Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and for President Joe Biden, the cost of leadership has, indeed, been a great burden. Escalating crises that disappear from public view only when the next disaster elbows its way to the front have taken the shine from early positive approval ratings. With midterms on the horizon, and nine months’ worth of political trauma under his belt, has the president become Coleridge’s proverbial albatross?
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic 1834 poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the eponymous mariner kills an albatross – a sure portent of doom for his seafaring companions. As a reminder of his folly, the elderly sailor is made to wear the carcass of the bird around his neck – perhaps more a punishment than a memory aid.
But in this analogy, is Biden the mariner or the albatross?
The Burden of History
Like the mariner, come November 2022, Joe Biden is likely to see his crewmates fall. With numerous crises and – so far – little legislative success on which to campaign, the shift of power likely to land on Congress will leave the president adrift and alone and struggling to find unity with a new majority that has previously been treated as expendable.
From the Democratic Party hopefuls’ perspective, the president and his record to date could be seen as more of a hindrance than a boost to electoral chances. After all, the present division between progressives, centrists, and the radical elements is on full display, and decades spent at the government trough rarely endears one to a public clamoring for change.
Biden himself is so tainted by present circumstances and past folly that he is considered a potential liability. Hopefuls must campaign on what could be rather than what has already passed, but with a track record that appears less than impressive, voters may find this a bitter pill.
Underestimating the Ocean
Ever since Donald Trump became president, the media and denizens of Capitol Hill have prognosticated a Blue Wave. As Cassandras – like the Trojan prophetess who was cursed to always speak the truth yet never be believed – they averred that there would be a rejection of America First, and a sweeping return to power. In the end, they were correct … but it was political machinations rather than a straight primary race that brought truth to their predictions.
The American left has grown ever more deeply divided. As evidenced by the wide array of candidates for the nomination, the party was attempting to be the “big tent” it has oft proclaimed. But leaving the decision purely to the electorate could have resulted in a President Sanders – or worse, a second term for President Trump – and that was not acceptable to the hierarchy. Instead, through dealings and media sway, the man who was unacceptable as a candidate for 33 years suddenly became palatable to the DNC.
A choice was made between power and popularity. They chose power.
Surviving the Sea
In the poem, redemption comes for the mariner when he accepts his situation and the darkness within and prays. The dead bird falls from his neck, and he looks again upon the formerly brutal sea with new eyes. He is reborn; fresh and watered with wind in the sails and purpose at his keel. When the Democrat machine conspired to make Joe Biden president, they made a deal, they committed an act, and that act has been their albatross.
Perhaps it is time for those who sought to scold the great sea of the American republic to accept their reality, reflect, and pray to be reborn with true purpose other than political machination. Only then might the self-apparelled albatross be lifted from their collective necks.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.