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US political discourse: Donald Trump vs Joe Biden Image Credit: AP

While Republican presidential candidates compete for the title of “most dystopian” and four-time-indicted former president Donald Trump tells us everything from Washington to the military to our judicial system stinks, President Biden has rolled out a new ad. It’s very different from Trump’s portrayal of an America as a non-stop horror show.

Biden’s ad, “Fought Back,” touts his economic accomplishments and accuses Republicans (while displaying Trump’s picture) of running America down. A list of bipartisan accomplishments, such as the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Chips bill, refutes the notion that the United States is paralysed or incapable of solving its problems.

“There are some who say America is failing,” the narrator says. “Not Joe Biden. He believes our best days are ahead because he believes in the American people.”

This message embodies Biden’s endemic optimism: “We just have to remember who we are. We’re the United States of America. And there’s nothing — nothing beyond our capacity — if we do it together.”

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Smart policy and bipartisan wins

Moreover, it rebukes Trump’s negativity, in effect saying: Refusing to credit the improvements in the economy is tantamount to slamming Americans and discrediting their hard work. (The ad shows Biden delivering one of his favourite lines: “It’s never, ever been a good bet to bet against America.”)

Will Americans agree with Biden’s optimistic outlook? Respondents keep telling pollsters they are pessimistic about the economy and think we are in a recession, perhaps a reflection of the incessantly negative media coverage.

However, as the mainstream media catches up with economic reality (admitting we likely will avoid a recession) and as public and private investment running in the hundreds of billions of dollars works its way through the economy, Biden stands ready to explain how his agenda — “Bidenomics” — brought us from fears of a pandemic recession to recovery.

With unemployment and inflation in decline and wages rising, the public finally might be more amenable to hearing an uplifting message. Biden would be foolish not to take credit for gains achieved as a result of smart policy and bipartisan legislative wins.

Biden's message is very different from Trump’s portrayal of an America as a non-stop horror show

Apocalyptic language

However, Biden’s ad does something more than present an economic argument. He’s asking a larger question: Do we really want to go back to the trauma of the Trump years? He is betting that voters, even if they are uncertain about the future, don’t want to wallow in anger, fear and pessimism.

He offers not only a choice between two policies but also two different visions, which are miles apart in tone. As Biden likes to say, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.” And he hopes voters will opt for his more hopeful message over Trump’s gloom and doom.

We have become so used to Republicans railing about elites, critical race theory, transgender kids, immigrants, IRS storm troopers, the FBI and more that we become acclimated to a terribly dark, frightful view of America. It’s not surprising that Trump relies on such a negative message.

Trump is nothing if not consistent. One need only recall his weird and repulsive inaugural address in 2017 (“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now”) to understand how violence, mayhem, decline and fear are essential to his message. This time around, you can expect more of his apocalyptic language (“You’re not going to have a country anymore”) and a shockingly dark picture of the United States.

Biden, therefore, has the task of not simply correcting the economic record but also of diffusing — perhaps mocking — Trump’s negativity. Things are bad for Trump, but they need not be bad for the rest of us.

We’ll be just fine if we keep our heads about us, look at the facts and trust in ourselves. That’s not a bad pitch for Biden or, for that matter, any democracy trying to ward off a hysterical demagogue. — Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin is a noted columnist and author