Don’t panic, Democrats. Biden must dust himself off and get angry

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Neither candidate performed well in Thursday’s not-so-great presidential debate. The problem is that Americans hold President Biden to a higher standard than Donald Trump, allowing the former president to win a race to the bottom.

CNN broke new ground by airing commercials for the first time during a general election presidential debate. But the broadcast was not an effective ad for American democracy.

Both candidates failed to address their biggest weaknesses. Biden wasn’t able to reassure voters who might have concerns about his age. Trump failed to convince Americans that he has the moral fiber and credibility to be an honest and trustworthy leader.

On X, former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann accurately described Trump’s performance as a “firehose of lies.” President Biden was tentative and failed to capitalize on his opponent’s serial lies.

CNN’s decision to mute mics was wise, but the network’s failure to instantaneously fact check the candidates was an abrogation of its obligation to be a source of reliable news. The network’s faulty decision allowed Trump to ride roughshod over the truth. 

If the news network had silenced the microphones when a candidate told a lie, viewers wouldn’t have heard Trump at all. But they still would have known he was lying because his lips were moving. The absence of accountability for Trump is like gifting your passwords to a serial hacker.

The president is taking heat from his own party for his faulty performance. There’s unrealistic talk about replacing him at the Democratic National Convention. Democrats clearly have higher standards since there’s little or no talk among GOP insiders about replacing the convicted felon at their confab.

The face off was not the end of the world as Democrats know it. There are still four months left in the campaign, so there’s no need to panic. 

The Biden campaign needs to get the president on the road in the battleground states among enthusiastic supporters who will buck him up. He should use the road show as an opportunity to do the job that CNN failed to do — call out Trump’s lies.

On the flip side, Trump’s debate performance demonstrates that he effectively channels the anger most voters feel about the direction of the nation. He used the term “failing nation” more than once in his presentation. Many troubled Americans gravitate to Trump because he’ll shoot first and ask questions later.

In presidential politics, attitude matters as much as issues. Trump’s quarrelsome personality and angry body language mirrors the public mood better than Biden’s calm demeanor.

The president had a bad night, but he must rub some dirt on his wound, get off the floor and shake off the injury. He should get angry and be more aggressive to reflect the nasty pessimism that afflicts the body politic. He must call Trump out for his cascade of lies to destroy the Republican’s credibility by the time voters become more attentive after Labor Day. 

All good political narratives need heroes and villains. 

Trump exhibited his capacity to create enemies by demonizing immigrants all through the evening. He even accused his successor of making the U.S. into a “third world country,” which was a devious way of re-enforcing his attacks on immigrants.

The president should deflect attacks on his economic record by attacking the bad actors in corporate America whose price gouging creates record profits for a favored few and financial misery for millions of hard-working American families.

The next big date in the accelerated campaign calendar is Trump’s sentencing on his conviction for felony fraud in the hush money case. Biden may be 81, but the number that should matter is the 34 felonies.

The president is taking a beating now, but the worm may turn on July 11 when Judge Juan Merchan has his say. Stay tuned for the next episode of Law and Order: Campaign 2024. 

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster, CEO of Bannon Communications Research and the host of the popular progressive podcast on power, politics and policy, Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon.

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