Anyone hoping Joe Biden would doze off or stumble on his words Thursday was likely disappointed.

The 77-year-old Democratic nominee — known for gaffes, memory lapses, an inability to finish thoughts and other senior moments — read an inspiring and hope-filled speech without major incident. The words and delivery created a better-than-expected ending to the Democratic convention.

Though the speech eased concerns of those who worry about the nominee’s mental fitness, Biden occasionally seemed to wait on the teleprompter. At times his words were slightly slurred. Biden looked every bit his age and seemed to labor through portions of the delivery.

That demeanor won’t likely improve going forward, and the debates won’t be scripted.

The talk was short on policy specifics. Biden said nothing substantive about the widespread violent upheaval in the country’s urban streets, or our problems with China and Russia.

Biden suggested his presidency could finally end the scourge of institutional racism. He would enact a nationwide mask law to help control COVID-19. He spoke of making the country more generous, strong, selfless and humble. He would tackle the “accelerating challenges” of climate change.

The speech came four days after a CNN poll showed the race narrowing, with Biden leading President Donald Trump by only 4 points — a dramatic drop from earlier polling that showed the Democrat with a solid double-digit lead. Polls are seldom moved by lectures rich in policy, and Biden’s speechwriters clearly understood as much. The script led with emotion and dwelled on it.

“I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can sometimes be,” Biden said, promising he would make life easier for everyone — especially the young who feel indebted and disenfranchised.

Biden spoke to those who loved the 170,000 people in the United States who have died of coronavirus, telling them the dead have left the earth “but will never leave your heart.” With those words, he exuded compassion. He blamed Trump for botching the pandemic response, claiming the United States has suffered more than any other country — a fact he cannot support when adjusting population variances and data-collection practices. Biden said the election is about “character, decency, and science.”

The election is, he said, a decision between darkness and light.

There was a lot of patriotic talk about freedom, life, liberty, and justice for all. Platitudes are platitudes because they work, and Biden used them liberally. The speech will likely give him a needed, if temporary, bump in the polls.

Trump and his Republican allies, who begin their convention next week, must present a convention that instills hope and confidence for a rapid end to COVID-19 and a return to the economic growth of the president’s first three years –prosperity that benefits everyone.

Republicans will be wise to observe that Democrats never mentioned impeachment during the four-day convention. Trump should remind the country how Biden’s party spent critical weeks in the early stages of the outbreak staging futile impeachment hearings instead of addressing the threat. He should remind the country how Biden routinely downplayed the virus and vehemently opposed the China-to-U.S. travel ban.

Mostly, Trump should heed Biden’s words. This election is about darkness and light, not policy details, past misstatements, or past misdeeds. It is an election about the future. Trump needs to inspire, by convincing the American people their best days lie ahead with four more years of his administration. Anything less, and Biden wins the election.

The Gazette editorial board


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