May 28, 2020
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Bringing decency to the race for the president

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

It’s a beautiful thing when quiet, ordinary people rise up and say “enough.” That’s what’s been happening in the Democratic Party as suburban moms, African Americans, voters with college degrees and older voters flock to the one candidate that’s cornered the market on nice.

Just when everyone thought this election would turn on the economy, or on Trumpism, or on the 1 percent, or on who captivated the young’uns, it’s gone goody two-shoes. It’s the decency election, stupid.

It’s obvious why decency’s made a comeback. After watching our president throw paper towels at hurricane victims, pay off porn stars, parody a disabled reporter and act aggrieved that Americans on a cruise ship wanted to come home for coronavirus treatment, the quiet folks said “enough.”

An early harbinger of this growing public sentiment came from the black community, known for church suppers and skill picking Democratic winners. In Mississippi last week, black support for Joe Biden was a jaw-dropping 87 percent to Bernie Sanders’ 10 percent, according to the New York Times.

No wonder Sanders is mad. The fact is, Sanders can’t win a decency election. The senator from Vermont is many things: an avowed democratic socialist, an acerbic critic of income inequality, a leader of young progressives and reportedly, the Democratic pick of Vladimir Putin. But no one anywhere has ever accused Sanders or his Bernie Bros of being nice.

Not to pile on, but doesn’t it make sense that aggressive young white guys who spew online venom, comparing Mayor Pete to “a rat,” Elizabeth Warren to “a snake” and union leaders in Nevada to “bitches,” “whore,” “f——— scab” and “evil, entitled a—holes” all feel the Bern?

Biden, whose biggest fault is smelling hair, doesn’t have anybody like that. No, they’re pretty down to earth folk and they don’t make much noise. They just vote.

There have been other moments in American history like this one when the tectonic plates shifted over something that’s hard to manufacture, you just know it when you feel it. That single American value has changed the course of history more than once. It happened in 1954 when Joseph Welch said to Sen. Joe McCarthy, “you have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir?” It happened in 1963 when four little black girls were killed by a bomb at a Birmingham, Alabama, church by members of the Ku Klux Klan. And it looks like it might be happening now.

Two years ago a grieving, white-haired man stepped up to the podium at John McCain’s funeral and delivered a eulogy to a group of Republican insiders. “My name is Joe Biden. I’m a Democrat. And I loved John McCain.”

Last week, after winning three more states in the race for the Democratic nomination, the former vice president declared, “We are a step closer to restoring decency.” It will be a brutal slog to November, but in a decency election it’s hard to see how someone like Biden could lose.

Nancy Anne Langer (naflanger@gmail.com) has worked for human rights causes on four continents. She was associate director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, president of the Hetrick-Martin Institute and served in senior roles at the UN Refugee Agency and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

 


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