Joe’s Social Contract

Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan famously argues that a covenant between a sovereign and his subjects may be based on implicit consent, even if no formal contract has been made. Providing the ruler furnishes his subjects with protection, they are morally bound to obey him. The same kind of implicit arrangement may obtain between Joe Biden, on the one side, and the woke media and the dominant wing of the Democratic Party, on the other. Biden did not reach his current lofty position because of his uncorrupted political and personal past; or because he was the brightest bulb on the political scene. He is scandalously corrupt, has always been embarrassingly thick and inclined to make gaffes, and was never, before 2020, taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

By the time his party’s leaders, with drooling media support, chose him as a presidential candidate, he was already showing signs of senile dementia. It was an open secret among those who had contact with Joe that his incoherence on the stump and the manner in which his handlers protected him from difficult questions were the result of his deteriorating mental condition. From recent reports, it seems that Joe’s wife, Jill, had to ply him with pills during the 2020 campaign to allow him to read smoothly from a teleprompter. Even then, his cognitive decline had already become a serious problem.

Despite these challenges, Biden as president remained an asset to the cultural-political Left. He would do and say what they wanted. Indeed, he happily raced to the woke Left in his nonage, e.g., when he championed gay marriage as Barack Obama’s vice president, and more recently, when he favored public funding for abortion, belittled white Americans as inherently racist, kept America’s southern border dangerously open, and launched a Green New Deal. Joe also took far-out positions while campaigning for the presidency, although the media’s efforts to depict him as a “moderate” were so persistent that they clearly overshadowed what the Democratic candidate actually said. Equally relevant, as a candidate Joe was so inept in answering even the puffball questions that journalists lobbed at him that his verbal difficulties may have become more noticeable than his policy intentions.

Joe was carried across the finishing line by forces he hardly controlled, from the electronic media, globalist woke industries, the furnishers of drop boxes for what was a highly dubious method of voting, and anti-Trump interpreters of the COVID pandemic. All of these fixers helped catapult their candidate into the Oval Office, not because they viewed him as intelligent or principled but because he would carry out their ideological mission. No one had to tell us what this Hobbesian covenant involved. It was simply understood that in return for the gift of the presidency, to round off his undistinguished career as a political hack, Biden would carry water for his woke Left enablers. Not surprisingly, he’s been keeping his side of the bargain with exemplary obedience. 

Therein lies the problem. Biden’s woke positions are not sustaining him politically. Joe has become the American presidential version of the Terminator, a robot who carries out orders almost mindlessly without any regard for the consequences. This unlikely president also resembles the legendary Golem, the alleged creation of a late 16th-century Prague rabbi, who, according to Jewish legend, fashioned his nonhuman servant out of mud. 

The creator, Rabbi Loeb, supposedly came to regret his extraordinary achievement when he saw what it did. The Golem would execute commands so recklessly that it had to be deactivated. Mindless obedience does generate problems even for those who are faithfully following orders. As one watches the fitful behavior of our barely coherent chief executive, straining to please his “base,” one wonders how much of a favor he is doing his benefactors. Each day one waits for Joe to issue a new “executive order” that seems even nuttier than what he said or did the day or week before. It is also noticeable that these promises and actions show no possible connection to anything that Biden did or said during his many years in the U.S. Senate.  

Carrying out the wishes of one’s benefactor requires intelligence and moderation, not the reckless, rote obedience of a Golem or Terminator. Last week an East Tennessee judge blocked directives from the Biden Administration allowing employees and students in all public schools to use bathrooms and lockers that correspond to whatever they state as their present gender identity. Biden’s federal overreach is not likely to win him much applause, except among zealous LGBT activists. Right now, he is toying with the idea of declaring an environmental emergency executive order to grab even more power, on behalf of his media protectors and diminishing fan base. Please note that a Golem just acts without thinking. Or to get back to my original image, Hobbes’s subject is obligingly executing what he takes to be the unspoken demands of his sovereign.  

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

Photo: Ferdinand Hart as The Golem, a Jewish folktale of a servant made of clay brought to life by a rabbi. iStock/Getty Images