Signs of the Times

A tale of two political philosophies — and two business models.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a “news” piece with the scintillating headline, “Does Biden Need a Higher Gear? Some Democrats Think So.”

The subtitle continues the non-specific handwringing: “… [S]ome Democratic officials in battleground states are warning that Joe Biden may not be doing enough to excite voters.”

As a headline, this is a total nothingburger worthy of the Weather Channel. (Will disaster strike? Some meteorologists think so. / Some forecasters warn of potentially apocalyptic rains, while others anticipate merely a deluge.)

This raises at least two questions that sound crotchety but might turn out to matter.

The first is whether we want to keep rewarding the paper of record for shape-shifting into a text-heavy version of CNN. The reason people fish with worms is because fish reliably bite them; when we reward a newspaper for such a wriggly headline, we can and should expect to see more.

The second is whether we can break our addition to “excitement” in politics. The rest of the world moves at the speed of TikTok, but the presidency is a four-to-eight-year custody of the nuclear codes and national mores. And it’s now undeniable that rabidity is the logical extension of excitement — especially in the context of our media culture.

The problem was neatly summed up in the Financial Times the day before, by the columnist Janan Ganesh. His column was titled, “The Welcome Lack of Enthusiasm for Joe Biden” and the subtitle truly says it all: “As the U.S. has found, worshipping political leaders is weird and pernicious.”

I’ve had about all the excitement I need from the celebrity apprentice. Color me enthusiastic for an effective politician.