You Laughed at Biden, but Now Biden Will Get the Last Laugh
The ‘October Surprise’ is ironically one of the most expected and dependable election events each cycle. Historically, something shocking happens in the final weeks of a race, and it upends the entire situation. For example, James Comey’s announcement of a new investigation into Hillary Clinton’s missing emails in 2016.
For months, Donald Trump and the Republicans have lambasted the aging former Vice President for his hands-off, limited campaign strategy. ‘Sleepy Joe’ rang out across raucous, mostly maskless crowds at rallies around the country. Even the media questioned the tactic. Did Joe Biden have enough left in the tank to run for President?
I wrote an article in May that Biden needed to stop taking advantage of voter sentiment. Expressing frustration in his Laissez-faire approach, even I fell prey to it. However, I slowly began to realize the positive side of such a campaign.
His run for the presidency had evolved during the pandemic, with a healthy abundance of caution. Media and opponents have criticized the strategy endlessly. Calling it light, lethargic, lacking energy, and without enthusiasm — traditionally, it would be a real campaign killer.
But on October 2nd, 31 days before the election, Donald Trump headed to the hospital, experiencing mild coronavirus symptoms. Where was Joe Biden? He was in Michigan, campaigning to be the next President of the United States.
Rallies at All Costs
It took approximately three months for Donald Trump to grow tired of the coronavirus. His proxy rallies during daily coronavirus briefings weren’t cutting it anymore. So in June, he began holding rallies again to buoy his re-election campaign. Beginning with Tulsa, the President restarted his propaganda machine as he geared up for the November election.
Trump would go on to hold mostly outdoor rallies on at least 25 occasions from June through September. All of these rallies featured large crowds that did not adhere to social distancing guidelines and very few masks were seen among the attendees. The only face coverings you primarily saw were the handpicked supporters chosen to sit behind the President.
Scientists called these rallies super-spreader events. While the President claimed that he was safe, very far away from the crowd on the stage; very little consideration was extended to his supporters. The symbolism of such a statement, or omittance, can be seen as a throughline of his entire life and presidency.
Donald Trump never learned how to evolve. His strategies, if you can call them that, have always worked, so why wouldn’t they also work during a pandemic? Throw money at it, and make a spectacle; it got him elected President after all. As we have learned the hard way, counting more than 200,000 American deaths, the virus does not care.
The calculus was easy for Trump. He was okay with risking other Americans’ health, and ultimately his own health, to try and hold onto the presidency. Like Santa Claus, Trump’s ‘belief meter’ was dangerously low, and he only knows one way to refill it: large, loud rallies of his most loyal followers.
The Tortoise and the Hare
Aesop is turning over in his grave right now. 2,600 years after the Greek writer penned the famous fable, a version of it has come to life in 2020. There is no better moral story to assign to this moment; one that has become a household favorite, and cautionary tale, for millions of children.
After being accused of being slow by the hare, the tortoise challenged the hare to a race. Supremely confident in their abilities, the hare quickly agreed. At the beginning of the race, the hare took off and was so far ahead of the tortoise, they stopped and took a nap until the tortoise could catch up. Carelessly, the hare slept too long, and the tortoise slowly, steadily passed the sleeping hare and won the race.
When the primaries and early general election campaign began, Biden was ‘hiding’ in his basement while Trump gave daily briefings. Once bored with the daily briefings, Trump decided to continue to hold large rallies, against doctors and scientists’ advice, while Biden was selective in his interviews and public appearances.
As Trump sprinted out into the countryside to build enthusiasm and display his immense power, Joe Biden continued slowly on his set course. Despite criticism and pleading from enemies and supporters alike, the former VP did not blink. He lumbered on with virtual town halls, small press conferences, and socially distanced meet and greets with supporters.
Trump’s coronavirus positivity and hospitalization bring his campaign to a sudden and destructive halt. While Trump stands still for at least two weeks, half of the remaining time left in the election, Joe Biden sticks to the same strategy he has had all along. Because of that, he is slowly and consistently shuffling past Donald Trump toward the presidency.
The Finish Line
While the media and Americans criticized Joe Biden, he never once questioned his campaign strategy. The world had long been focused on short-term enthusiasm. Joe Biden didn’t give any consideration to other tactics. He was always focused on the endgame. And to get to the finish line, Biden knew he personally had to remain healthy throughout the race.
With an election campaign as high stakes as this one, every available minute is vital to its success. Donald Trump missed out on 10 days worth of campaigning. He couldn’t hold rallies, he couldn’t stand at a podium in the White House and air his grievances.
For half of the remaining campaign, Donald Trump was grounded. Trailing in most battleground states, lagging in the polls, and fighting off PR nightmares in the form of his likely criminal taxes and inability to condemn white supremacy, this situation almost certainly spells the end of Trump’s presidency.
Sympathy strategies and propaganda have already emerged from Trump’s campaign. His sickness twisted into a rallying cry. His strength to get over it lauded as evidence of his presidential qualifications.
While Trump’s team twists and distorts the narrative, attempting to save his job, Joe Biden will be out on the campaign trail, slowly and strategically humming his tune and collecting his votes. He’s got a race to win.