Brayden Harrington

A short speech by a young man underscores a massive contrast in the candidates.

If you missed this from last night (I just saw it this morning, having noted the young man’s name on Twitter last night, but not knowing the context). It is worth watching.

https://twitter.com/DemConvention/status/1296635661684965378?s=20

I will be honest, I am not the usually the audience for these kinds of human interest clips. I am not the biggest fan of the “everyday people” moments at conventions, SOTUs, or similar events. They often feel contrived and like props. After all, it isn’t that hard to find an example of a thing that a politician wants to underscore out of over 300 million people, now is it?

Still, I will admit that this clip had an emotional effect on me.

The initial emotion punch is that I am a father of three boys, and well remember the struggles of them being this age. And I know full well what having something like a stutter would mean at that age to his everyday life. There was a lot of courage in his action and his words were genuine.

Second, it hit me about halfway through that, of course, he was recording from home, like pretty much everyone else, because we are stuck in a pandemic. And, moreover, a grossly mismanaged pandemic. The symbolism of that fact, and what it means for kids and families across the country really resonated.

Third, and this really did hit me: we have a president currently for whom it would be impossible to have such a story told. We have lived through almost four years of a president who has no compassion and whose self-absorption is so complete that it truly is inconceivable that there could be tender moments of him reaching out to try and give comfort to a stranger.

There is so little kindness and compassion in Trump and that fact just hit me watching this.

And while one might want to argue that simple kindness and compassion are not the main measures of a political leader, I would counter that the way he has handled the pandemic is directly related to his lack of basic empathy. He doesn’t have the ability to understand how the pandemic has affected the country nor does he care to try.

This is a man who has talked more about the “ratings” of his briefings than he has tried to console a nation going through a generational crisis.

Indeed, this Tweet (which is what got me to seek out the video above), draws a sharp distinction:

And, as it pertains to what some (myself included) may see as sappy, manipulative attempts at showing us how a candidate connects to the regular people, I have to agree with this:

Indeed.

I am not the audience for these events. I don’t need them to help me make up my mind about the election. The only portion I watched live was Biden’s speech, and I did not plan around it, the timing just worked out. But the contrast between these candidates is stark and I think next week’s RNC event will further underscore that fact.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    At the risk of repeating myself:

    Jeebus, what a kid, more courage than the entire GOP in one 13 year old package.

    You go.

    29
  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I want to see the Lincoln Project ad version of Randi Singers Tweet.

    5
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I was just thinking that every one of our previous GOP candidates* for the Presidency would have given gracious words of encouragement, congratulation, and admiration to Brayden long before now. trump? it is inconceivable that he would even think about saying such a thing to a Biden supporter. I’ll bet his aides have confiscated every cell phone in the WH to keep him from saying something monumentally stupid.

    * probably our future GOP candidates as well, but it’s going to be a long time before I believe there is any sincerity to their words.

    7
  4. Jon says:

    And while one might want to argue that simple kindness and compassion are not the main measures of a political leader …

    I would perhaps argue that those are, or should be, the main measures of all of us.

    10
  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    Betcha a dollar Trump will ridicule the kid.

    17
  6. EddieInCA says:

    I watched it live last night in my hotel. I was teared up, and at the end of it, I gave a fist pump. I was thrilled for that kid, and, like Dr. Joyner and many others, the first thought that came to mind how lacking in empathy Trump has been for four years.

    Rod Dreher has a post up on it, and he’s fully supportive of Brayden. But he also posts, with anger and disdain, to a twitter post of a well-known catholic writer and friend of his, who mocked Brayden. I tried to find the offending tweet myself to tell the guy to go eff himself, but he’s taken it down it seems.

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/brayden-harrington-hero/

    “The cruelty is the point,” as Adam Serwer wrote.

    7
  7. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Betcha a dollar Trump will ridicule the kid.

    That was my second thought.

    3
  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’ll take that bet. As I already said, “I’ll bet his aides have confiscated every cell phone in the WH to keep him from saying something monumentally stupid.”

    4
  9. EddieInCA says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    “I didn’t see the kid you’re talking about. I heard he said some good things about Sleepy Joe. But he’s a kid. And he probably doesn’t know that I’ve done more for kids than anyone in history. People are saying they can’t believe how good I am for the policies that affect kids. Kid unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been. Kid housing is at it’s highest rate ever. No one has been as good for the kid community as Donald J. Trump. “

    8
  10. Scott F. says:

    @EddieInCA:

    “The cruelty is the point,” as Adam Serwer wrote.

    When you’ve spent decades characterizing the opposition as evil – Satanic pedophiles even, for the QAnon ilk – you’ve got to go with cruelty, don’t you. Simple kindness and compassion gives the devil the upper hand. I think that’s what Jesus said.

    1
  11. Facebones says:

    In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t possibly imagine Trump saying anything supportive to this kid. Never mind the specific advice that Biden gave, like how to mark up your speeches to read them more cleanly. I can’t imagine Trump even saying anything like “Hang in there!” Everything Trump does is transactional, and this kid couldn’t do anything for him, so why bother?

    3
  12. SKI says:

    @EddieInCA: Betting it is the tweet Ken White captured in a screenshot.

    Austin Ruse, the author of The Catholic Case for Trump, is now claiming that he was mocking “Biden the Liar” and thinks he never actually had a stutter.

    3
  13. Nightcrawler says:

    A lack of compassion and empathy is why we have over 170k dead and counting, and conservatives responding with, “In a country of 330 million,” “99% survival rate,” etc. The 170k dead mean absolutely nothing to them.

    I’m sure this kid is going to be torn apart not only on social media, but also at the RNC convention. I hope his family doesn’t receive death threats, but unfortunately, I’m sure it will happen.

    5
  14. Monala says:

    @Scott F.: Fred Clark is a liberal Christian who blogs as Slacktivist on the forum Patheos. He’s famous for coining the phrase, “Anti-abortion is the evangelical belief that’s younger than the Happy Meal.”

    He has spent years taking down the Left Behind novels. One thing he points out is that among a huge swath of white evangelicals, they pull together bible verses about Satan being a deceiver, and evil people often being wolves in sheep’s clothing, and come to a conclusion that anyone showing compassion, empathy, or a commitment to peace-making is therefore suspect, and potentially a Satanic wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    It’s a pretty ugly way to live, and it makes sense why those holding to such beliefs like Donald Trump.

    13
  15. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Careful. Even if Trump the Impotent is kept from making a fool out of himself on Twitter over this matter, doesn’t mean he won’t ridicule this brave young man, only that we won’t hear about it soon.

    3
  16. Kari Q says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Give it time. If he can’t tweet it, he’ll say it live at a rally or press conference where his staff can’t silence him.

    Edit: I see @Kathy: beat me to it. It’s good to know that I had the same thought as someone so perceptive.

    3
  17. Scott F. says:

    @Monala:
    Yes, it’s very ugly way to live, but it is the easier path for the weak person. Generosity is harder to pull off than selfishness, zero-sum is easier to understand than win-win, compassion bears a heavier psychic burden than narcissism, etc.

    The “Champion against Evil” narrative is a fairy tale created to let selfish, weak people feel good about their selfishness and weakness.

    5
  18. senyordave says:

    I followed the link and went to Austin Rose’s twitter page. It is a true cesspool. One of the nuggets there:
    Just your reminder that George Floyd was a drug-addled skell who committed a crime, tried to drive under deadly drugs, fought police, and died. He brought on his own death. Rest in Peace.
    The sincerity of the Rest in Peace shows what a true Catholic Rose is.

    4
  19. Pylon says:

    Here’s their first encounter. Warning – have kleenex ready:
    https://twitter.com/NYinLA2121/status/1296844524682018817?s=20

    7
  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @EddieInCA: Thanx, I can always use a good laugh.

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pylon: Suddenly a lot of dust in this room, don’t know where it came from.

    2
  22. mattbernius says:

    @Pylon:
    I was about to post that. And yeah, totally agree about that it gets dusty in here.

    Also, I think that clip is helpful to contextualize a different aspect of Biden–the touchy-feely stuff. I’m not saying this to question anyones’ subjective interpretation of their experience with Biden, but man he is a “hugger” and then some. Granted, I come from Northeastern Lutheran stock, but I definitely had a moment of “dude, Joe is really going for the physical contact.”

    I can see how that could cause issues in the past.

    4
  23. gVOR08 says:

    @mattbernius:

    Granted, I come from Northeastern Lutheran stock

    My family were of Norwegian Lutheran stock. “Six feet of separation for COVID? Why do I need to get that close to people?”

    6
  24. EddieInCA says:

    @Pylon:

    From that same twitter thread:

    Misc Understanding
    @MiscUnderstand
    ·
    5h
    Replying to
    @NYinLA2121
    Honestly I dare anyone to try–People I love dearly are Trumpers… My grandmother, my aunt and uncle, brother in law–I DARE THEM to look me in the eye and claim Trump has ever been this sincere and helpful to another human being, even once. Just try to imagine it.

    5
  25. Gustopher says:

    Indeed.

    Indeed.

  26. JohnMcC says:

    Remember that boy that stared haughtily at the native American on the grounds of the Washington Monument? Widely condemned and then wrapped in RW love?

    I think I saw somewhere that he’s going to get some time during the R-party convention. So take THAT B-B-B-Brayden! We got our own kid!

    Sarcasm! (Although I did see that he’s going to have some kind of moment during the convention.)

    3
  27. mattbernius says:

    @gVOR08:

    My family were of Norwegian Lutheran stock. “Six feet of separation for COVID? Why do I need to get that close to people?”

    Yup.

    I absolutely love the Arrested Development joke about when Michael’s mother gives him a hug and he asks “why are you pressing our bodies together?”

    1
  28. Teve says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m not crying You’re crying.

    Has Biden fucked up a few times in 40 years? Yep. But i’ve fucked up worse. He seems to be trying to be the best person he can be. Maybe that’s just what we need right now.

    1
  29. Ken_L says:

    I seem to be the only liberal who found the video unforgivably exploitative. No 13 year-old is mature or informed enough to have political opinions to which adults should pay attention. More importantly, they are neither mature nor informed enough to appreciate the potential consequences of an act like this, or to judge whether or not they should agree to do it.

    He did it because adults told him it would be a good idea. They had no right to influence him to do something which may well have profound consequences not for them, but for him.

  30. @Ken_L: This isn’t unfair. Indeed, as I noted above, I am not a big fan of these things. But I cannot deny the real emotional response I had to it.

    1
  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ken_L:
    You’re wrong.

    I don’t know how many 13 year-olds you deal with, but I deal with quite a few and dismissing them out of hand in this way is frankly laughable adult elitism. Sorry, Ken, but 90% of everyone, adult or kid, doesn’t understand what they are saying or truly believe what they claim to believe.

    Of the remaining 10% of people who have any sort of clue is it possible that age does confer an advantage? If so, then why do racism and misogyny track with advancing age? Can you produce evidence demonstrating that randomly-chosen 70 year-old is more likely to have rational explanations for his views than a random 13 year-old? If so, then again, why are old people so wrong about so many things that younger people are right about?

    Age is the accumulation of fears and prejudices as much as it is the acquisition of wisdom.

    What this kid knows is that he stutters, and so does Biden, and Biden was kind. Those are facts. Right? And his video sticks to those facts. Right? Do you honestly not understand that these facts are the basis for a credible, rational political opinion? You don’t think maybe the kid could have added 1 plus 1 and come up with 2?

    7
  32. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    This made me laugh. My mother’s forebears were Danish Lutherans.

  33. EddieInCA says:

    @Ken_L:

    Ken_L says:
    Saturday, August 22, 2020 at 03:55

    I seem to be the only liberal who found the video unforgivably exploitative. No 13 year-old is mature or informed enough to have political opinions to which adults should pay attention. More importantly, they are neither mature nor informed enough to appreciate the potential consequences of an act like this, or to judge whether or not they should agree to do it.

    He did it because adults told him it would be a good idea. They had no right to influence him to do something which may well have profound consequences not for them, but for him.

    Wow. Are you wrong!!!! I have three nephews, aged 20, 17 and 12. The twelve year old reads National Review, OTB, Balloon Juice, Huffington Post, and he has digital subscriptions (which he paid for himself) to the Washington Post and NY Times. This kid can discuss politics and current events better than most adults. My 17 year old nephew walked Precincts for Obama when he was 9 years old. His mom is an old lefty hippie and his dad is center-right. They have spirited debates regularly, and the kids can hold their own when Dad starts quoting Hannity or Levin.

    You don’t know alot of 13 year olds, I’m guessing. They have access to the whole world on their smartphones. They’re more aware, involved, and informed than most of us were at their age (I’m 60.)

    5
  34. Nightcrawler says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I was reading newspapers when I was in elementary school. My grandparents got at least one every day. On Sunday, we’d get two or three, the Delaware County paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and sometimes the Bulletin (before it went defunct) or the Delaware paper. I loved Sundays for all that reading material.

    We had lots of books and magazines, too. As a result, I was a very early reader.

    If I’d had the internet, I definitely would have been reading online papers at 12 or 13, probably sooner.

    2
  35. Mister Bluster says:

    Thirty years ago there was a radio talk show host named Bob Lassiter (b. 1945-d. 2006) on WLS-AM. (Chicago, for those of you who don’t know.) He was decidely left of center in his commentary and once even debated Rush Limbaugh on TV. I may still have a VHS tape of that encounter.
    The usual fare was him excoriating the ditto heads that would regularly call and rag at him.
    One day for an hour he limited his callers to teenagers.
    After the segment was over he asked the audience if they noticed anything different about the youth that he had just engaged with.
    “They were all polite and respectful.” he said “Even the ones that disagreed with me did not call me names or yell and scream. They actually had cogent arguments instead of insults. They were far more mature than the adults that call here every day.”
    I had been listening and he was right.
    ——
    Don’t remember much about the Limbaugh debate except this.
    Lassiter: “Your broadcast is offensive.”
    Limbaugh: “I am not offensive.”
    Lassiter: “You offend me every day!”

  36. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    Swedish Lutheran.

    Granted a lot of my relatives were alcoholics so I got smacked every now and again, so I did get to experience some physical contact.

    Hugging did not really enter my experience until my early twenties outside of romantic relationships. I got there eventually, but it was a transition.