Human Rights & Democracy

April 1, 2020: Two Tuesdays—What to Remember

Posted on April 01, 2020 at 12:00 AM

Joe Biden won overwhelmingly in the South Carolina Democratic Party primary February 27, having plummeted to as low as fourth place in the first three democratic party primaries. The result was a great Super Tuesday. A result of his great Super Tuesday was that major primary opponents dropped out of the primary race and endorsed his candidacy. As a result of that Super Tuesday, he had a fantastic primary day on second Super Tuesday, March 10, including winning in the delegate-rich state of Michigan, where his opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders had beaten Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The press seemed uncomfortable dealing with a space-launch size rise for Joe Biden in landing this summer’s nomination. It has already gotten back to its regular comfortable parameters of discourse after South Carolina by talking about demographic groups and how they add up in the nomination race, and with endless second Super Tuesday comparisons with 2016 elections.

However, we need to remember two factors about Super Tuesday I and the lead-up to Super Tuesday II. First is the serious, dramatic, and compelling statement by Congressman James Clyburn, urging his fellow South Carolinians to vote for Biden. This wasn’t just Clyburn’s position as an African American charging up the African American vote for Biden. Clyburn almost single-handedly brought a new leading message into the Democratic Party nomination race: the need for an America united behind its core values of decency, integrity, and empathy. Clyburn wanted all who heard him to know how important Biden’s empathy and kindness for Clyburn’s late wife Emily was for him. How he identified these core values with the greatness of America.

“We don’t need to make this country great again. This country is great. That’s not what our challenge is…. Our challenge is making the greatness of this country accessible and affordable for all…. This country is at an inflection point,” he went on. “It is time to restore this country’s dignity, this country’s respect. That is what is at stake this year, and I can think of no one better suited, better prepared. I can think of no one with the integrity, no one more committed to the fundamental principles that make this country what it is than my good friend—my late wife’s great friend—Joe Biden.” Clyburn spoke directly to the danger posed by the denigration of decency and goodness in a Trump political culture. “Some folks tend to confuse goodness with weakness.” “Some folks,” meaning President Trump.

We need a daily “empathy watch” for Donald Trump. It certainly would be good to underscore his almost daily identification of goodness and empathy with weakness—like putting children in the cages on the border. It is true that Trump might think of them as subhuman, brown-skinned, Latinos, and therefore interpreting caging them as just another example of Trump’s justified racism. But that interpretation would not apply to the Americans caught on the cruise ship Crown Princess. There were coronavirus cases on board. Trump didn’t want to let it land so that people on board could be properly processed for treatment or quarantine. He obviously thought people would understand when

he said he didn’t want them back in the country because that would raise the statistics on the prevalence of the virus. That would be against his personal interest—the stock market. “Goodness is weakness.” People on the ship were not a target for empathy because he clearly doesn’t know how to feel or to think how he should feel.

Perhaps because Trump’s lack of empathy is so obvious, Joe Biden hasn’t had to direct his pro-empathy messages in terms of Trump’s deficiencies or to cover his messages with the “respectable” argument that at the end of the day it’s all about our national security (although that is perfectly true). He has been able to use it as part of his call for Americans to understand that we are a people united, above all by our values.

The second message to remember about the “Two Tuesdays” is just how big the news was and is. It is important to keep the scale of an event up-front with the American people in reporting. Unfortunately, the media isn’t going to say, “I am talking about little events today; the big event was….” Journalists are not going to lead their stories with, “Remember we are living in the aftermath of South Carolina.” But that is the truth.

— Elizabeth Spiro Clark, Chair, Human Rights and Democracy Task Force

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