Throughout the first three nights of the Democratic National Convention, there have been three overriding themes that have been reinforced by most of the speakers.
The first is to portray Joe Biden as a decent and caring man who will restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office. Apparently, it was necessary to remind three hundred thirty million people that the very qualities we instill in our children, and demand of our family and friends, are no less essential in the politicians we elect to public office. One can be pro-American without behaving like a petulant child or an asshole. Empathy isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s actually a sign of strength when coupled with discernment.
The second theme is to remind the viewers that what this nation is going through – the 170,000 deaths, the shattered economy, the civil unrest in the streets – is all due to the resident idiot in the White House. Trump took an economy that his predecessor built and which had been growing steadily for six years and drove it into the ground. His refusal to listen to the scientists who were warning him of the dangers of COVID-19 directly led to the colossal loss of life and has made the United States the laughing stock of the Western world. And now that very same idiot, in the middle of this pandemic, is threatening to take away the healthcare of millions of Americans, not to mention undermine the Social Security that so many seniors depend upon.
But it’s the third theme that I believe will be the most important theme of all. It can be summed up in one sentence: Vote as if your life depended on it, because it does. From John Kasich appealing to moderate Republicans to place country before party, to Bernie Sanders pleading with his base to stand down and get on board, to Hillary Clinton imploring voters not to make the same mistake they made four years ago, to Barack Obama lighting a fire under a mostly lethargic and often indifferent voter demographic, the message was loud and unmistakable. Bottom line: There can be no excuses this time around.
Indeed, of all the speeches given, Obama’s was the most poignant and pointed. A man who has spent most of his political life being the adult in the room and conveying a sense of hope and optimism – the Jackie Robinson of politics as I once described him – painted a stark picture regarding the stakes in this election, and in a rare moment of candor, called out those whose cynicism Trump and his supporters are “counting on.”
Do not let them take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy. Make a plan right now for how you’re going to get involved and vote. Do it as early as you can and tell your family and friends how they can vote too. Do what Americans have done for over two centuries when faced with even tougher times than this — all those quiet heroes who found the courage to keep marching, keep pushing in the face of hardship and injustice.
Whatever our backgrounds, we’re all the children of Americans who fought the good fight. Great grandparents working in firetraps and sweatshops without rights or representation. Farmers losing their dreams to dust. Irish and Italians and Asians and Latinos told to go back where they came from. Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Sikhs, made to feel suspect for the way they worshipped. Black Americans chained and whipped and hanged. Spit on for trying to sit at lunch counters. Beaten for trying to vote.
If anyone had a right to believe that this democracy did not work, and could not work, it was those Americans. Our ancestors. They were on the receiving end of a democracy that had fallen short all their lives. They knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the myth. And yet, instead of giving up, they joined together and said somehow, some way, we are going to make this work. We are going to bring those words, in our founding documents, to life.
The most eloquent speaker of his time delivering a message of tough love to a group of people who desperately needed a healthy dose of perspective. We have a saying in the rooms of recovery: move a muscle, change a thought. We may be powerless over Trump, but we are not helpless. If voters are looking for the perfect politician before they go to the polls, they needn’t bother holding their breath. There are no such people and there never have been.
All of us, to one degree or another, fall short of the mark, even a Bernie Sanders. I don’t know Biden personally; I can only go by the record that’s available. And based on that record, he’s more than qualified to be president. I don’t need him to be perfect; I just need him to be competent, honest and sane. Yes, the bar has been set that low.
This isn’t a rock concert, people; it’s a binary choice between one admittedly flawed politician whose heart is in the right place and a sociopath hell bent on turning this country into an extension of his criminal enterprise and the elimination of anything and anyone that stands in his way.
If that choice isn’t abundantly clear to you by now, then Obama might as well have written his speech in Sanskrit for all the good it did.