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Joe Biden’s campaign announcement video—he’s running for president, of course—begins with Charlottesville, Va. It’s a choice, and the construct it reflects is an interesting one. It says a lot.
“Charlottesville, Virginia,” Biden says to the camera, “is home to the author of one of the great documents in human history.” He’s talking about Thomas Jefferson, naturally, and Biden goes on to recite a chunk of the famous second sentence from the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. “It’s who we are,” he says. “We haven’t always lived up to these ideals. Jefferson himself didn’t. But we have never before walked away from them.”
Video - Cuts - Footage - Charlottesville - Unite
The video cuts from there to footage of the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, a de facto Donald Trump fan meet-up at which hordes of torch-bearing white conservatives attacked anti-racist protestors; a neo-Nazi named James Alex Fields, Jr. drove his car into a crowd of the latter group, killing an activist named Heather Heyer. “It was there,” Biden says, “in August of 2017, we saw Klansmen and white-supremacists and Neo-Nazis come out in the open. Their crazed faces, illuminated by torches, veins bulging, and baring the fangs of racism, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the ‘30s.”
Biden goes on to salute the protestors who showed up to confront the rally; he rightly calls out and condemns the moral equivalence Trump drew between the two groups with his infamous “very fine people on both sides” remark. All of this is elementary politician stuff that’s notable mainly because Trump was unwilling even to attempt to do it. It’s the rhetorical framing of that first bit that’s the key part.
Ways - Biden - Appeal
In many ways, Biden is offering both an appeal to and...
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