It’s official – Donald Trump and Joe Biden are the Republican and Democratic nominees for president in 2020. While the American people have known for months now that the two politicians would likely be going up against each other on Election Day, their nominee acceptance speeches gave the American people two very different views of America.
Joe Biden’s speech began almost immediately by arguing that America was in a dark place. Directly citing the immense polarization in our country today, Biden vowed to be the candidate America needed, someone who could bring America back from its current despair. Biden was portraying President Trump as the source of this despair through all his speech. It was not until the last half of the address where Biden went in-depth about his policies and promises for America. While Biden mentioned the tragedies surrounding our country in recent months, he ended on a more hopeful, inspiring tone that contrasted the entirety of the Democratic National Convention.
While President Trump would have proper defenses to Biden’s attacks on his administration, it seemed Biden intended to unify, not divide. Unlike 2016, when Hillary Clinton would attack President Trump’s inability to give policy answers properly, Joe Biden’s strategy in his speech seemed to revolve around pointing out the tragedies and problems America is facing that the president has been unable to solve completely. Democrats have certainly taken notes from 2016 and learned that running campaigns solely on successful policies from the past are no more effective than attacks against policy failures.
President Trump’s speech was totally unapologetic and immensely patriotic. The president spent the first half of his speech talking about the story of America, accusing Joe Biden and the Democratic Party of being ashamed of our shared American history. Trump then went in-depth about his accomplishments since becoming president. He highlighted his fight against globalism waged through the trade war with China, the threats against NATO to increase funding, and the renegotiation of NAFTA as part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.
Trump also touted his accomplishments to his Republican supporters by citing the number of conservative judges appointed to federal courts throughout the country – over 300, a great victory for constitutional conservatives. Rather than play defense against accusations of mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic, the president went on the offensive. He cited various statistics regarding America’s testing capabilities, the much lower fatality rate compared to the European Union, and the innovation of America’s vaccine trials. This part of the speech was very effective since most of Joe Biden’s election campaign revolves around Trump blundering America’s response to the pandemic.
Interestingly enough, mainstream news outlets argued that President Trump’s speech was dark and empty of hope and that Biden’s speech was more inspiring and hopeful of the future. Perhaps it was a mistake for Trump to focus on the good before the bad, and a better decision to save the optimistic rhetoric for the last quarter of the speech as Biden had done, but this could also be a simple case of selective media bias. Trump’s speech consisted of his administration’s universally accepted accomplishments, trying to broaden his appeal to Republican voters. Biden’s speech appeared designed to draw an emotional response from viewers, especially older ones who understand that this is not the same America they had grown up in.
The reversal in campaign strategy from 2016 to 2020 seen in both parties is fascinating and will mix things up by Election Day. Biden will likely continue to promote himself as a uniting figure in the face of deep polarization and vision within America. In contrast, Trump will continue to portray himself as the accomplished president standing in the way of radical Democrats who want to fundamentally change America for the worse. Only time will tell us which narrative will resonate with Americans at the voting booth.