In the presidential campaign that will end in a few days, Joe Biden is an avatar of everything Trump is not in terms of his orientation toward others. His public experience of grief — having lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident, and later his son Beau — have made him particularly sensitive to how Americans are dealing with loss in the middle of a pandemic that has killed at least 227,000 people here. He does not withhold affection, or awkwardly pantomime it as Trump does.
For this, Trump’s followers have heaped disdain on Biden, most notably for having the temerity to care about his surviving son, Hunter, in public. The New York Post published a series of texts apparently sent between the Bidens while Hunter was in rehab, one of which read: “Good morning my beautiful son. I miss you and love you. Dad.” Around the same time, a photo surfaced where the men are embracing each other and Biden is kissing his son on the cheek, prompting the right-wing commentator John Cardillo to ask, “Does this look like an appropriate father/son interaction to you?” Biden’s warmth and emotional generosity, even toward his own children, is viewed as weakness. Trump adviser Mercedes Schlapp complained during a televised Biden town hall event that she felt like she was watching an episode of “Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood,” and she meant it as an insult. Being a good neighbor is antithetical to everything Republicans stand for these days.