Trump and Biden certainly differ on policy, but the more important and clearer contrast is in their leadership capabilities. The incumbent is emerging as a fatherly figure, while the challenger is fading into the form of an absent father.
Presidential campaigns seem to get longer and longer, but it’s always the few final weeks that define the race. Some say this year’s “home stretch” goes back to early September when mail-in voting started, but I would pin down the precise date and time as October 5th in the 6 o’clock hour, Eastern Standard Time.
When millions of Americans witnessed President Donald Trump remove his mask upon returning to the White House from a brief hospital stay for Covid-19, that was the defining moment for the 2020 election. Along with his subsequent, encouraging remarks, the moment also distinguished Trump as the fatherly leader of the nation.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” Trump urged. “Don’t let it dominate. Don’t let it take over your lives.” Just as meaningful was Trump’s acknowledgement that “there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s OK.”
Trump said that no leader “would not do what I did,” but the same may be said of a good dad. A loving father pushes his children to take chances in life, because that builds them up.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media implored the citizenry to recoil at their “contagious” president for such a garish display of “defiance.” This ridicule had to follow after years of failure to cast Trump as a tyrant or apologist for tyrants. The image of abusive father didn’t hold up, but maybe the cartoon of a bungling fool à la Homer Simpson would.
Contrast that with former Vice President Joe Biden’s decision to “lid” his campaign four days ahead of the second and final presidential debate. Until that point, Biden had refused to answer questions about packing the Supreme Court or shrugged off any query regarding his role in his son Hunter’s shady dealings with foreign governments and businesses.
If Biden were to govern as he campaigns, he would turn into the nation’s absent father. His vacant leadership would merely follow the hectoring mainstream media or the SJW mob. Enough Americans might prefer that, actually. The race seems close.
Wouldn’t it be easier and feel safer to just not have a fatherly leader who reminded you of your lost potential?
Canadian psychology professor Dr. Jordan Peterson revived these archetypal father figures in the minds of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people with his lectures on YouTube and in concert halls from late 2016 to early 2019.
In one 2017 classroom lecture, as he described the ideal father, Peterson shared the advice he gave to conservative politicians who asked him how they could reach out to young people.
“Talk to them about responsibility,” Peterson pleaded.
One campaign slogan might be “Get your act together, do something worthwhile with your life,” Peterson suggested. Perhaps not much of a speechwriter, the professor did stress that young people “hunger” for that sort of message. “The more responsibility you take on, the more meaning your life has, and the higher degree of responsibility that you agree voluntarily to try to bear, the richer your life will be, and no one’s ever told that,” he said.
Whether this is a winning strategy or not may be determined in the outcome of the 2020 election. The funny thing about Trump is that he’s probably no one’s ideal anything, but as an outsider president, he is closer to that standard than any president since Ronald Reagan a generation ago.
How much of that stirs the American people to select their next leader may be incalculable, but so is the value of a fatherly leader to a nation in dire need of hope and a new direction.
Nick Hankoff is a writer, editor, and host of a podcast at nickhankoff.com, where his other writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Advocates for Self-Government can also be found. He lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his wife and their three children.