Joe Biden Campaign 'Be Not Afraid' Ad Pleases Base and Donors

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Pittsburgh, Pa., August 31, 2020. (Alan Freed/Reuters)

The Biden campaign has released a new ad based on his speech in Pennsylvania this week. It’s closing message is, I think, very effective. He says, “Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire.” I rate that as true. Biden says he would seek to “lower the temperature” in this country, not raise it. That would be welcome, as I think a huge number of people simply resent the ambient intensity of political messages which may seem insidious and virulent across social media. And he associates himself with Pope John Paul II’s frequent invocation of the angelic salutation: “Be Not Afraid.” If the theory is that many swing voters are Catholic (historically that’s true), all of that is good.

But I wonder if people will have tuned out by the time they get to the close. The beginning of the ad contains Biden’s denunciations, “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting.” And along with some images of destruction from this summer are some clips from the racist rally in Charlottesville a few years ago. Biden shifts to calling out Trump: “His [Trump’s] failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is.”

I’m not sure persuadable voters believe that it’s militia-like Trump supporters who have caused most of the destruction this summer. The collapsing esteem for Black Lives Matter in Wisconsin should be clue.

I know that after the killings by Kyle Rittenhouse, it may be difficult to tell a left-wing audience or the Twitter media circuit that the violence we’ve seen this summer is primarily coming from the left. Recall that it was a left-wing protestor who fired the first shot, and another who said he regretted not emptying his gun’s chamber into Rittenhouse.

There’s a real danger for Democrats of getting high on their own supply of media. I don’t know if they understand how alienating it can be to see these obvious shifts in party line, with a media and Democratic Party treating rioting and disorder as inconsequential or even positive for months, making apologies for arson. (It’s not really violence, is it?) Suddenly, violence and destruction is totally unacceptable, and it’s all Donald Trump’s fault.

Biden’s ad shows that this isn’t a message for reaching out to the middle, but for pleasing the base and donors. Biden should have taken on his own side. He could have picked the story of the Trump supporter who was shot in Portland, and the activist who shouted into a megaphone that night that it was good that he was dead, and that their community “took out the trash” by killing him. Doing that would turn down the temperature. Why didn’t he do that? Is Biden afraid to do it?

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