Talking Points

Biden's real superpower is being a white guy

Joe Biden is the president, everybody knows that. But he might also be a hero straight out of Marvel Comics, given how often pundits describe his relative dullness as a "superpower."

So far during his short tenure in office, Biden has proved impressively impervious to attacks from the Republican opposition. "Boring is a superpower," Jonah Goldberg wrote of the president in April. "Dullness is his superpower," The Atlantic's McKay Coppins added this week. "Biden may be on track to be the least vilified president since George H.W. Bush," New York's Gabriel Debenedetti wrote Tuesday in an article whose headline announced — yes — "The GOP Has Discovered Joe Biden's Political Superpower."

There might be something to all this. Biden certainly isn't as provocative as his predecessor.

Something else seems to be going on, though. One conservative editor told Coppins that it might be easier to sell books by putting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on the cover, or even better to portray Vice President Kamala Harris "as a devious puppet master pulling the strings of the affable, witless president." That logic is already at work: Biden is nowhere to be seen on the cover of a new book by David Horowitz, the right-wing firebrand. Instead, it features two Jewish men — Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — along with five women, including three women of color.

Put it all together, and it seems clear: Joe Biden's superpower is that he's a white guy.

No surprise there. Donald Trump tried and failed to get traction during the 2020 campaign by focusing his attacks on Harris instead of Biden. The Atlantic's Adam Serwer pointed out last year that Republicans found it difficult to paint a straight, white, Christian man "as a dire threat to America as conservative white voters understand it."

Given the party's racial diversity, Democrats can't, won't, and shouldn't think they can duplicate the president's success by parading a series of white guy candidates before voters. Instead we should all see this moment for what it is — a sign that, shorn of identity politics and culture wars, conservatives don't have much of an argument to make these days. In the meantime, the president is trying to pass an infrastructure bill and strengthen America's social safety net. An agenda to help Americans isn't a superpower — but it is the GOP's kryptonite.