When I heard that Joe Biden was going to Houston yesterday to meet with George Floyd’s family before his funeral today, I immediately thought, “Don’t go, Joe!”
It’s not that Biden shouldn’t show his sympathy to the Floyd family — an attribute which he’s so good at, a major differentiator with the Liar-In-Chief. Rather, my concern is that Biden would be once again leaving the quarantine bubble he’s been living in at home. At his age, with COVID-19 still infecting and killing people around the world, I’d rather he just stay inside and protect his health. After all, he not only has to make it through Election Day, he has to be healthy enough to take the oath of office on Inauguration Day.
Staying home hasn’t hurt Biden. His lead in the polls has gone up — CNN had him ahead 55-41% yesterday, although those numbers don’t necessarily translate to victory in November. Biden’s team has been doing more and better digital advertising in the last two weeks, and he’s gotten a bit better at appearing in public from his basement studio, all while Agent Orange has been self-immolating over the Black Lives Matter protests.
So why risk having a 77-year-old man shaking hands with and standing around other humans, even with a face mask? Besides, the fewer opportunities Biden has to speak, the less he’s likely to commit a verbal gaffe he then has to apologize for.
In an interview in Houston on Monday, one of the things Biden said was he does not support defunding the police. While that movement is well-intentioned and long overdue, its messaging is problematic. When activists say, “Defund The Police,” they always have to append an explanation of what that means, which is not that we should do away with police departments entirely. Yet using the phrase gives opponents — especially GOP politicians and their right-wing media propaganda loudmouths — an opportunity to turn it against those who advocate for it.
Politics doesn’t do subtleties well, particularly when the incumbent president speaks in fifth-grade soundbites that his supporters eat up and readily chant (e.g. “Lock her up!”). This has long been true. Bill Clinton, though a total issues wonk, did not get elected because of his nuanced approach to financial matters. He won the presidency because James Carville kept repeating, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
Even the phrase Black Lives Matter took quite a bit of delineation. Its intent wasn’t really understood by the majority of Americans until recent police murders (e.g. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile) were caught on cellphone video and the cops who committed the deadly acts were not held responsible. Now, as the protests around the US indicate, the issue has finally broken through to the mainstream and public opinion has been swayed. That’s quite an achievement, of which the organizers in every large city and small town should be proud.
emember, this is not about the movement, it’s about the messaging. It is with that in mind that I say the phrase “Defund The Police” must be abandoned immediately in favor of something easier for more Americans to comprehend. Perhaps “Reform The Police” would work. I don’t know.
But I am sure that if it’s not changed immediately, it could destroy the goodwill that’s been achieved by all those peaceful protestors who have filled our streets for the last two weeks and, in the process, turn an already fraught issue into a toxic one, politically.
Incidentally, speaking of messaging, my favorite new hashtag is #TrumpRecession. Since the data now shows that we were technically in a recession before the coronavirus crisis became widespread, let’s make it stick to him even more than Mike Pence does.