Joe Biden and the Soul of America

Walter Lippmann



By Michael Quinlin

We know Joe. He is one of us.

During his eight years as Vice President and through his 47 years in public office, Joe has admirably represented our nation across the world. Yet he never forgets where he came from, and is always happy to return there. He is a Regular Joe in the finest sense.

At this moment in our nation’s history, Joe Biden is the leader we need as President of the United States. He seeks to represent all Americans, not just Democrats. He doesn’t see red or blue states, only the United States. And he conveys a seriousness of purpose we need more than ever.

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Almost 80 years ago, American journalist Walter Lippmann complained about the shallow political discourse in Washington leading up to World War II.

“It is essential that the greatest matters, those involving the fate of the nation, should not be reduced to triviality by trivial comment, or, worse still, cheapened by wisecracks,” Lippmann wrote. “If voters do not find leaders who have that high seriousness which the occasion demands, they will accept leaders who pander to, and seek to profit by the universal human weakness for taking, whenever possible, the cheap and easy way out.”

These past four years, our national discourse, not just in politics but in civic life too, has been cheapened by primetime trivial pursuit. The White House strategy has been to attack, belittle and mock opponents and ordinary citizens, to cast doubt on our allies and our own military, to blur the separation of powers, to politically stack the courts.

For four years we have heard about winning and being Number One, about draining the swamp, about making America great again, that the best is yet to come. But most Americans are not winning, the swamp is murkier than ever, and America’s greatness is tarnished around the world.

Donald Trump has demonstrated once and for all that demagoguery is no real substitute for leadership.

When Joe Biden says that this election is about the Soul of America, I believe he is referring to our ongoing quest to satisfy the U.S. Constitution’s lofty ideals to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

During this near 250 year quest, we have sought to shape a national character, grounded in values such as decency, integrity, honesty, compassion, hard work and strength. We help our neighbors, the less fortunate among us, the sick and the infirm, our family members trying to get ahead. We take pride in community and pride in our nation.

I trust Joe Biden to take charge of the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent more unnecessary deaths by having consistent national standards of safety protocols. I trust him to protect the health care of regular Americans - ordinary Joes - who are most vulnerable to pre-conditions and exorbitant prescription costs. I trust him to protect our environment while building jobs in new sectors for American workers. I trust him to be transparent, and to the tell American people the truth.

As Americans of Irish descent, we are certainly proud to see Joe Biden conduct himself with honor and dignity, humor and aplomb, because this is how we were raised. He doesn’t attack and slander his opponent’s children. He doesn’t make fun of disabled people. Whether we come from cities or suburbs, rural townships or small towns, we learned in our schools and parishes to have a moral compass to guide us. Joe Biden has that moral compass.

We smile knowingly when Joe quotes Irish poets like W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney, because we understand, as President John F. Kennedy famously said in October 1963, “When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as a touchstone for our judgment.”

We understand why Joe wears his heart on his sleeve, carries a rosary in his pocket, and talks lovingly about his mother, Jean Finnegan. For these reasons and more, Joe Biden is a credit to his Irish-American, Catholic, small-town-America roots.

In the 2020 election, it turns out that our own community constitutes a potential swing vote to sway the election, according to Brian O’Dwyer, vice president of the Irish American Democrats, a political action committee.

Blue collar, union workers and ethnic Catholics in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, suddenly have a voice, after being taken for granted by both parties for decades.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, from a family that started its immigrant sojourn in the steel mills and glass factories along the Monongahela River, I yearn for a government that recognizes the enormous contributions these people - our people - have made to the United States for generations.

Like first responders and military soldiers, they have done the hard work over the decades, never complaining, never shirking their duty. They built this country, along with so many other ethnic and racial groups across America.

I hope that in electing Joe Biden as president, the best is yet to come, and we will indeed restore America as a beacon for nations around the world.

Michael Quinlin, a longtime contributor to the Echo, lives in Boston, and has been a member of the National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Council since 2008.