Joe Biden isn’t the first person to use a somewhat bizarre backdrop for important speeches.
I remember when Barack Obama strode onto the stage in Denver to accept his party’s nomination for the presidency. It was lined with Greek Columns, and bathed in a golden light, like the Parthenon. There was something jarringly over the top about it, but most of his presidency was over the top in terms of cultural messaging, so I suppose this was an auspicious beginning for the next eight years.
But Obama can get away with pretty much anything. Papa Joe, on the other hand, is barely hanging on to some credibility by his nicely manicured fingernails. Although his current approval ratings hover below 45 percent, that’s an improvement over where they were a few weeks ago, before the Supreme Court ruled that killing babies was not a fundamental constitutional right. Now, the sort of people who think it always was and are unusually upset about losing that “right” have decided to support the guy who promises them everything and anything, as long as he takes it from productive Americans (like those who pay back their student loans.)
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And since he’s been feeling flush with support over the past few days, Biden decided to give a speech designed to mollify his mercurial base, while making sure to alienate half of the country he says he loves. Lucky for we native Philadelphians, he chose the City of Loving Fratricide for that speech. More specifically, he chose the most sacred site in our metropolis, Independence Hall.
The speech itself was predictably cruel, divisive, hateful, intolerant, poorly-written and insulting. Anyone who thought that Biden really meant it when he said he’d try and “unite” the country are either fools, or doing the sort of drugs Democratic senatorial candidate John Fetterman wants to decriminalize. Biden is a spiteful man, and all of his talk about wanting to work across the aisle is historical fiction. The man has only ever worked to advance his self-interests, and if there were some Republicans who could help him do it, he was willing to “work” alongside of them. Even the legislation that he happened to sponsor, including the laudable Violence Against Women’s Act seems a bit ironic in view of his treatment of women who don’t agree with him (like the pro-life kind.)
So the speech didn’t raise any eyebrows from this writer.
What did stun, to a certain extent, was the stagecraft, a word I have carefully chosen because of its similarity to “witchcraft.” The bizarre lighting, with the speaker and two uncomfortable Marine Props bathed in a scarlet glow, was reminiscent of a music video from the 1980s. You expected Billy Idol to jump up on stage and start singing about a “White [Supremacist] Wedding,” or extras from Game of Thrones to re-enact that famous episode where all the nuptial guests were murdered. It was sick, weird, in the poorest taste since a Kardashian was born, and at the same time revelatory.
Joe Biden is bellicose. He is not a man of peace. He is a warrior, someone who sees the person on the other side as an enemy to be vanquished, not a potential ally to be persuaded. He chose that backdrop, and those words, to make this point: he is only a half-president, owing allegiance to half of a nation, feeling responsibility for half of its citizens. He has allowed himself to be swallowed whole by the sort of folks who think that Twitter is real life, and that there is no nuance in the human soul. You are either my friend, and agree with me on all points and share all virtues, or you are evil.
The one good thing about the Philadelphia speech was that it demonstrated, once and for all, that Biden and his supporters hate us, as much as they hated Trump.
The irony is that when Trump gave his inaugural speech, people expressed repulsion at his “American Carnage” rhetoric. And while I did feel that address was a bit over the top, even as I watched it from Philadelphia where young black men are in greater danger than women in Kabul, I didn’t think it was all that offensive. That’s because Trump wasn’t attacking other Americans. He was trying, in his less than subtle way, to explain why and how we needed to fix what was deeply broken in society. I took that speech as an invitation to all of us.
Biden, on the other hand, crossed the rhetorical Rubicon with his assault on Republicans in particular and conservatives in general. His weak attempt to distinguish “MAGA” Republicans from the “good kind” fell flat, because we all know that anyone who doesn’t swallow his politics and policies is not the “good kind” of Republican.
The one good thing about the Philadelphia speech was that it demonstrated, once and for all, that Biden and his supporters hate us, as much as they hated Trump. They hate us as much as they hate DeSantis, Walker, Palin, McConnell, McCarthy, Kavanaugh, Alito, Barrett, Thomas, Vance, Greene, Gaetz, Jordan and any other “non” team player who fills their air space.
Message received, Mr. President.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61