Last time, I promised to go back over some of the recommendations I would make if I were coaching Joe Biden. Given my professional activity and firm belief in the impact of identity stories, I would mostly assuredly push this candidate—or nearly any other for that matter—in the direction of using the power of personal storytelling.
Concerning the other elements I listed in the previous post, we should treat them as what they are—not guidance from an expert, but remarks by an interested observer. What I propose here today is that I explain some of my suggestions a bit more. In a subsequent post, I will share some more specific advice about the type of identity stories that might help Joe Biden connect with voters.
When I say that Biden should not rely on his resume to win him the White House, I think of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Pundits and Democratic Party operatives called her the most qualified person ever to run, while her opponent was the least so. In the end, though, the public did not buy her impressive resume replete with experience, because they never learned much about her character and values when they listened to her.
In addition, I would propose that Joe Biden avoid complexity in his public statements, allowing him to focus on issues of character and leadership. Keeping his declarations straight and simple gives his opponent fewer opportunities to attack him in speeches, rallies and social media posts.
Stand for yourself, not against President Trump. The current environment in the US, and the widespread discontent with the way Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus pandemic, may be enough to push the Democrats into power. On the other hand, we have recounted on this blog a number of examples where standing against people and things is a dangerous strategy that simply has not worked. Examples from past elections include John Kerry with then President Bush in 2004 and Hillary Clinton with Mr Trump in 2016.
In this vein, I was a bit disappointed in the Democratic convention in general, though I really did not see much of it. What I did glean from the highlights of the speeches was a distinct impression that the presenters were mostly criticizing the current administration. While I do not wish to comment on the merits of such attacks, I feel strongly that candidates and other political figures should be pushing more in the direction of defining themselves and telling their stories, rather than disparaging their opponents.
On a positive note, I was pleased to see Mr Biden make an acceptance speech where he did not mention President Trump by name. The nominee focused on his positive vision for the future, far more than his criticism of the current regime. As he moves forward in the campaign, I will remain an interested observer, if only to judge how effectively he uses his personal stories.
Tell stories of identity to complement your stories of policy. I continue to be perplexed that Democratic advisors do not seem to be encouraging Biden to tell personal stories. My surprise is all the greater because this mechanism worked so well for former president Obama throughout his career.
As I have stated in several recent posts, when I see interviews with campaign advisers and operatives, I rarely hear anything about stories of identity. They talk of “boosting storytelling”, but their examples are merely stories about how Democratic policies are working while those of the president are not.
For all the talk of the coronavirus, of a virtual campaign that some think Mr Biden can win by staying relatively quiet in his basement, why take chances? Why miss the opportunity to touch voters with anecdotes that reveal his beliefs, his values, the guiding principles of his life and work?
Despite the constraints of the pandemic, Mr Biden has to think about finding ways to get out and build trust among the public. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to use storytelling to express who he is as a person.
Next time, we will put forth some general ideas about the kinds of stories that would be most effective for advancing the Biden candidacy.
Image: Flickr user Radek Kucharski