On Wednesday night, much of the Democratic National Convention focused on reaching voters outside the party’s tent. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg made the case for Hillary Clinton, from the perspective of an independent (oligarch). Leon Panetta made a nonpartisan argument for Clinton’s superior qualifications to command the world’s most powerful army. Tim Kaine invited Republicans who no longer recognize the “party of Lincoln” to join the Democratic Party.
Vice-President Joe Biden made a subtler appeal to the other side of the aisle, when he asked the convention hall to take in his best Trump attack lines in (momentary) silence.
“Just listen to me a second without booing or cheering,” Biden said, before asking the nation to contemplate Donald Trump’s nihilism. “His cynicism and undoubtedly his lack of empathy and compassion can be summed up in that phrase he is most proud of making famous:
‘You’re fired.’ I’m not joking. Think about that. Think about that. Think about everything you learned as a child. No matter where you were raised, how can there be pleasure in saying, ‘You’re fired?’ He is trying to tell us he cares about the middle class. Give me a break. That is a bunch of malarkey.”
That Trump has not lived his life in a manner that evinces deep concern for the working man is not a partisan point. It is a statement of fact. By asking the audience to briefly withhold its cheers, Biden allowed this point to be conveyed without the embellishment of partisan self-congratulation. Until he hit the word malarkey, anyway.