On the Democratic National Convention’s second night, Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, took America inside her longtime marriage to the presidential nominee.
These things usually strike me as schmaltzy and inauthentic — pre-packaged montages about political leaders and their families, their personal trials and triumphs, their “normal” lives, old photos of first starting out. But as much as we know Joe — indeed, he’s been in public office on and off for the past 50 years — we saw more of the Bidens than ever before. The life they rebuilt after the tragic deaths of Joe’s first wife and daughter, their support of one another through decades of failure and successes, the agonizing loss of another child, their commitment to giving back. And whatever you think of Biden’s politics, the bottom line is clear: They’re good people.
That might not always be a leading priority in presidential politics. Being a fundamentally good person wasn’t enough to keep Jimmy Carter in the White House. Being a fundamentally bad person wasn’t enough to stop Richard Nixon from winning the White House. America’s warmed to George W. Bush’s goodness since leaving office. And it seems to have accepted Bill Clinton’s patent awfulness. Voters compartmentalize.
But this year, it feels like merely being a good person takes on more weight. After four years of a corrupt, unethical, narcissistic, racist, sexist, bullying, shaming, vengeful, spiteful, greedy, needy, lying, jerk in the White House, goodness has been gone for too long. And, ultimately, Biden’s goodness is why he’s getting my vote.
Our policies don’t always align. As a conservative, there’s much I disagree with. But we need to make America good again, and I know Joe Biden wants that too.
If that sounds unserious or vague, consider that Trump’s lack of goodness has mattered in nearly every respect. With his ego his only moral compass, it has led America down some very dark paths — from impeachment to an out-of-control pandemic that we can’t crawl out of.
Trump’s lack of goodness is evidenced in his knee-capping and silencing of his critics, including in the media. It’s in his sexist attacks on women. It’s in his shameful smears against his own public servants, military heroes and American leaders — even dead ones.
Trump’s disregard for goodness has seeped into the fabric of the nation, as he has encouraged Americans to turn against Americans, to blame our neighbors for our lots, to hate the media, the establishment, the left, the right, immigrants, foreigners, the NFL, the FBI and anyone else who makes a useful target for him.
It has led to corruption at nearly every level of government, in nearly every branch of government. It is currently leading to attempts at voter suppression and could result in elections that are neither fair nor free. The fact that Trump is a terrible person with no sense of what’s right and what’s wrong has tainted his entire presidency and everything he’s done during it.
We need to be good again. We need a president who will respect the rules of basic common decency, as well as the rule of law, the Constitution and the separation of powers. We need a president who, even when he’s pushing policies half the country doesn’t support, won’t demonize his opponents as enemies of the people.
We need a president who believes deeply in democracy and the institutions it values — someone who will work within the confines of the democratic system instead of trying to weaken it for his advantage.
We need a president who when he is against the wall won’t berate his opponents with sexist, racist, incendiary invective — who will take his inevitable lumps like an adult and get back to work for us.
We need a president who believes America is already great not because it looks like him but because it doesn’t, and who will celebrate and honor the hard-working people who came here to find a better life.
We need a president who thinks kids belong in classrooms, not cages, who thinks our men and women in uniform deserve better than to be used as props, who thinks our allies are our great advantage and that our enemies deserve our scorn, not admiration.
Goodness matters more than ever before. I know I won’t agree with everything Joe Biden does, and I’m OK with that. Because no matter what he does, I know his fundamental goodness will guide him — and the country — down a better path.
S.E. Cupp is host of “S.E. Cupp: Unfiltered” on CNN.