Sunday, September 04, 2022


I liked the speech Joe Biden delivered in Philadelphia on Thursday night, but I can think of a couple of ways it could have been improved. I think he could have avoided any suggestion that Trump voters are a major threat to democracy (even though they are), which has put him and his defenders in the position of having to deny that Biden attacked every Trump voter (which he quite specifically didn't). Even people who should know better, like ABC Martha Raddatz, are accusing Biden of besmirching everyone who voted for Trump:

Biden's speech would have been attacked unfairly no matter what he said, but he might have sidestepped this attack if he'd specified that pro-Trump politicians and activists are the biggest problem. This could have set up a contrast between people who have power within the system (or who might acquire that power) and ordinary citizens who are at risk of being victimized by Trumpist abuses of power.

Right-wingers know how to set up this sort of contrast. They routinely do it dishonestly. The key words are "they" and "you." As a New York Times report noted this past spring, Tucker Carlson regularly addresses his audience as "you" and says that "they" want to hurt "you."

Use the Fear, Tuck.

In his speech on Thursday, Biden attempted to do this, but he didn't lean into the word "you."
MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people.

They refuse to accept the results of a free election. And they’re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.

MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.

They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.

They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th — brutally attacking law enforcement — not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots.

And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.

They tried everything last time to nullify the votes of 81 million people. This time, they’re determined to succeed in thwarting the will of the people.
In that passage, the word "you" shows up only once.

By contrast, Donald Trump, in his Pennsylvania speech last night, went to absurd and implausible lengths to tell his audience that they -- "you" -- were the real targets of legal efforts to hold him accountable:
They rifled through the First Lady's closet drawers and everything else, and even did a deep and ugly search of the room of my 16-year-old son, leaving everything they touched in far different conditions than it was when they started. Can you believe it?

The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters. controlled by radical left scoundrels lawyers and the media who tell them what to do ... and when to do it.

They're trying to silence me and more importantly, they are trying to silence you. But we will not be silenced, right. We will never stop speaking the truth. We have no choice because we're not going to have a country love. The evil and malice of this demented persecution of you and me should be obvious to all entities.
And after a long diatribe about the Russia investigation:
But this battle is not about me. This is a struggle for the very fate of our republic. Our movement is fighting against a corrupt group of unelected tyrants who believe they can wield absolute power over you, with the help of a willing and very corrupt media.

They think the deep state, not the citizens should be the true masters of this country.
And in attack on Josh Shapiro, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate:
Shapiro supports sanctuary cities, and he sided with Marxist anti-American BLM radicals and Antifa, and he's a vicious hater of free speech and a hater of your Second Amendment. So he's gonna let criminals roam your streets, and he's not gonna let you have a gun to protect yourself. Shapiro is also using his office to shut children's schools and force masks to be strapped to your children's faces, doing unimaginable harm.
And on mail-in voting:
Right here in Pennsylvania, Democrats are still trying hard to rig your elections.

Act 77 clearly violates your state Constitution encouraging widespread abuse of mail-in ballots, and your radical left state Supreme Court just violated the Constitution a second time by overturning a decision by an unbiased lower court.
I don't think there's anything wrong with "they"/"you" framing if you're honest. Carlson isn't honest. Trump isn't honest. Democrats could do follow this formula, too. It would reinforce the sense that Democrats are fighting against abusers of power on behalf of people who don't have power. Republicans -- who aren't doing that at all -- use this formula to make it seem as if they are. Democrats could learn from them.

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