And yes, that includes the others: We recommend Gene Lyons' recent column about Candidate Biden.
We've known Gene for many years now, though mostly by phone and by email. In his column, Gene says that Biden reminds him of his Irish-Catholic father, who "had been a first sergeant in the U.S. Army and played ball around North Jersey with guys of every ethnicity."
His father gained from those experiences, Lyons says. He ascribes a slogan to his father—a watchword Biden has often ascribed to his own working-class parents:
LYONS (8/20/20): Doing those things had done much to ameliorate the clannishness that’s a besetting Irish vice on both sides of the Atlantic. A man of strong opinions, my father had a personal slogan he’d often repeat. He came by it honestly, a bedrock statement of Irish American patriotism as he saw it. “You’re no better than anybody else,” he’d tell me. “And nobody’s better than you.”Was that a standard working-class Irish Catholic watchword? We have no idea.
Lyons discusses the way this basic idea may have emerged from Irish and Irish-American history. He then quotes Biden in Pennsylvania, last year. Again, Lyons starts with his own father:
LYONS: It’s possible that Ronald Reagan seduced him late in life, but I can’t be sure. It wasn’t anything we talked about. But his fundamental outlook never changed.In fact, a lot of people have been "left behind" in American history, in a wide array of ways. As Lyons explains in his column, Irish Americans were once routinely "left behind."
And I suspect that for all Biden’s personal ambition—no modest, unassuming person ever runs for the U.S. Senate, much less the presidency—he carries it, too. That’s what Biden means when he tells crowds, as he did last year campaigning for a Democratic congressional candidate in Pittsburgh: “I don’t know all of you personally, but I know you...I know this state. I know this region. I know what it’s made up of. I know the values that underpin all of what you believe in—family, community, again, not leaving anybody behind.”
This leaves us with the saying of Lyons' father, and of Biden's parents. That saying begins with this clause:
"You're no better than anybody else."
You're no better than anybody else? No saying could more fully contradict the prevailing attitude within our own liberal / progressive tribe.
Are we really no better than "cops?" Are we really supposed to think that we're no better than Trump voters?
Are we no better than the people who believe all that QAnon lunacy—all those jaw-dropping claims from the realm of The Crazy? Are we really supposed to say that we're "no better than" them?
In our view, the ancient, deeply wise answer is yes. That said:
Our tribe has been extremely self-impressed for a very long time. In large part, this has always been a sneering artifact of class.
We've been this way for a very long time; it isn't a very good look. But it's very much the way we are, and it's not very likely to change.
We're no better than anyone else? In our view, yes—that does include the others, even the Trump-voter crowd.
In fact, our team has looked down on "people like that" dating a long way back. We think the attitude is dumb and self-defeating. We'd call it an unhealthy look.
Tomorrow: Perhaps, an ancient example