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America Wants to Be Loved Again

In the closing days of the 2020 election, Joe Biden’s tenderness is a compelling sight

I didn’t quite expect to be writing about Hunter Biden again, but Republican dipshits have a real fixation on the guy. This time we’re meant to be grossed out that his dad is affectionate with him. 

That’s former cop and right-wing bobblehead John Cardillo implying that Joe and Hunter Biden… fuck? Or something? Honestly, I’m not sure why they’re so bad at this. Yeah, maybe it’s weird to have a glamour photoshoot of father and son hugging and kissing, but A) the theater of politics is like that; B) almost any photo of Trump with Ivanka is just about the most disturbing glimpse into a public figure’s parenting style you could ask for; and C) a vast portion of the American electorate are desperate for that kind of tenderness right now. Cardillo suffered a brutal ratio mostly for that last reason. Joe Biden now symbolizes the reassurance we crave. 

People don’t just despise Trump — they’re embarrassed by him, and what he has done for the global image of the U.S. Our self-esteem has plummeted, every day feels like a new rock bottom, and we keep asking ourselves how it got this bad. Of course we want a kindly patriarch to hold us and tell us we are loved, that we can heal, that we will take it one day at a time and finally triumph over our flaws. Where Biden’s often inappropriate touching was a liability for him early in the campaign, it has now, in a period defined by social distancing, turned out to be a strength, at least in imagery where the embrace is consensual. It sets up, in the final stretch of the race, a powerful visual contrast to the Trumpian mixture of contempt and indifferent cruelty.

For the party of family values, the GOP seems entirely deaf to their constituents’ need to be cared for as though by a calming, responsible parent. Biden may have a so-so policy record and limited vision for the future, but if you’re sick in bed with a fever, he’s the grandpa you want to bring you soup and crackers. Our inclination to project these familial desires onto leaders is a problem in itself, yet it remains, for now, a part of the pageantry that determines who we elect. Trump doesn’t care if you’re broken or hurt; he can’t even pretend to. He can’t so much as appear to help the downtrodden. Biden, with his basic empathy, has walked into that opening.

And whether or not a Biden presidency “restores” the country as you’d hope, plenty are ready and eager to settle for a gentle, caring guy in charge. Systemic ills are bound to endure — they always have — but there will at least be the option to believe, however naïvely, that the president wants to fix them.

Right now, that’s the only sales pitch Joe actually needs.