With four weeks left in the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden, who has long denounced President Trump as a voice of discord and a particularly dangerous challenge to American ideals, seems to be outlining a final, unifying message to the voters.
The Democratic candidate, speaking Tuesday afternoon over the battlefield where Union soldiers in Gettysburg, Pa., tipped the tide of the Civil War, tried to frame his call for reconciliation within the arc of American history.
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Most of Biden’s speech was about tone and rhetoric but also pointed to a broad policy objective, such as the call for social justice and police reform, as well as economic policies geared at Americans of the poor and middle classes.
Biden has repeatedly returned to the idea of a “struggle for America’s soul” since he began his presidential election in April 2019. Tuesday’s speech was a clear effort to put the final arguments of his campaign — both in view and in its tone — into this sort of elevated and high-minded narrative.
Obviously, Gettysburg was one of the largest battles during the Civil War, in which the Union side repulsed a Southern invasion force in 1863. Together with a simultaneous Union win at Vicksburg, Miss, the war brought renewed strength to the Union and the Lincoln administration and two years later launched its ultimate victory. In late 1863, Lincoln reframed with his Gettysburg Speech both the aims of war and the basic aims of American democracy.
Biden’s talk comes on the same day that a former first lady, Michelle Obama, one of the most influential voices in the Democratic Party gave a 24-minute online video of her own closing arguments.