Paul Ryan did a fine job last night, and the CNN and other polls show a clear victory over a near-hysterical Joe Biden. Normally I stay at barge-pole length from the diabolical art of political rhetoric. But I couldn’t help wishing that Ryan had closed his argument like this:
Since you bring it up, Mr. Vice President, the 30% I’m talking about is the proportion of Americans getting food stamps and other means-tested help from the federal government. It was just 20% when you took office. They’re getting food stamps and other help instead of earning a paycheck, because your administration failed to create the jobs you promised. They don’t want the food stamps. They want to work. To say that Mitt Romney and I blame these struggling Americans is false, and you should be ashamed of yourself for insinuating that. It sounds to me like you’re saying, “We all know that our administration failed to create jobs, but you can trust us to keep the food stamps coming.” I thank God America is rich enough to make sure that no American need go hungry, and I don’t begrudge help to anyone. But is this the best you can offer the American people? Your campaign slogan comes down to, “Trust me.” Why don’t you put it on a bumper sticker?
What Biden did last night was downright wicked. He said of the American people:
…all they’re looking for is an even shot. When they’ve been given the shot, they’ve done it. They’ve done it. Whenever you level the playing field, they’ve been able to move.
…they want a little bit of peace of mind. And the president and I are not going to rest until that playing field is leveled, they in fact have a clear shot and they have peace of mind, until they can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, honey, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK. That’s what this is all about.
That’s a shameless appeal to resentment and fear, and the best way to take it on is to call it what it is.