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This Joe Biden thing about “a battle for the soul of America” and “restoring the soul of America” — I’ve never liked the self-righteousness of it from the start. And the more I’ve thought about it since Election Day, and especially as the odds of his becoming President seem to grow, the more worried I get, and the more troubled you should be, too. Two reasons stand out.

First, it’s far from clear that the Democratic nominee has thought through the demographics of his ambition. It’s of course clear that what he means by soul-restoring is that Donald Trump’s election as President – or perhaps more specifically his supposed trafficking in racist and other despicable dog whistles – means that something about America morally has gone badly off-track. But what and among whom exactly? Surely he doesn’t believe that his own soul needs to be restored. Ditto for other Trump opponents.

But what about Trump supporters? Let’s assume for a moment that his personal ethical antennae are finely tuned enough to guide the nation’s as a whole. He’s now promising to be a President for all Americans – including the Trumpers. But if their souls are at best badly corrupted (and at worst, no longer exist at all), then why should he take any of their concerns into account, at least until some semblance of what he considers an acceptable moral fabric is somehow regenerated?

As a result, unless he believes that most of Trump World has simply been duped, and that the scales will steadily drop from their eyes after he’s out of the White House, his recent urging that his compatriots recognize that “We are not enemies. We are Americans” is just as incoherent. After all, when one side of a political contest has no collective soul, then clearly their differences with their moral superiors entail more than (presumably acceptable) disagreements over, say, levels of taxing and spending, or the terms of a trade agreement, or defining foreign policy interests. After all, people lacking a soul, or whose soul is badly broken, are far worse, or qualitatively more difficult to contend with. Arguably, they aren’t even human at all, but something genuinely debased. How can reason and persuasion possibly work with the likes of them?

The second reason for concern about Biden’s rhetoric follows logically from the first. Precisely because consigning large numbers of Americans into the soul-less or broken-soul category clearly precludes dealing with them via conventional political means, this belief indicates that the former Vice President doesn’t even believe that he’s operating in the political realm at all – at least when it comes to Trump supporters. Instead, he’s an agent of virtue itself whose objectives are spiritual – and thereby rule out the idea of significant, and perhaps any compromise.

To be sure, there will remain areas of public policy where meaningful compromise is relatively – e.g., taxing and spending and particularly economic stimulus while the CCP Virus is in pandemic mode. But as has been seen in the stimulus debate so far, both parties in Congress have tried to use such legislation to advance goals not so conducive to give-and-take (e.g., the question of whether illegal aliens should receive any relief).

Everything known about Biden’s temperament also indicates that he’s a compromiser, not a crusader, by nature. Indeed, at various times during the campaign, that’s what he’s claimed he would do.

But there also remain areas of public policy that have never been conducive to meaningful compromise – like immigration, and social issues like abortion. In this vein, one of my own principal worries is still that whatever Biden thinks personally, he’ll lack the spine to resist progressive Democrats pushing their increasingly authoritarian impulses and consequent determination to make Cancel Culture The American Way (along with ever more woke Big Business).

He may also lack much interest in pushing back against the kind of anger and sanctimony and intolerance expressed so congently yesterday by, e.g., Michelle Obama – who tweeted, “Let’s remember that tens of millions of people voted for the status quo, even when it meant supporting lies, hate, chaos, and division.”

Perhaps because the former First Lady is hardly the most extreme member of the Democratic Party, she also added, “We’ve got a lot of work to do to reach out to these folks in the years ahead and connect with them on what unites us.” But she deserves to be asked the same question posed in this post to Biden – from this standpoint, how much important common ground could exist with supporters of “lies, hate, chaos” etc.? Moreover, Biden himself has said that this soul-restoring business was what motivated him to seek the presidency again in the first place. (See the article in The Hill linked above.) So maybe lately there’s a lot more common ground between him and the progressive authoritarians than widely realized.

Here’s one way Biden could begin to ease concerns like this whether he becomes the next President or not. He could spell out in reasonably concrete terms just which of the motivations that have fueled two massive national Trump votes he does view as legitimate – and therefore where he’s ready in principle respond with more than tokenism. Unless and until he does, literally tens of millions of Americans will be perfectly justified in assuming that Biden’s talk of national unification and reconciliation is completely hollow, that they’ll return to Forgotten American status (and maybe worse), and that their own and the nation’s best future hopes rest with making sure he’s a one-term President, too.