President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden speaks alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken from the State Dining Room at the White House on October 7, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

It's Not Too Late for 'Genocide Joe'—But Time Is Running Out

The president needs to take a hard look at himself and his administration and reclaim a moral position.

As a life-long Democrat and democrat, I worry about both the conservative policies of a future Trump administration and about the threat to our democracy. As for conservative policies, I worry about excessive corporate power, obscene distribution of wealth (the top 400 people in this country have more than the bottom 50% of the population, 168 million people), the high levels of poverty for a developed country, the cost of healthcare and the cost of educating our kids. Joe Biden is much better on all these issues than Donald Trump. As for democracy, Donald Trump is a real threat; Joe Biden is not.

Still, I wish that President Biden had chosen not to run and rather had encouraged younger progressive leaders to jump in. By running again, he risks tarnishing his legacy the same way Ruth Bader Ginsberg did by not realizing it was time to leave and thereby jeopardizing everything she stood for. Nevertheless, I had hoped to support Joe Biden, campaign for him, get him re-elected.

Biden’s problem is blindness caused by his decades of reflexive support for Israel.

That was until Gaza. I did not fully understand the political implications of Gaza until I came across a recent Politico article that recounted the interaction between a group of students and Biden political operative John Anzalone. One of the students got up to microphone and informed Anzalone that Michigan voters “are not going to vote for ‘Genocide Joe.’” As I read this, my heart sank.

In a past article, I spoke about the depravity of the Hamas attack and the immorality of Israel’s response. Whether or not it is technically genocide, the carpet bombing of neighborhoods and the cutting off of food, potable water, and medicine - thereby subjecting the entire civilian population of Gaza to starvation, dehydration and disease - clearly constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Over ten thousand children lie dead. Tens of thousands more are seriously injured. In short, Israel’s actions and President Biden’s support of these actions are a moral disaster.

But, as the student’s comment exemplifies, it is also a political disaster. Let’s put aside the questionable realpolitik wisdom of the student’s position. (Donald Trump would no doubt have done worse in this situation and will do worse in others, given the chance.) Unless President Biden does something quickly to halt the death and destruction, the mass killing of children and other innocents, he is done politically. It is his Vietnam. A Genocide Joe cannot win reelection no matter how good his other policies, and no matter how flawed his opponent.

Mere words are not enough. Not anymore.

Part of President Biden’s problem is blindness caused by his decades of reflexive support for Israel. He also seems to see the Jewish vote in the U.S. as a single monolithic entity that he cannot afford to alienate. It is not. Indeed, it is as divided as the non-Jewish vote. Many U.S. Jews strongly oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza, oppose the occupation, and are alarmed by the administration’s support of these. President Biden has not called for a ceasefire, has provided military aid and seeks to provide even more, apparently without any conditions, and has blocked U.N. resolutions calling for a ceasefire.

This must change for moral reasons, but also for President Biden to get re-elected. There is, fortunately, a path. President Biden can strongly support Israel’s right to exist, and to defend itself, while also condemning the wholesale slaughter of children and other civilians. But mere words are not enough. Not anymore. He also must take action. In the short term, he must condition any financial aid to Israel on an end to the deadly bombing campaign and on an exchange of hostages/prisoners. In the longer term he must make clear that future financial aid and diplomatic support depend on an end to the occupation and on an Israeli commitment to Palestinian self-determination, either through a Palestinian state or as full citizens in Israel. Simple jawboning about civilian casualties while giving Israel a blank check will not suffice, either morally or politically.

President Biden needs to take a hard look at himself and his administration and reclaim a moral position. There is time to change. If he does not, Genocide Joe will go down. And he will take us all with him.

The views are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Boston University, Boston University School of Law, or any other person or organization.

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