A week ago, President Biden read a speech in Philadelphia. It was the exact opposite of the speech he should have given. It was the exact opposite of the speech a true leader would have given.
In 2020, Joe Biden campaigned as a “uniter” and made the same claim in his first State of the Union address. It was a good line following, as it did, our most divisive presidency at least since Nixon’s.
But that’s all it was – a line. Today, just 19 months later, Biden’s Manichean speech in Philadelphia was far from what he promised and what this country needs – a sense of unity, of shared purpose. Instead, his words unequivocally divided the United States into us and them, darkness and light, truth and lies.
Over 75 million people voted for Donald Trump in 2020, but, to Joe Biden, dare to wear a MAGA hat and you become a threat to our “equality and democracy.” To Biden and the rest of the “us/them” crowd, it’s not simply that Trump voters hold opposing views about the direction of the country. And it’s certainly not as if those views could possibly have any validity. No indeed. Those who wear caps bearing the awful words “Make America Great Again” are the evil Other to be loathed and feared. They aren’t decent people with legitimate complaints about who governs them and how. They aren’t blue-collar workers whose jobs were shipped overseas during the neoliberalism that’s ruled our foreign policy for the last 30+ years. Their idea that the United States is run by elites who neither know about the hardships of “Middle America” nor care, is just some bizarre fantasy concocted by deplorables who, in Biden’s words, “are a threat to the foundation of the republic” and who are “not normal.”
Like all “others” those cap-wearers are beyond the pale of decent society and legitimate discourse. Do they complain about those millions of lost jobs, about the opioid epidemic that resulted, rising crime, stratospheric inflation, the astonishing nonsense being taught in schools? Well, they just don’t “respect the Constitution” and “don’t believe in the rule of law.” They’re “fanning the flames of political violence,” you see. Is someone uncomfortable with unlimited abortion rights, critical race theory? He/she is a “semi-fascist.”
Now, I could say a thousand obvious things. I could point out that, when BLM and Antifa were burning cities, we heard none of this rhetoric from Biden or anyone in his administration. I could say that “defund the police” sounds a lot like disdain for the rule of law. So do the many progressive district attorneys throughout the country – including the one in the very city in which Biden spoke – who openly ignore the state statutes they’ve sworn to enforce. I could mention that Hillary Clinton has never publicly acknowledged Trump as a legitimately elected president and has more than once claimed the opposite. Lies? I could mention the fact that Democrats and their mouthpieces in the press spent over four years, before and during Trump’s presidency, lying repeatedly, so much so that even center-leftists like Andrew Sullivan were outraged enough to detail those lies and the fact that they all went one way – pro-left/anti-right.
I could say all that and so much more, but it’s just low-hanging fruit, the obvious misrepresentations, the blatant hypocrisies of a man who’s taking the lowest of low roads in an effort to preserve his party’s majorities in Congress this November.
Election Day is two months away. Essentially everything done and said by the two parties between now and then will be nothing but an effort to win votes and no tactic will be too craven, too mendacious to be deployed. So one lesson of the Biden speech is that this year’s Democratic strategy is to hang Donald Trump around the GOP’s neck. After all, what else is there? Their record? Please.
It might just work.
As I’ve said before, Donald Trump elected Joe Biden who’s never impressed Democrats on his own merits. Before 2020, he tried twice for the presidential nomination and was sent packing both times. The sole reason he finally got the nomination and later the presidency is that he wasn’t Donald Trump. So, if you’re Joe Biden and have no greater vision for this country, why not make Donald Trump this year’s issue and maybe voters will forget their declining paychecks, rising crime, the flood of illegal immigration. Of course, if you run against Trump, you can’t ignore Trump voters.
But while Biden’s “othering” half the voting populace, it’s worth remembering a couple of things. The first is that tossing slurs is nothing but a dodge, the avoidance of real issues. Whoever “MAGA Republicans” are, they pose serious questions to the entire political class, questions that boil down to “What about us?” Why is it OK to ship good American jobs to China and Mexico, hollowing out our working class in the process? Why is it acceptable to call half the population “racist?” Why is it unacceptable to question abortion rights or the trans narrative that holds the potential to destroy girls’ and women’s sports? Why do the police, prosecutors and courts refuse to enforce the law? Why is it national policy to sharply increase energy and transportation costs at the expense of the poor and working classes? Why are Ukraine’s borders sacrosanct, but ours aren’t? Etc.
Whatever you think of them, those are legitimate questions and Biden’s name-calling announces loudly and clearly that he and his handlers have no answers, prefer to change the subject and hope the rest of us won’t notice.
Second, we all understand that Biden’s speech was nothing but election-season rhetoric that may or may not play in Peoria, but will he ever do anything else? It’s late in Act II and The Unifier hasn’t yet set foot on stage. For 19 months we’ve heard and seen nothing but divisiveness and contempt for anyone who dares disagree with the extreme progressive ideology so recently embraced by the president. Is there even an Act III?
Finally, Donald Trump will eventually exit the stage to general sighs of relief, but the populism to which he’s given voice is here to stay. That’s because the questions it raises, the demands it makes are altogether legitimate, fair and potentially constructive. Biden’s dodging of those issues may serve his party in the short term, but not the country. Someone, sometime will have to address them or face the potentially dire consequences of a house more and more divided against itself. That division is now the most important problem this country faces and Joe Biden’s speech only made it worse.
His speech was not only the exact opposite of the way in which he presented himself to voters such a short time ago, it was the exact opposite of what he or any other president should have said. A true leader, one of even minimal decency and competence would have known that.
This article originally appeared at The Word of Damocles.