America’s past leaders have told us that they are from the people and for the people. 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden added a dimension in his Thursday night acceptance speech. Biden is of the people.
He has been in public office for a very long period of time — since he was thirty years old — but still comes across as a person who needs to shower when he gets home from work, or at least identifies with those who do.
Family members still call him by a nickname given by his father – Joey.
“Joe goes right to the middle,” former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted last night. The acceptance speech was geared to folks described as “deplorables” by the Democratic Party’s 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton, and with understanding toward those who have fallen behind and are angry.
“Easily the best and most affecting speech Biden has ever delivered,” opined presidential historian Michael Bechloss.
If the 2020 Democratic National Convention honors the best performance in a supporting role, the nod must go to a thirteen-year-old New Hampshire boy named Brayden Harrington. Harrington stutters, as the nation learned on Thursday night. So did a young Joe Biden growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Harrington met Joe Biden on the campaign trail, and found that a candidate can be a mentor. “Without Joe Biden, I wouldn’t be talking to you today,” he said.
“I’m just a regular kid, and in a short amount of time, Joe Biden made me more confident about something that’s bothered me my whole life. Joe Biden cared.”
Anybody who has covered Biden has such stories to tell. He comforts those who have endured personal tragedy, bonding with his own tragedies. People who stutter are given Biden’s private cell phone number, and asked to call him.
The guy can be long winded, although not tonight.
He found five hundred people waiting at the Ames, Iowa, library in closing days of the 2008 caucus campaign. He did not let them go for nearly two hours, and only then after Jill Biden had gently tugged on her husband’s coat.
He made lots of friends during thirty-six years in the United States Senate, some of them the wrong kind. Old Bull segregationists from the Deep South still held sway in the early 1970s; Delaware was an anti-busing state.
Biden went along a little too much, seeking to get along.
Still, this is the guy who authored the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and was an early champion of gun responsibility in the Senate.
Even former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a stern critic of Biden’s counsel on Iraq and Afghanistan, has praised him as one of the nicest people in American politics. (Gates served in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.)
Donald Trump is very much not of the people. He has the deepest streak of personal cruelty ever witnessed in the Oval Office. He loves to demean people when they are down, whether in TV ratings or in losing an election.
It’s a turnoff. Polls show that more than sixty percent of Americans wish the incumbent would stop tweeting. In survey after survey, the 45th president flunks the question of whether he is “concerned with the problems of people like me.”
Biden is made of different stuff.
Witness a powerful line from the acceptance speech: “We’re going to do more than praise our essential workers… We’re finally going to pay them.”
The political right is clearly flummoxed.
Biden is clearly not a guy of the extreme left. He’s regular, not radical.
But he’s certainly willing to engage with the left.
The speech Thursday night was forceful, powerful and emotional.
Jill Biden is obviously a biased source, but accurate when she told an interviewer: “He will make a very competent president.”
The candidate has also sensed the fact that America is tired of strife.
The response in Biden’s speech was pitch perfect:
“This is not a partisan moment. This is an American moment.”
He challenged the nation to be better “than what divides us.”
The best moments of the 2020 Democratic National Convention — capstone events, if you will — are likely to be embedded in Donald Trump’s head.
Like that striking line from Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois: “We have a coward-in-chief who won’t stand up to Vladimir Putin.”
Or the sight of Brayden Harrington, conquering his stutter before an audience of millions. I think a lot of American parents were crying.
The bottom line: In Biden, we will get a President who will launch the decade of the common man – and woman. He has an enormous amount of repair work to do, but will bring empathy and understanding to the task.
He understands that he is a transitional figure in a restless Democratic Party.
The experience of a widower riding Amtrak home to Delaware each night, to be with his boys. The belief… in redemption and and practice of his Catholic faith (picture Biden’s smudged forehead on Ash Wednesday)… the happy second marriage to an educator who taught community college while he was Vice President… the heavy lifts given to him by President Barack Obama.
All of this will make for a humane and competent president.
There will surely be impatience on the left. Biden will not quash ideological arguments that his platform isn’t bold enough, or that he lacks the political will to stand up to Wall Street and America’s oligarchs.
Still, our nation’s recovery from the chaos of Trumpism will be helped immeasurably by having a president who is from, for, and of the people.