The contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be one of competing folksy moral certitudes. In spite of the manful efforts of some of my colleagues on the right, Trumpism remains a collection of shallow slogans rather than a collection of ideas or principles. Joe Biden could easily run on the slogan “Make America Great Again” if it weren’t already taken. So could have Bernie Sanders. That is because those four words have no intellectual content, only emotional appeal. What do they mean? That needs no explanation: We, the People, know! “Where I come from, Make America Great Again is so obvious that it doesn’t need explaining.” Lucky thing, that, as anybody who has ever watched President Trump try to explain anything knows. Biden made his political living serving as the credit-card industry’s ambassador to Washington. Where Joe Biden comes from, they know . . . all about the benefits of a preferential legal environment when making corporate-domiciling decisions for multinational financial concerns.
The shortcomings of folksy moral certitude are obvious enough. When there are not enough ventilators to go around, politicians will stampede to the microphones to declare: “Everybody has a moral right to health care!” Thanks for that, Bubba. The number of ventilators available after that declaration of folksy moral certitude is — you will not be surprised to learn — exactly the same as the number of ventilators available before that declaration of folksy moral certitude. If you want to know how to get more ventilators online, then you have to tune out the folksy moral certitude for a minute or two and do the hard work of sitting down and learning about the issue from somebody who knows something about it. Those somebodies are not generally found serving in Congress.
This is a big, complex, dynamic country. Its problems are big complex, and dynamic, too — they already were before the epidemic and the recession that it is sure to produce, and they will become more so as, in the words of one famous television subtitle, “Intensity intensifies.”