Student Opinion – Biden’s disgraceful speech was clearly for the midterms
The presidency is the ultimate sales job. Instead of lemons at a used car lot, presidents use their position to sell policies and political messaging to the public. Just as a bad salesman, presidents often sell fluff and political lemons to Americans — and we buy it.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, President Biden gave a prime-time address to the nation, framing the midterm elections as a “battle for the soul of the nation.” With the backdrop of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, blood red column lights and two Marines at attention, the president gave a divisive and purely political speech with the visuals of a “Star Wars” villain.
The subject of Biden’s speech was on the existential threat that MAGA Republicans pose to American democracy. Mind you, the Democratic Party has spent $42 million promoting election-denying MAGA candidates in Republican primaries to make general elections easier wins for Democrats. Neither the president nor his party truly believe this sentiment if they are actively promoting these “threats to democracy.”
This speech was performed with a grandiose theater that would put Cirque du Soleil to shame — all under the premise of threats to democracy the president doesn’t even believe.
To be fair to the president, Biden is merely continuing a tradition of salesman-in-chief presidents. The president holds the key to politics while in office, being in a position of authority to perform even the most absurd hackery imaginable. Regardless of whether they truly believe in something, boy, do they sell it.
President Lyndon B. Johnson, an infamous closet racist, knew the optics of championing the Civil Rights Acts and nominating Thurgood Marshall as the first Black associate justice on the Supreme Court. He was a Democratic Party salesman, and the American people bought it up.
President Donald Trump pushed the presidency to new heights of salesmanship, from his active Twitter to arena-packing rallies. He understood political symbols. He wanted a physical border wall, a “big, beautiful” sign of visual policy achievement despite only a fraction of it being completed. The idea of it was what mattered to him and his base.
Political symbolism is an inescapable facet of American politics. It evokes emotions within us that parties prey on. The trick is to not buy into it.
“MAGA Republicans are threatening democracy!” the president shouts in front of an ominous background. The optics are absurd, almost satirical.
In the acclaimed TV comedy “The Office,” Dunder Mifflin salesman Dwight Schrute wins an award for salesman of the year at his company and has to give a speech to a large audience. He has paralyzing stage fright, and his prankster coworker Jim capitalizes on this, giving Dwight a speech by infamous dictator Benito Mussolini and advising him, “Wave your arms, and you’ve gotta pound your fists many times so as to emphasize your point.”
Dwight, after having an initial nervous breakdown when introduced, finally musters up the courage to give the speech. He gives a ridiculously dramatic delivery of the Mussolini speech to comedic cheers of inspired applause from the unsuspecting audience.
The crowd ate up the speech of imagery without substance, the same response Biden hoped for with his own speech.
Not a single American should be fooled by such a display. President Biden has been in politics for 50 years — he’s always used symbolism. Although probably only Democrats, some will unfortunately find this hollow shell of a speech a powerful moment.
The speech was advertised as an address to the nation on the state of the democracy. Instead, it was clearly a political speech for the midterms. From the Bidens walking to the podium with the tune of “Hail to the Chief” to the red lights and background troops, this twisted showmanship is cringey pandering and needs to stop.
Don’t buy it.
Browder is the opinion editor. Follow him on Twitter