I get that Joe Biden’s rallies are supposed to be exemplars of social distancing, but this is a bit ridiculous.
The Democratic nominee had basically decided to omit rallies entirely from his campaign agenda amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Apparently, however, that wasn’t making the grade — so, he’s decided to restart the rallies, albeit with a different flavor than you might normally expect.
Thus, his latest assemblies have been drive-in shindigs.
These are strange affairs to begin with — events that look like they’re straight out of the Pixar movie “Cars” than something that’s actually happening. Not only that, but they feature Biden giving mostly canned remarks.
At an event in Detroit on Friday, Biden was joined by roughly 200 cars and the Detroit Youth Choir, according to WILX-TV. (That’s a pretty tiny turnout, compared to the showings of support Trump gets on a regular basis.)
The Detroit Youth Choir, it’s worth noting, wasn’t in any sort of vehicle. One could engage in all sorts of fun speculation regarding whether this meant its members were less important than those in the cars or whether this means the whole drive-in movie vibe wasn’t necessary to begin with. (Biden, it’s worth noting, did kind of care about whether or not members of the choir were “freezing to death” due to the low temperature; “I tell you what, man, you ought to huddle on the bus or something,” he said.)
When his remarks weren’t of the canned variety, being delivered off of the huge teleprompter in front of him, they were a bit awkward. Biden’s pandering involved telling the crowd “there’s no better, no more appropriate place to hold a drive-in rally than in Motor City USA” and then lapsing into a version of The Onion’s famous “Diamond” Joe Biden parody.
“My name’s Joe Biden, I’m a car guy and I got a ’67 Corvette that’s Goodwood green,” Biden told the crowd, such as it was. (Just to underline that fact, The Detroit News reported he’d arrived in that very car, which he presumably didn’t drive from Delaware himself.)
He then pointed to one of the cars that showed up, presumably another Corvette: “That’s a 60 — that’s not a ’67. That’s a 427 [cubic-inch engine]. That thing gets up and goes.”
Given who said this, he was probably pointing at a Segway that event security was using. Anyhow, apparently Biden’s people forgot the appropriate amplifiers or the little portable speakers they hand out to moviegoers. Or, if they didn’t, someone didn’t tell Biden he didn’t need to scream so loud:
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) October 16, 2020
If there was any reason for the loudness, it was because the car horns serving as “applause” seemed to be breaking Biden’s concentration. If you want context, this was as Biden was giving his usual spiel about how he’s just a blue-collar guy at heart and how he “grew up surrounded by hard work and families. In Scranton, Pennsylvania; Claymont, Delaware.”
Tell me if you’ve ever heard this kind of talk from a candidate before: “The stakes in this election remind me of something my dad used to say. He said, ‘Joey, a job’s about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in your communities. Be able to look your child in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK,’ and mean it.’ Well, that’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.”
And as Joe Biden has told his son, it’s like an honest month’s work for an honest month’s $50,000 paycheck from a Ukrainian energy concern. Anyhow, you’ve probably heard that kind of talk from a candidate before, but you probably haven’t had it yelled at you quite like this. You also probably haven’t been at an event where the teleprompter apparently couldn’t fit on stage — as it does nearly everywhere else — and had to instead be put on a massive screen opposite the candidate.
To the extent that there was anything novel in the address, it was Biden using the alleged attempt by members of an extremist militia called the Wolverine Watchmen to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a springboard to accuse President Donald Trump of (sigh) not condemning white supremacy, even though the group that allegedly tried to kidnap Whitmer also hated Trump as well.
Here’s a clip of Biden talking about “armed militias roaming America’s streets,” a clip that should serve as a sobering rejoinder to anyone who condemns Trump’s “law and order” message as being hyperbolic.
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) October 16, 2020
“These guys are hatching violent and deranged schemes, like the one against Gov. Whitmer that the FBI and local law enforcement uncovered and stopped last week,” Biden said.
“That’s the sort of behavior you might expect from ISIS that should shock the conscience of every American to see that sort of twisted thinking take root here in America. But all president does, Trump does, is fan the flames of hatred and division in this country. Telling the Proud Boys in the debate with me — when I said, ‘Will you condemn them? He said, ‘I’ll tell them to stand back and stand by.’ What the hell’s the matter with this guy?”
That whole “stand back and stand by” Proud Boys exchange, by the way, was during one of the many, many instances of cross-talk during the Sept. 29 debate in which it was clear from context that Trump wasn’t fanning any “flames of hatred and division” but chose his language poorly.
He’d explicitly condemn the Proud Boys in a Fox News interview after the debate (“I’ve said it many times, let me be clear again, I condemn the KKK. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys,” he told Sean Hannity, according to Breitbart).
Furthermore, I’m slightly amazed Biden wants to make a thing out of the president’s poor choice of words here, since this was the same debate exchange in which Biden said that “antifa is an idea, not an organization,” according to a transcript of the event from Rev. If verbal infelicity is seen as giving a green light to violent groups, can we ask, “[w]hat the hell’s the matter with” Biden?
Here’s the full event:
At least Biden can say he drew roughly 200 cars in Detroit. At an Oct. 12 event in Toledo, Ohio, which the New York Post described as having taken place in “a half-empty parking lot,” Biden drew roughly 30 vehicles:
Joe Biden’s rally today in the UAW parking lot in Toledo is a drive in pic.twitter.com/IlpJz54A25
— Darrel Rowland (@darreldrowland) October 12, 2020
The left continues to go after President Trump’s in-person rallies, no matter how much social distancing ends up being employed — mostly because of the number of people he ends up drawing. Contrast this with Biden, whose campaign called this a “voter mobilization” event that seemed to have far more people involved in pulling it off than actually watching.
There’s a clear voter enthusiasm gap between the two candidates, as Biden’s strange drive-in event in Detroit proved. His campaign is betting on the fact that, even if the base of liberals who still get excited about Joe Biden after his nearly half-century in politics is small, the base of those who can get motivated because it means voting Trump out of office is much larger.
We’ll find out whether that bet pays off on Nov. 3. However, this should also serve as a reminder that if Biden’s people were so sure about that prospect, they wouldn’t have their septuagenarian candidate out in the cold in the middle of the biggest city in a swing state loudly making his pitch to 200 vehicles.
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