Is Biden Worth Rebooting?
Remake (verb /rēˈmāk/) the rebooting and reworking of cultural emblems as a way to appeal to mass comfort.
Recently, it seems as if every show or movie that was ever remotely successful is being rebooted—not to mention Disney’s new business of making live-action films of every one of its animated classics. The popularity of such remakes and other cultural phenomena, like the resurgence of vintage technology, reveals a widespread culture of nostalgia that transcends the sociocultural sphere.
The primary reason movie sequels began as a concept was because they appealed to this sense of comfort––familiarity with the characters and general plot arc of a film. In a similar sense, reboots and remakes are becoming all the rage, because the choice to bring back something proven to be successful in the past is a risk-averse strategy.
Walt Hickey, a pop culture expert at FiveThirtyEight, has noted that because studios have seen a recent string of successes with remakes, they avoid wasting millions on something new that likely won’t buy out opening weekend, banking on the familiar instead.
He also cites that the level of commitment of going to the theater is noteworthy. "You are also asking them for two hours of their life. That ask isn't easy," he said. "[It’s] marginally easier when you say, 'Hey, remember that thing you liked? This new project incorporates some elements in that thing.'"
The culture of nostalgia we experience at the theater also plays out with vintage technology––both polaroid cameras and vinyl records have made significant comebacks in the last five years. The appeal of nostalgia transcends pop culture.
This risk-averse strategy and attraction to the familiar has also begun to play out across the national stage in the 2020 Democratic presidential debates. Former vice president Joe Biden is leading in the polls because he has a significant advantage relative to his competitors: name recognition. He has been a consistent figure in the US political landscape for over 45 years––he has a brand, good or bad, on which Americans have been able to consistently rely.
However, it is for this very same familiarity that Biden has been the object of such scrutiny in the debates. He went head-to-head with Senator Kamala Harris in the first Democratic debate this past summer over his previous stance on integrating schools via busing in the 1970s. Two years after being elected to the Senate, a young Biden, who was a liberal Democrat and defender of civil rights, cast two votes in support of busing to achieve desegregation. After receiving backlash from his constituents who wanted him to be more overtly anti-busing, Biden switched lanes, emerging as “the Democratic Party’s leading anti-busing crusader.” In interviews on the issue, Biden called busing “asinine,” “racist,” and a quota system that would “ensure mediocrity.” In his 2007 autobiography, published only a year before Barack Obama asked Biden to be his running mate, he called forced busing “a liberal train wreck.”
Previous policy stances are not all Biden has come up against. He was most recently called out in the last debate for forgetting his own health care policy––originally stating people who couldn’t afford Medicare would have to buy in but then two minutes later, claiming they would be automatically enrolled into the system.
His moderate stances, in addition to his seniority, may not appeal to a younger generation of voters, but the older generation sees Biden as a figure with the ability to cross partisan lines. He called lifelong segregationists like Senator Strom Thurmond “one of his closest friends,” led passage of the 1994 crime bill, and backed President Bush’s war in Iraq. With the country as divided as it is, relying on this playbook of bipartisanship might prove valuable. While other candidates may have this same quality, they are simply not well-known enough to win over the older generation of voters.
It is extremely important, therefore, that the younger generation stays vigilant in moving away from this culture of nostalgia towards a culture of progress. We cannot abandon the promise of a brighter future for the sake of familiarity. We must reject the notion that people just aren’t that creative anymore––there are a number of Democratic candidates bringing fresh ideas to the table, such as ending the filibuster, supporting the Green New Deal, and banning big oil. We must stay as educated as possible on the policies each candidate is proposing and refuse to only vote based on whose name we know––because I can guarantee that older Democrats will be doing just that.