Biden’s Acceptance Speech: Hope and Competence

Image for post
Image for post
Joe Biden via Twitter

This was a historic convention, not just because of the nominees, but why it was remote. Due to COVID, this could not be done in person. This meant that it had a different feeling. Joe Biden did not have the applause or the balloon drop that is traditional. He was on the stage alone, with some reporters watching on. But overall, this was a looking forward, hopeful offering from the Democratic candidate. It was also one of those rare political speeches where a little philosophy entered the fray.

Biden started with a light element, given the present, it was an obvious reference to a battle between light and dark. He is a person in the light, giving people this, which also translates to hope. He also did not flinch in why he is running. It is not because he is a young and sprite man, but because of Charlottesville. In particular, it was not the Unite the Right rally, as horrific as that was, but the reaction from President Donald Trump. Those of us who remember that far back, know of that moment when Trump said there were fine people on both sides.

It was chilling when Trump said it, and remains so to this day. It was a marker of where we were heading as a nation, It served to push Biden out of a well-earned retirement. He felt that siren call of duty. This is not something that can be understood by selfish individuals, and Biden will take the slings and arrows of the present.

The speech was not just about light and darkness, which many of us have talked about. This is one of the darkest moments in American history, and nothing less than the soul of the nation is at stake. His words resonated with me because I have written in the same exact vein.

Biden also gave a very specific plan for this moment, which is more than the Trump administration has done. He vowed in the speech to:

If I’m president on day one we’ll implement the national strategy I’ve been laying out since March.

We’ll develop and deploy rapid tests with results available immediately.

We’ll make the medical supplies and protective equipment our country needs. And we’ll make them here in America. So we will never again be at the mercy of China and other foreign countries in order to protect our own people.

We’ll make sure our schools have the resources they need to be open, safe, and effective.

We’ll put the politics aside and take the muzzle off our experts so the public gets the information they need and deserve. The honest, unvarnished truth. They can deal with that.

We’ll have a national mandate to wear a mask-not as a burden, but to protect each other.

It’s a patriotic duty.

In short, I will do what we should have done from the very beginning.

Biden was clear in this. And I admit, this was the most specific area of the speech. Why? As long as COVID is not under control, we cannot recover an economy. This will not go away just because a president wills it so. It will not be a miracle either. It requires that we all work together, and rise to the occasion. We have done this in the past as a nation. President Trump has asked of us little, if at all. His example has been the problem. His questioning of experts leaves a lot to be desired. In short, a selfish nation filled with selfish people will not overcome this. It requires us, not me.

Joe Biden understands something else that Trump does not. This is about economic dignity and the need to rebuild the nation. Not only is this coming from theory, but from his own life. He told us, though the television an often-told tale about his family:

You know, my Dad was an honorable, decent man.
He got knocked down a few times pretty hard, but always got up.

He worked hard and built a great middle-class life for our family.

He used to say, “Joey, I don’t expect the government to solve my problems, but I expect it to understand them.”

And then he would say: “Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in your community. It’s about looking your kids in the eye and say, honey, it’s going to be okay.”

I’ve never forgotten those lessons.

That’s why my economic plan is all about jobs, dignity, respect, and community. Together, we can, and we will, rebuild our economy. And when we do, we’ll not only build it back, we’ll build it back better.

With modern roads, bridges, highways, broadband, ports and airports as a new foundation for economic growth. With pipes that transport clean water to every community. With 5 million new manufacturing and technology jobs so the future is made in America.

Remember this when you knock the man down. He has had more than his fair share of tragedies, starting young. But this lesson he learned well. This talk about economic dignity is one that we all must embrace.

I suspect that the coming administration will do what it needs to do. It’s about giving people pride in what they do, and a purpose. In my view, the weight of history will force them to move towards more progressive economics, even if they don’t call them this way. In other words, what matters is the substance.

The priority for the coming administration will be a return to normalcy no matter what. A Biden administration vows to follow the science and lead the country out of this crisis. But to do this with respect and reverence to the values of the country, what he referred as the light. This is a critical difference between the two men. Trump is worried about how things look, not how they are. He is also a very dark person, who projects his insecurities on everybody else. Biden knows that experts will have to guide the hand of politicians as they develop safe policies.

The first historic crisis facing the administration is a global pandemic. One that the current administration has tried to call a hoax, or in effect deny its existence. It’s also bizarrely attacked the Obama administration for the handling of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

The H1N1 Pandemic did not leave to economies closing, or to masks. While Trump keeps saying that they had poor reviews, the Obama administration did not face any of the present challenges. Partly, they were guided by experts, and none of the measures we need now were ever implemented. This is of note regarding that Pandemic:

The 2009 H1N1 pandemic originated in the United States before spreading around the world, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A later study suggested it was first diagnosed in humans in Mexico. The CDC estimated that from April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, there were 60.8 million H1N1 cases, with 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. alone. They also estimate that worldwide, 151,700 to 575,400 people died from (H1N1)pdm09 during the first year. Unusually, about 80% of the deaths were in people younger than 65 years of age.

This is significant since the death rate in the US alone currently is at 175,000 people, according to John Hopkins. It was handled well, and cooperation with the Mexican government helped to quell down the spread. In Mexico the capital was effectively closed for three days, and all transportation was also closed down.

When Biden says he has a plan, he has the experience as well.

Climate Change: Republicans in general still deny this is happening, even when the evidence is beyond doubt at this point. This comes partly from the interests that pressure the president and his party to turn a blind eye to the looming disaster. This is not unlike big tobacco or for that matter the movement against seat belts. All would get in the way of profits and all would require regulations.

However, we are in the midst of sixth mass extinction and the planet continues to warm. It is a good question if humans could survive this mass extinction, even with our high level of technology and adaptation ability. The response from the current administration has been to pull the country out of the Paris agreement, and other International bodies when possible. They have turned a blind eye. Biden has vowed to act because the youth deserves a future. Whether they will adopt the green new deal or a version of it, time will tell, But for starters, Biden intends to repair relations and rejoin Paris.

A collapsed economy: While we cannot blame Trump for the virus, the response failed to help working families during this disaster. Things like Universal Basic Income for the duration of the crisis could help to keep the economy afloat. While Biden did not mention this, in fact, it is what other countries he mentioned are doing, with the result that their economies will recover faster.

Biden was also part of a response to another crash, so he has experience. I suspect they will have to rebuild the economy in ways far more familiar with the New Deal than 2008. In other words, they will have to be more aggressive in enacting progressive policies, but this will depend on whether they flip the senate as well, and are willing to spend the political capital to do such.

Historic challenges tend to change people and how they respond to crises. I suspect this will be one of these moments because the economy is in a far deeper hole than it has been since 1929. So the response to it will have to be dramatic.

Racial Justice: The death of George Floyd led to an explosion and a demand for justice like we have not seen since the 1960s. Ferguson was a preview (and happened in the Obama years) but this is historic. Moreover, we had reforms underway that Trump pulled away from.

The response from the present administration is the beginnings of a dirty war that will only deepen if Trump wins reelection. Do you think Portland was an aberration? It will become the norm.

Democrats spent the week telling us a simple message. It was not just one of hope, for a new day will dawn. But it emphasized voting. If any of this is go change, we all need to vote in November. But we need to make plans on how to vote.

Why? The president is already busily delegitimizing the election before it happens.

You can also expect the president to contest the result Because his psychology cannot abide by the idea that he could lose. He cannot accept that he is not the most popular kid in class. Like a good bully, he is threatening to deploy police to polling stations. Oh never mind this is out of the Jim Crow south, or any authoritarian playbook.

Democrats are failing to tell the people the next step. No, your job does not end at the polling place. That is merely the beginning. One reason we find ourselves in this crisis is that fantasy that we can just stop paying attention once the election is over. We can’t, and I hope this time around Americans internalize this lesson. So far there has been a lot more engagement because this has been a nightmare. But after the election (is certified) and the new president is sworn in, you need to remain engaged.

This goes especially for younger Americans. You need to vote, but you need to organize and remain engaged in the process. You need to pester your representatives and raise the pressure. You need to make them care about your views as much as they listen to your elders. This will only happen when you are able to express your views as part of an organized group, and you start to elect members to the House and Senate that reflect your views. This process has begun. This is NOT the time to pull back.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store