Pundits from across the political spectrum are taking note of the tone of the Democratic convention. Instead of relying on facts, figures and policy proposals, Democrats are largely making arguments steeped in emotion.
During Wednesday’s events, former President Barack Obama used his time slot to support Biden’s candidacy with only a passing mention of concrete political policies. Instead, Obama’s speech was mostly focused on portraying Trump and all that he stands for as antithetical to America’s long-standing values of freedom, progress and equality.
Standing behind a backdrop of the United States Constitution at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Obama argued that “what we do in these next 76 days [leading up to the election] will echo for generations to come.”
While he did touch on Biden’s accomplishments during his administration – including the former vice president’s work on expanding health care, stabilizing the economy and his foreign policy experience – Obama also touted Biden’s ability to lead the nation forward during a time of crisis.
“Tonight, I am asking you to believe in Joe and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and build it back better,” Obama said.
The convention’s other speakers have also focused on the moral argument against Trump. During Tuesday’s premier speaking slot, Jill Biden refrained from using Trump’s name, instead arguing that the country needs to refocus on its core values.
“How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding and with small acts of kindness. With bravery. With unwavering faith,” Biden said.
In one of its take-aways of the speech, NPR noted that she “worked to put character on the ballot.”
Observers on the right are also taking notice of Democrats’ apparent strategy. In an article published on Fox News, political reporter Tyler Olsen wrote that a Fox analysis found that just on Monday and Tuesday, speakers at the convention had referenced Biden’s positive character traits 294 times.
“Battle for the soul of the nation”
Since the outset of his campaign, Joe Biden has sought to frame the election in terms of a moral struggle.
In announcing the start of his campaign in April 2019, Biden argued that the country is “in a battle for the soul of the nation,” a phrase the Democratic nominee has continued to use on the campaign trail.
While Trump supporters have pushed back at the idea that Trump has degraded the office or the country, arguing that he is unfairly treated due to his past as a reality TV star and his pugnacious personality, some conservatives agree with Biden’s assessment.
According to Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion columnist for The Washington Post, Biden’s style and overall argument are a good match for this particular political and social moment in the US.
“Biden was prescient: The 2020 election is very much about the soul of the nation. Biden turns out to be ideally suited to the moment,” Rubin wrote in late May.
An election of character?
While Democrats have made the case that character, morality and competence are what’s needed in American leadership, some observers argue that this message is a distraction to help make it easier to elect politicians who will pursue a far-left political agenda.
According to Politico’s Ryan Lizza, if Biden is elected the progressive left will gain a significant boost in political capital in the coming years.
“The Democratic National Committee allowed AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] to speak for less than two minutes … [she] was also speaking a different ideological language [than Biden],” Lizza wrote, adding that despite the differences, “If he [Biden] wins … we will be hearing a lot more from AOC.”
Republicans, meanwhile, are looking to paint the lack of concrete policy proposals as a sign that Democrats don’t have the ideas needed to combat the country’s problems.
For Kayleigh McEnany, the current White House press secretary, the convention has been made up of “a whole lot of singing but zero explaining of how Joe will create jobs, end riots and stop innocent loss of life in our streets.”
John Kasich, a Republican former governor of Ohio who spoke at the convention in support of Biden, acknowledged the misgivings some lifelong conservatives might have with electing a Democrat.
He urged them to consider voting for Biden despite the ideological differences and not give into fear that he is misleading voters with an emphasis on character. “I’m sure there are Republicans and Independents who couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat. They fear Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don’t believe that because I know the measure of the man. It’s reasonable, faithful, respectful,” Kasich said.
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