I’ve been pretty critical of the Biden administration—as I promised I would be on Inauguration Day. I believe that my job is to tell the truth, even to my own “team.” Maybe especially to my own team. But even if I didn’t believe that, I’ve largely resigned myself to dying a bitter old man who was never once satisfied by the pace of progress. Dub me unforgiven.
But this week is Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I realize that’s troubling because the American mythmaking behind the holiday is pretty horrible. I have no time for feel-good origin stories about genocidal colonizers. Instead of all that trash, I try to focus on what the holiday means to me: a day to be appreciative. No presents, no God, just eat and be happy with what you have, without any worries about what you’re going to get (in this life or the next).
Therefore, in the spirit of gratitude, I offer these words of thanks to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It’s worth it to take time to appreciate what we have.
The vaccines. The fact that Covid-19 vaccines are here, safe, and freely available is due to the work of lots of people, including, yes, people in the previous administration. Doctors, scientists, truck drivers, logistical aides, clinic operators, nurses—there are literally thousands and thousands of unsung heroes who have brought us to this point. For the most part, Biden was just the guy who was there while all this good work took place.
But, he was the guy who was there. And he didn’t irrevocably screw it up. He didn’t get in the way. He didn’t turn the whole process into some kind of political Rorschach test. He didn’t tell people to inject themselves with bleach or horse dewormer.
Other people made it political. Other people turned down medicine to “own the libs.” Other people have elevated Internet conspiracy and contrarianism over science and safety.
But you know what? Those other people are not invited to my house on Thanksgiving. Biden is. Because he’s vaccinated. And he’s not an idiot. That’s because he didn’t make being a drooling fool a centerpiece of his political strategy. Thank you, Joe Biden.
Lucky number 13. Vice President Kamala Harris has cast 13 tie-breaking votes in the US Senate, the most in a single year by any vice president in US history. Can you imagine if Mike Pence were in a position to cast those votes? Things would be worse.
But here’s something to really bend your noodle: The greatest number of tie-breaking votes cast by any vice president was 31, and those were cast by noted slaver and intellectual father of the Confederacy John C. Calhoun. Just think about how much progress Calhoun was responsible for stopping simply by means of this one constitutional power given to the VP.
Thank you, Kamala Harris, for not being a bastard slaver and for trying to move the country forward despite unrelenting bigotry and misogyny from the Beltway press corps. We see you.
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War, huh, yeah—What is it good for? Abraham Lincoln declared the first National Day of Thanksgiving during the Civil War to pick up the spirits of the troops (seriously, white supremacists, Thanksgiving was declared in opposition to your filth). One of my favorite stories of World War II was how Franklin Delano Roosevelt demanded that all fighting troops receive a traditional Thanksgiving meal, regardless of where they were fighting. Thanksgiving becomes a more important holiday during times of war, when military families are splintered and the simple pleasure of a warm meal with loved ones seems even more precious.
But this is not a wartime Thanksgiving (or, at least, not a declared wartime Thanksgiving), for the first time in nearly two decades! That’s nice. Thank you, Joe Biden. And thank you to families who still suffer the burden of their loved ones’ being deployed all around the world.
Mar-a-Lago. Do you know who will be going to Mar-a-Lago for the holiday? Yeah, me neither. Nobody cares. Thank you, Joe and Dr. Jill Biden.
Infrastructure. Right before Thanksgiving 2018, I was caught in a six-hour traffic jam because a few inches of snow and freezing rain paralyzed cars on the George Washington Bridge as I was trying to get home from work. Donald Trump wasn’t responsible, but I blamed him anyway because I had to pee in a water bottle like an animal and that seemed like the sort of degradation he stood for.
And while it might sound partisan to blame my personal traffic problems on a government official who had nothing to do with it, it is worth noting that I haven’t been stuck on a bridge since Biden was elected. Those are just facts. Also, Google News says Biden passed some sort of infrastructure bill that is apparently a big deal. Mock me if you must for doing my own traffic research, but every tinfoil connection I just made makes more sense than what QAnon people, some of whom are in Congress, actually believe. Thank you, Joe Biden, for bridges and tunnels.
Friday nights. You know what happens on Friday nights during the Biden administration? Nothing. Nothing happens! And it’s glorious. You can turn off the television, close the computer, and put the phone on airplane mode at 6 pm, not turn it back on until 9:00 am Monday, and be relatively confident that the laws and principles the country was founded on will not have been violated while you were enjoying your weekend. Thank you, Joe Biden.
Judges. For 51 weeks a year, I will complain about the Biden administration’s approach to the federal judiciary. They’re not expanding the Supreme Court; they’re not expanding the lower courts; they don’t seem to be putting pressure on judges to retire or take senior status to give Biden more appointments to make (as Mitch McConnell and the Republicans did when they were in power); and they seem inclined to live with conservative courts and their decisions instead of using every tool of executive power to stop them.
But, while stubbornly deciding to work within the system instead of reforming it, the Biden administration has done a good job at filling what seats McConnell left for them. As of November 1, Biden appointed and the Senate confirmed 28 federal judges. That’s more than Trump had done by this time in his presidency. Hell, that’s more than any president has done since 1981 (I’m looking at you, Ronald Reagan). What’s more: Biden’s appointments have been diverse, in terms of both identity and professional experience. And if Stephen Breyer would ever get over himself and retire, Ketanji Brown Jackson is waiting in the wings for her opportunity on the Supreme Court.
So, thank you Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Senate majority leader Charles Schumer.
See, even while pushing for something better, it’s still okay to acknowledge accomplishments that have been registered. That’s why I like this holiday. Thanksgiving isn’t about getting drunk and haranguing your siblings over their life choices; it’s about appreciating that they showed up at all.