Joe Biden did very well last night in his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination and wrapping up the convention.
I’ll make no big claims about how much he helped his chances of winning in November. More below about that.
But just as a guy who sat through not only the long Biden speech-to-an-empty-room but the hours of regular-folks stuff that preceded it (adorably moderated by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), I’ll say that Biden did very well, and I predict he’ll get a bounce, and I have no idea how big of a bounce or what happens afterwards.
First a couple of silly but obvious points. It was a long speech and Biden is not a young man, and he delivered it almost flawlessly, with good energy and fluency and conviction.
Biden offered two lists of considerations voters should take into account in deciding between himself and Donald Trump. Both lists were very helpful, not only in framing the speech, but in assuring that he would be a vastly preferable president for the next four years than you-know-who.
The first list was the “four crises” that he said the nation faces heading into the next presidential term: the pandemic; the economic crisis; racial justice, especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing and the ensuing riots; and climate change.
If you agree (and I do) that this was a pretty good list of giant issues to be faced either by Biden or Trump over the next four years, it’s also a terrible, terrible list for Trump and therefore an excellent argument for trading him in on a new leader.
Trump’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic is beyond dispute among the reality-based community. Trump will continue to mismanage it. One of the snarky but brilliant bumper stickers available says “Any Competent Adult 2020.” Biden might be great, or not, in helping us turn the corner, but he will be better than Trump.
The terrible economy of the moment is largely an adjunct to the health crisis. Trump will claim that he had the economy humming before COVID (or, as he prefers to call it, “the China virus”). But, as they say, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. I also think this claim of a strong economy is more true for Trump, the investor class and other very rich Americans than for the struggling middle and working classes, and that it was largely produced by irresponsible fiscal policies for which future generations will be paying.
“Racial justice” is a perpetual issue in America, but the killing of George Floyd and its aftermath has elevated it to the consensus list of current crises. It’s another crisis that’s really bad for Trump, and much better for Biden and for Democrats in general, except among racists. Trump has a lock on the racist vote. (I can’t quite figure out how much that explains his perpetual 40 percent approval rating, but it’s definitely in there.) Biden has a black running mate, overwhelming support of nonwhite Americans other than Kanye West (who is trying to help Trump by running his own utterly hopeless independent campaign for president in hopes of siphoning some black votes from Biden).
The fourth item on Biden’s four-crisis list was climate change, a truly life-on-earth-threatening issue on which Trump has done everything imaginable to make it worse. (I seem to remember him pulling out of the only promising global effort on that global problem, called the Paris Agreement. Any functioning adult who can replace Trump in the White House in 2021 will certainly rejoin that accord. I’m sure Biden, who had a role in the Obama-Biden leadership that helped create the agreement, will do so.)
So, if you accept Biden’s list of the four crises that need to be faced, and if you are not a racist, a climate-change denier nor someone who has benefited from the COVID economy, you will find Biden’s first list a pretty good argument for anybody-but-Trump and specifically for Biden to take over.
Biden also offered a list of six let’s say human qualities that he said were “on the ballot” in November, meaning you should be inclined to support whichever of the candidates possessed these qualities more than the other. Again, it’s a reasonable list of abstractions for choosing a president, maybe a great list, and, again, it’s a very good list for Biden or for anyone who might be running against Donald Trump.
The five things that Biden said were “on the ballot” were contained in one paragraph (and you’ll note, after the list of five, Biden added three more huge abstractions, that he implied were also “on the ballot.” Here’s the paragraph:
This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot.
You can have your own views about what presidential qualities are “on ballot” in a choice between Trump and Biden. But his on-the-ballot list is pretty defensible, and very, very bad for Donald John Trump in a comparison with Joe Biden among voters who care about such old-fashioned qualities as character, compassion, decency, etc.
I meant to keep this short, but the speech was not short (and it was preceded by a long celebrity-studded pre-show (Julia Louis-Dreyfus was especially funny and snarky).
So I’ll wrap this up, invite your comments below, and just mention that in Fox News’ after-speech coverage, Chris Wallace, Fox’s most honest on-air personality, said that the combination of the speech itself, and Biden’s unwavering fluent delivery, “blew a hole, a big hole,” in Trump’s effort to portray Biden as too old, feeble, confused to be president. “It seems to me that after tonight, Donald Trump will have to run against a candidate, not a caricature,” Wallace said.
Sure, Wallace acknowledged, Biden was reading from a teleprompter. (I would note that Trump is much worse at reading from a teleprompter. And when he ad libs, he is more genuine, and maybe more fluent, but shows the darkness of his soul.)