Four years ago, Donald Trump said at the Republican National Convention, "I alone can fix it" — specifically, he alone could fix a political system in which "the powerful" are able to "beat up on people that can't defend themselves" (hollow mordant laughter). In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last night, Joe Biden certainly talked about what he wants to do as president, but again and again, Biden emphasized something considerably different, invoking the power of people working together to bring change:

  • We can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite.
  • It's an America we can rebuild together.
  • Together, we can, and we will, rebuild our economy.
  • There has never been anything we've been unable to accomplish when we've done it together.

There wasn't any trace of "I am the Chosen One" in Biden's speech.

Biden's other major motif was darkness and light, which sure as hell resonated with those of us who sometimes wonder whether we've been trapped in Stupid Hell for the past five years or so. Biden opened the speech with a quote from civil rights hero Ella Baker: "'Give people light and they will find a way.' [...] Those are words for our time." Baker, we should note, recalled her own grandmother's stories about growing up enslaved — we shouldn't forget how close we still are to that darkness.

With that invocation of light and progress, Biden said it's time for us — together — to bring America out of our current dark place:

The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.

Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us not the worst. I will be an ally of the light not of the darkness.

It's time for us, for We the People, to come together.

For make no mistake. United we can, and will, overcome this season of darkness in America. We will choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege.

What I'm getting at here is that it was a damn good speech. Here it is, in case you missed it:

WATCH: Joe Biden's full speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention youtu.be



As many have noted, the unconventional convention format actually worked to Biden's advantage: There were no phony pauses for planned applause lines, and the speech felt more intimate. Biden's campaign may be required by federal regulations to send a receipt to Trump and the GOP, too, for their weeks of portraying Biden as a doddering fool who can't string two thoughts together. It was a pretty stupid strategy for supporters of the guy who offered these thoughts yesterday:

Mr. Biden, by contrast, didn't go off on a single weird tangent about sharks, if you can believe that. As Eric Levitz pointed out at New York magazine, even leaving aside all the policy and rhetoric you'd expect in a nomination acceptance speech, Biden really communicated one dominant point: "Unlike other major-party presidential candidates, Joe Biden is not an incompetent sociopath." Mission accomplished.

As Barack Obama did Wednesday, Biden hit Trump again and again on his basic unfitness for the job, his failures to meet the challenges America faces, and how Joe Biden would do things differently. Yes, he's running as a Democrat, but

I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn't support me as I will for those who did.That's the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party.

Also unlike the current occupant of the White House, who insists the coronavirus will disappear and the economy is right on the verge of skyrocketing, Biden said, yes, things are really fucked at the moment, with four "historic crises" all at once:

The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the '60s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.

But instead of fretting about his poll numbers, Biden said, yeah, we're up to dealing with this, together, and to overcome. Franklin Roosevelt, after all, "pledged a New Deal in a time of massive unemployment, uncertainty, and fear," and he and America got to work:

Stricken by disease, stricken by a virus, FDR insisted that he would recover and prevail and he believed America could as well.

And he did. And so can we.

It's a remarkably apt comparison, especially considering that a disturbing contingent of American movers and shakers in the '30s, like William Randolph Hearst, thought America could only be saved by a turn towards fascism. Instead, Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself, and for thanks he was derided as a crazy socialist — but the reforms he put in place lasted decades, and despite Republicans' worst efforts, most of the important ones are still with us.

We can rise to the occasion, and unlike Trump, who thinks everyone is just naturally as selfish and sociopathic as he is, Biden understands something about America: We can be real dopes who vote for a dipshit like Trump, but we can also come together in the worst times and help each other. Think of all the people who gave blood after the 9/11 attacks, just because they felt compelled to do something, almost anything. George W. Bush squandered that national willingness to sacrifice by starting two wars and telling us to go shopping.

Nearly two decades later, Americans responded to the pandemic and the lockdown with an outpouring of love and concern that led us to sew masks and sing to our neighbors (at a safe distance) and cheer for healthcare workers — a reservoir of goodwill that could have been turned toward a mutual effort to really stop the spread of the virus. We all hunkered down so the national plan to ramp up testing and contact tracing could be put into place. We don't just want to look for the helpers, we want to be the helpers.

But instead of doing the work of fighting the pandemic, Trump blamed governors, told Jared to take care of it, stoked his base's culture-war fears, and finally got bored of the whole thing, and the virus came roaring back.

By contrast, Biden last night said what Donald Trump has never come close to saying, because Donald Trump is incapable of empathy. Biden acknowledged that 170,000 Americans are gone, and he spoke to their families. It's a hell of a lot of families:

Look, I understand it's hard to have hope right now.

On this summer night, let me take a moment to speak to those of you who have lost the most. I know how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in your chest. That you feel your whole being is sucked into it.

I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes.

But I've learned two things. First, your loved ones may have left this Earth but they never leave your heart. They will always be with you.

And second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose. As God's children, each of us have a purpose in our lives.

If it weren't so desperately needed, and if it hadn't come from someone who has genuinely lived every bit of it, it would almost sound corny. But it didn't — it was part of a real call for action, for healing, for coming together and helping each other out of the Dark Times.

And did the speech work? We'll leave you with this:

If the best you can do is insist Daddy never said Nazis were "very fine people" because he was only referring to neo-Confederates (if any), then you're losing.

Time to get to work.

Time to make the Donuts www.youtube.com


[CNN (Speech Transcript) / NPR / New York]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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