The Republican and Democratic Party conventions convey opposite views of America.
One is a land of opportunity, abundance, interracial partnerships and historical achievements; the other is of a country on its knees, broken by racism and misogyny—and with an economy brought to the brink of collapse by a menacing pandemic.
When Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden delivered his acceptance speech, there were many, tall, majestic American flags in the background. This was meant to convey the image of a future leader who could proudly represent this nation.
But within his speech, Biden’s America is not described as a country worthy of patriotism and reverence. In his version of reality, this nation is full of failure.
Biden’s United States is beset by crises, including “the worst pandemic in over 100 years” and the “worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” In addition, there are imminent calls for “racial justice” and “accelerating threats of climate change.”
“We lead the world in confirmed cases. We lead the world in deaths,” he said, describing our response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our economy is in tatters, with Black, Latino, Asian American, and Native American communities bearing the brunt of it,” Biden said, conveying an oppressive country where every misfortune is compounded for non-whites.
“One of the most powerful voices we hear in the country today is from our young people,” Biden said.
“They’re speaking to the inequity and injustice that has grown up in America. Economic injustice. Racial injustice. Environmental injustice,” he added.
Why would Biden even want to lead this country if it is beset with intrinsic shortcomings?
Yet, this very same nominee touted the remarkable achievements of his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
“Her story is the American story,” Biden said.
Which America was he referring to at this juncture? Is it the one that is full of injustice and oppression, as he had just said?
“She knows about all the obstacles thrown in the way of so many in our country,” Biden said.
“Women, Black women, Black Americans, South Asian Americans, immigrants, the left-out and left-behind,” Biden stated.
“But she’s overcome every obstacle she’s ever faced,” he added, apparently oblivious to the fact that these statements and her very existence on his ticket contradict his bleak view of our nation.
Harris is a biracial senator, daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father who immigrated to this country. She might one day become the next president of the most powerful nation in the history of the world.
Only in a unique and extraordinary country could this be possible.
This irony was lost on the very man asking the electorate to make him their leader.
By contrast, the Republican convention featured a different story. The very first night of the convention was titled “Land of Promise.”
“I am living my mother’s American Dream,” Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina stated. He is the first African American to serve in both the House and Senate.
He described America as a great meritocracy.
”I realized a quality education is the closest thing we have to magic in America,” Scott said, describing his journey from humble beginnings to becoming a businessman, congressman and senator.
Scott narrated the remarkable story of his family. His grandfather was forced to leave school and to pick cotton.
“Yet, he lived to see his grandson become the first African American to be elected to both the United States House and Senate,” Scott said.
“Our family went from Cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” the senator stated in the most memorable phrase of the night.
Both the Republican and Democratic Party declare that this election is a battle for the “soul” of the nation. It is also a battle for its history and legacy.
What is America? Has she been a “city upon a hill,” as the Republicans contend or a “land of darkness” as Biden and the Democrats believe?
The 2020 victor will either represent an affirmation of our glorious past and present or a rejection of our great history, culture and way of life.