Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic nomination
Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic nomination (Photo: DNC)

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.

Joe Biden greets Maria Cantwell
2020 pres­i­den­tial Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Joe Biden greets Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell at a cam­paign event in Octo­ber 2014 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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.

Joe Biden stud­ies the audi­ence at Net­roots Nation 2014 in Detroit dur­ing his after­noon keynote. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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