority rights, was embraced almost clandestinely in 1980 by Ronald Reagan who added Christianity as an added inducement. Then Falwell and the Christian Majority hardened as minorities entered politics and demanded civil rights.

I suggest you read the concise recitation of what brought us to today in “Tyranny of the Minority” a masterpiece which identifies the reason we got Trump’s owning the GOP: No courage by its minority members who pretended to be protesting Trump, but in fact went along until, as occurred in Germany with Hitler, Trump owned the GOP.

Here is a review of this excellent treatise.

Enter in 2016 the Donald! Trump’s speeches reek of racism and Christian nationalism. He appointed 3 anti-choice Supreme Court Justices who killed Roe after 50 years, ignoring the revered principle of Stare decisis!

So as Brooks seemingly implies, a modern-day philosopher king seems a fair description for Biden so far and one Biden is hardly likely to change if elected to a 2nd term!

Trump’s new title must be “loser” a category into which Trump put many such as John McCain and many who have served in our military and in other capacities have made substantial contributions to our democracy.

Trump, a felon, a racist, a philanderer, a liar, and the likely GOP Presidential candidate who wants another chance to destroy our democracy and install a dictatorship.

Will Americans acquiesce to another Biden term even if Trump is not convicted?? Or even when, not yet convicted, Trump is nominated?

As we contemplate the continuing inability of the House GOP to join in the urgent process of governing, whether Biden proves to be seen over time as a philosopher king or just an able facilitator in governing our fragile democracy constantly gains more credibility!

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC, has spent over 50 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of “From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013”, “Trump Becoming Macbeth: Will our democracy survive?”, “We Humans Overwhelm Our Earth: 11 or 2 Billion by 2100?”, “What Can Be Done Now to Save Habitable Life on Planet Earth?”, “Vote”, “Can Homo Sapiens Survive?”, “Will Choice and Democracy Win?”, “Can Our U.S. Survive 8 Plus Billion of Us”, “Economic Growth: A Cancer on all Earthly Life” and “On the Precipice of Political Disaster in 2024”.

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