Joe Biden addressed the Democratic National Convention tonight to close out the event. The rest of the time leading up to Biden’s speech was filled with the typical endorsement statements and character references that one would expect. Although made to be theatrical in nature and a bit gimmicky at times, most of the interactions with average Americans felt genuine and honest. Of course, there were also a few touching moments that broke through the facade.
One of the most candid segments leading up to Joe Biden’s speech was the exchanges between the former presidential candidates that ran against him. Each of them spoke to their most touching memories of Joe and highlighted his characteristics of empathy and leadership. Senator Warren’s brief story beautifully portrayed the compassion that Biden has for average Americans. We can bicker and argue that Biden is a strong pillar of the establishment of the Democratic Party, but we already know that. Senator Sanders suspended his campaign, AOC is too young (for now), and the Green Party only showed up to soak up the free publicity.
If we are as educated as we think we are, we should know that the two-party system is a deeply entrenched fact of our politics. A third-party vote during a presidential election, particularly one in the middle of a pandemic, economic crisis, and impending climate crisis, is simply not the way to build a robust third party that will remain relevant for years to come, rather than fade into obscurity or ridicule until the next media cycle. That isn’t the question on the table here.
Even though Donald Trump and a number of his associates should have likely already been arrested under various charges, until that becomes a reality, the presidential election is our primary tool for change if we use the good parts of the system to our advantage. We can simultaneously vote for Biden/Harris and support the real progressives after their victory. The goal is to bury Trump in a landslide.
Another extremely touching moment of the convention came when a young boy with a stutter gave a speech about Vice President Biden. He recalled how Biden had met with him and told him how he used to read poems by William Butler Yeats out loud to practice. As this young man worked through a handful of stutters during his speech, he revealed how Joe Biden helped him to feel more confident. I couldn’t help but recall Donald Trump mocking a disabled reporter at one of his rallies. It is shameful that the president of the United States was elected by people who viewed such behavior as irrelevant to the office. Fortunately, the November election is a chance for redemption.
Joe Biden’s speech was surprisingly brilliant and moving. Biden moved from topic to topic with clear precision and focus. He was sharp and delivered what may be the best and most important speech of his career. He argued that under the Trump administration there has been, “Too much anger, too much fear, too much division.” Early in the speech Biden promised, “I will draw on the best of us, not the worst.” He added, “We’ll choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, and fairness over privilege.”
Joe Biden noted that while he is the Democratic candidate, he will be an American president. He appealed to the best of us and the things that we most have in common. Biden pointed to the election as a time of real peril that can open a realm of possibilities. He characterized the election as “life-changing” and claimed that the results would shape America for years to come. Biden passionately claimed that this election is about, “Who we are as a nation and most importantly, who we want to be.”
During the speech Biden tore into Trump for “cozying up to dictators” and “fanning the flames of division and hate.” He of course pointed to the disastrous state that the U.S. is in due to Trump’s delayed and inadequate reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden also touched on his family history, and the loss and struggle that he has personally experienced in his life. He emphasized the American principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He encouraged us to envision a future where everyone is treated with dignity, workers are valued and paid a living wage, and the climate crisis is taken seriously. Biden went on to claim that “We don’t need a tax code that rewards wealth more than it rewards work.” He added that Social Security is a sacred part of our system and warned of Trump’s attempts to cut the program.
Biden made it clear that his administration would ensure that human rights would take priority in our foreign policy and that his presidency would stand behind our allies and serve as the leading example on the world stage again.
Later in his speech, Biden noted that his father taught him “silence is complicity” as he tore into the Neo-Nazis that have shown themselves across the country, most notably at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
The end of Biden’s speech focused on unity. He urged Americans to come together to protect the fate of our nation and the integrity of our democracy. He noted that he certainly cannot do this alone, echoing the slogan of the Sanders’ campaign that many of us still cling to.
Frankly, I didn’t expect to be moved by any of Joe Biden’s speeches, let alone the one he addressed to the DNC. Alas, I found myself surprised and swelling with hope that, even though he is not the candidate most of us would’ve wanted, he can and will be the vehicle to move our country forward and to close the chapter on the nepotism, corruption, and negligence so present in our current administration. Senator Sanders and the #NotMeUs movement has drastically shifted the Democratic Party in ways that seemed impossible prior to 2016, but much of that is lip service, and we know that. The real work always starts after the election, as we hold our public officials accountable for their actions.