On the menu today: The first hour and change of the 2020 Democratic National Convention was a dull telethon, but Michelle Obama homed in on what is likely to be the Democrats’ closing message of this year; Andrew Cuomo declares, “in many ways, COVID is just a metaphor”; and a longtime postal official not named Cliff Claven assures Americans that their postal carriers can handle all of their duties related to the election.
Between Now and November, You’re Going to Hear a Lot about ‘Empathy’
In the U.S. national-security community, our national ability to respond to threats is often tested through the use of “red teams” or “red cells.” A team of creative thinkers is assigned the task of looking at us the way our enemies do, and to search for weaknesses, gaps, and overlooked vulnerabilities within our systems.
If you want to know where you’re vulnerable, you have to self-scout, make a clear-eyed and unsparing self-assessment, and see yourself the way your opponents do. What do they see? Where do they think you’ve got a weak spot?
If you were the Democrats, how would you go after President Trump? As much as Democrats may want to attack him on policy or tout their own ideas, that’s not really the president’s weakest spot.
Trump rarely delves into policy details, and neither his supporters nor persuadable swing voters are looking for white papers. If you’re a Democratic official or talking head making the case for Joe Biden, you don’t want to bring up the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, AB-5-style regulations that abolish the gig economy, tax increases, or amnesty for illegal immigrants. Democrats certainly won’t talk about “abolish the police” or “abolish ICE” or “hell yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15.” And Democrats certainly will never address “cancel culture,” social-media mobs calling for people to be fired, or corporate America deciding political issues for their employees and customers. The modern Left has quite a few billionaires who describe themselves as socialists, and that probably represents the Democratic Party at its most insufferable.
The more that President Trump can make this election about those proposals and personas, the better his odds are of reelection. In the broadest terms, the country wants secure borders, low taxes, a thriving economy, criminals behind bars, to keep their guns, to speak their minds without fearing losing their jobs, and largely to be left alone by their government. Before the pandemic hit, Trump had a decent shot at reelection, even with all of his other personality issues.
No, if you’re the Democrats, the clearest, easiest, and safest target is laid out by Michelle Obama in this section: empathy.
Empathy: that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value, too. Most of us practice this without a second thought. If we see someone suffering or struggling, we don’t stand in judgment. We reach out because, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” It is not a hard concept to grasp. It’s what we teach our children.
And like so many of you, Barack and I have tried our best to instill in our girls a strong moral foundation to carry forward the values that our parents and grandparents poured into us. But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.
They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business just because of the color of their skin. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else. And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain.
You can point to a lot of cases where significant numbers of Democrats have not lived up to that rhetoric on empathy. Just a few days ago, the president’s brother Robert Trump passed away, and the hashtag #WrongTrump was trending on Twitter. It’s fair to ask whether Democrats have empathized with those who had to shut down their businesses or lost their jobs this year because of quarantine restrictions or demonized them as selfish and ignorant. The degree to which Democrats want to insist all protests this summer were “mostly peaceful” suggests they have difficulty empathizing with those being injured by, or having their property destroyed by angry mobs. Israeli victims of terrorism may have some contrary thoughts on how empathetic the Democrats are. And Democrats certainly don’t empathize with those not yet born.
But just because a bunch of Democrats are hypocrites doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of Americans out there who don’t want to see a more empathetic society and more empathetic leadership, particularly at a time such as this. There is this mentality out there that if you can spot hypocrisy, then the issue at hand is nullified. But it isn’t. Over the past four years, many Republicans have proven to be giant hypocrites on the deficit and the debt. But the hypocrisy doesn’t make the deficit and the debt go away.
An emphasis on empathy aligns well with one of Biden’s strengths, maybe his only one. As Mickey Kaus put it last night, “Biden’s problem isn’t that he’s a snob!” It’s easy to believe he constantly schmoozed and kibitzed with Amtrak conductors and asked about how their families are doing.
No, the weakness of Biden was revealed in his previous flopped presidential bids and in those early primary states. It’s easy to forget now, but Biden finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, and his campaign knew they would do so badly in the second contest that he left the Granite State before the returns came in. A lot of voters like Biden and think he understands the problems of people like themselves. But they rarely naturally gravitate to him as a leader; he won the Democratic primary because he wasn’t Bernie Sanders, and if he wins the presidency, it will be in large part because he isn’t Donald Trump. As a new Trump video spotlights, in the past two years, we’ve seen Biden seem to lose his train of thought and get stuck in a worrying state of confusion.
The good news for Democrats is that Michelle Obama gave a sterling performance in her evening-ending speech last night. The bad news is that she probably makes the argument for Biden better than Biden himself can, and I suspect many Democrats watched her last night and wished they had nominated her.
Then again, maybe empathy will be enough. According to Worldometers, 7,468 Americans died from the coronavirus last week. Grim figures like that aren’t even headline news anymore — the pandemic is now background noise.
Look, Governor, Nobody’s Worried about Getting Infected by a Metaphor
Last night, New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared, “In many ways, COVID is just a metaphor.” Except the thousands upon thousands of New York nursing-home residents who died didn’t succumb to a metaphor.
Our Isaac Schorr observes, “Andrew Cuomo is many things; a politician whose last name bequeathed Albany to him; an unwitting asset of the Chinese Communist Party; and a terrible speechwriter. But a strong and competent leader, he is not.”
Cuomo is publishing a book about how he handled the pandemic on October 13.
Retired Chair of Postal Regulatory Commission: Don’t Panic, Your Mailman Can Handle This!
Ruth Y. Goldway, a retired chairwoman and commissioner of the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission, in the New York Times today:
I served as a regulator of the Postal Service for nearly 18 years under three presidents and I urge everyone to be calm. Don’t fall prey to the alarmists on both sides of this debate. The Postal Service is not incapacitated. It is still fully capable of delivering the mail . . . Given that there is enough money and perhaps more if the president agrees to additional bailout funds; that there is plenty of capacity in the system; and that voting by mail can alleviate a health threat to the nation, the Postal Service should be made to handle all election mail as if it were first-class mail.
ADDENDA: Allahpundit, yesterday afternoon: “With many of the speeches short and pre-recorded and the format seemingly ideal for viewing on mobile devices, there’s a distinct Quibi vibe to it.”
“Donald Trump has no clue how to run a business, let alone an economy. For me, the choice is simple. I’m with Joe.” — Meg Whitman, CEO of Quibi, last night.
Whitman was formerly the CEO of Hewlett Packard and the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee. Quibi, the new phone-focused streaming service, is off to a rough, rough start.