Political Campaigns Should Be About Ideas...Not Personalities

Aug 27, 2020


  Commentary: “Joe Biden likes you.” 


That was what commentator Ezra Klein took away when Joe Biden secured the Democrats’ nomination for president. Klein wrote: “Joe Biden likes you if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. He likes you even if you don’t like him, because it’s his job to like you, no matter how you vote.”


Now that the figurative confetti has dropped, let’s get real: It is not, in fact, Joe Biden’s job to like you. 

When he promised to work as hard for those who didn’t support him as for those who did, Biden may have been sincere; but liking you is not a president’s job. 


Hopefully, a president governs benevolently on behalf of the general welfare. We’d like the president to be a decent, ethical being. 


Yet the American republic from its founding has carefully balanced the interests of property, the opulent minority of which James Madison spoke frankly, against the interests of the masses.


That founders inherited the idea that there is a class of person best suited to govern; an aristocratic idea. And yet, since the masses outnumber them, popular sentiment is important for maintaining power.


Thus, public relations and professional politics are critical to managing information and popular opinion. Part of this is assuring the public the president likes them. At least, in general.  


Some say the United States has, in effect, a single party: the Property Party, with a rivalry between two managers: the Republicans and the Democrats. 


At election time, Democrats present themselves as the more inclusive and compassionate of America’s managers, the party that likes you (the working class) more than the other camp. Republicans contest that claim, telling its base that elitist “liberals” actually hold them in contempt; and so it goes, in one cycle after another. 


fascinating survey by the nonprofit Beyond Conflict found, among other things, that Americans occupy far more common ground than Democrats or Republicans commonly believe exists. Not only that, but the perception that the other camp despises them is much greater than the reality. In short: we have our differences, but we like each other more than think we do. 


And social democratic ideas, like national health insurance, are generally more popular among us than with the leadership of our political parties. 


This exaggerated polarization has served the powerful more than any of “us.” 


The public relations aspect of what is sometimes called “retail politics” has us bamboozled if we think Joe Biden and Donald Trump are as kin to us as friends and family, when in fact they both belong to a ruling class that holds our interests in check.


This should not dissuade us from exercising our vote; but when we do, remember we are selecting an officer, not a friend.