I got into a lot of fights when I was a kid. I’m not talking shoving matches on the playground—I mean knockdown, torn-clothes, busted-lip, black eye fights where, if I didn’t put the other kid down, he was going to come back and hurt me, usually with some other kids in tow.
I wasn’t really picked on because I was a nerd (I kinda was); I wasn’t picked on for being poor (my family was upper middle class); I wasn’t picked on because I had some sort of disability that was mocked (not that that’s a good reason); I was picked on mostly by other upper-middle-class kids who were white and racist.
I say this not to brag but to point out that I know a thing or two about throwing down with rich bigots and what it takes to win, which is why Joe Biden saying that he would have “beat up Trump” in high school just reminds me that Democrats don’t really know how to fight yet. Uncle Joe isn’t demonstrating toxic masculinity or even some kind of retro tough-guy talk; he’s just doing bad politics and setting the stage for Democrats to lose in the 2020 presidential election.
Wednesday, at an anti-sexual-violence rally at the University of Miami, the former vice president and resident Trans Am waxer Joe Biden started reminiscing. He talked about the infamous Access Hollywood tape from the 2016 election where Trump was caught using “locker-room talk,” which is Trumpian speech for “sexual assault talk.” Biden had been asked about debating the then-GOP nominee, and he said to the crowd: “They asked me would I like to debate this gentleman, and I said no. I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’”
The crowd cheered, of course, and the story hit the national press. Like clockwork, Trump felt the need to respond, creating his own unrealistic narrative about how said imaginary fight would actually go down.
Before anything is said, let me point out that neither Biden nor Trump is about that life. Biden hasn’t been in a fistfight since the 1950s, back when kids used to bring switchblades to school and somehow nobody got stabbed. Donald Trump can’t even fight off the common cold, let alone another person who really wants to lay hands on him.
Two old men bragging about fights that they haven’t had, aren’t going to have and couldn’t even have is some peak old-man trash talk—the kind that you ignore because it’s Thanksgiving and you just have to tolerate a few more hours of it before dinner. So hearing it from current and former world leaders is ridiculous.
This isn’t really toxic masculinity, since I don’t think Biden is planning on going through with any of his threats. His notion of chivalry and defending women’s honor by teaching a guy some manners—in this limited context—is what I would call having “social courage” to stand up to your own kind, as opposed to toxic masculinity.
For those who think this kind of “tough talk” is just what Democrats need to win over those “working-class white” voters in Michigan for the 2020 election, I’ll kindly remind them that all the tough talk in the world didn’t drive white people to vote for Trump. Racism did that. Trying to sound tough against a privileged marshmallow like Trump is just bad politics, and Democrats with any hopes in two years should know better. Here’s how you beat a guy like Trump—take it from me; I’ve actually beaten a few of them:
When I was a kid, you didn’t beat those middle-class racist white boys by just pounding them into submission with a metal Scooby-Doo lunch box (although I did that several times). You had to shame them. You had to make them look silly and weak so that any retaliation was a tacit admission that they’d been beaten, as opposed to a chance to get even.
I remember one day during winter recess, a group of white boys cornered me behind the school to beat me up. I punched the ringleader in the face and pulled down his snow pants (the old-fashioned kind with clips). He slipped and fell in the snow and got a huge wet spot on his underwear, and even his boys started laughing at him. He called me “nigger” a few times but ran back inside to warm up and pretty much left me alone after that.
You see, you can’t just beat a guy like that (or Trump, for that matter) because they’ll lie or just call you names. Trump is that guy who could get curb-stomped by a bunch of fifth-graders but walk into the nearest lunchroom afterward saying, “You should see the other guy!”
Shame is the only thing that will work here.
Example: Trump has gone bankrupt four times but still claims he’s a business genius.
Shame solution: Don’t question his numbers; just call him poor.
Example: Trump brags about being a ladies’ man even though he had to pay a porn star to have sex with him.
Shame solution: Don’t chastise Trump for being an adulterer; point out that he’s got no game, and didn’t Mase tell us that real pimps spend no dough on the booty?
Example: He claims he won the 2016 election by a landslide and this inauguration crowd was the largest anyone had ever seen.
Shame solution: Just give him the “Suuuuure” laugh and note his obviously small “crowd size” because you don’t bully bullies—you punk them.
Hillary Clinton calling Trump a “puppet” during a debate made the man apoplectic. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox said, “We’re not paying for your fucking wall,” and Trump hasn’t said a peep to any Mexican official about that wall since. He’s been begging Democrats and taxpayers to cover it.
You don’t play Trump’s game—you play yours, better. Floyd Mayweather didn’t learn MMA to beat Conor McGregor; he just stepped into the ring playing his game better and beat him down.
The next time Joe Biden is feeling a bit froggy, he’s more than earned the right to make whatever kind of dated, veiled threats against Trump he needs to in order feel better about the fact that he’s no longer a viable 2020 candidate. However, any Democrat who’s actually interested in getting rid of 45 should consider another method of attack, like maybe standing up to his policies or courting African-American voters or working to stop voter suppression. Those will probably work better than a right cross behind the bleachers.