Biden-Harris and Verbal Self-Defense


There’s a new Democratic administration rolling into town, and it is not doing “When they go low, we go high.” Instead, they are getting verbal self-defense training from someone. I have been happy to see the fruits of that training throughout the campaign.

Name the behavior

“Mr. Vice President, I am speaking.”

What Biden-Harris do so well is a verbal self-defense tactic called “name the behavior.” It involves a neutral way to identify that someone is trying to do you harm. These include the now famous, “Mr. Vice President, I am speaking.”

That was a neutral way for Senator Harris to take her right to speak, without blaming or shaming Vice President Pence. Any of these would work: “I am speaking.” “This is my time to speak.” “You are interrupting my time to speak.” I suspect that Senator Harris’s team prepared her, expecting that Vice President Pence would ignore the rules of the debate.

Paying attention to, but not reinforcing, disinformation

Joe Biden faced attempts to discredit him, based on behavior – real and imagined — by Joe’s son, Hunter. Vice President Biden did not hide real problems his son has overcome, and he expressed his love and support. Vice President Biden acknowledged that there is talk of a made-up scandal, that he publicly dismissed as “a conspiracy theory.”

Joe Biden needs to do two things before January 20. He needs to prepare to take office. He also needs to take leadership in a way that is healing. If he is combative, the last five+ years of combat-politics will continue. He needs to be the leader, to soften the tone.

Biden cannot be the spokesperson for the defense of the American electoral process. That is the job of the 50 States Attorneys General, who run our elections. Those Attorneys General should be — and mostly are — supporting the work of their staffs, now. They should have been naming the behavior “a baseless attempt to discredit the electoral process”. Attorneys General could have been instructing the voting public about their procedures all throughout the spring, summer, and into the fall. Some did, others did not.

Below are behaviors that Attorneys General could have been calling out. Mostly, they did not, or did not do it clearly enough.

  1. The Trump Administration has been discrediting mail-in voting since it began to be proposed last spring.
  2. The Trump Administration undermined the United States Postal Service, in an attempt to reduce confidence in mail-in ballots arriving and being returned by the election deadlines.
  3. The Trump Administration tried to shorten the mail-in ballot deadlines in key states.
  4. The allegations about fraud focused on cities that are largely African American. This is consistent with the racist narrative of a segment of the Republican voter base.
  5. After the election, Trump attorneys filed multiple lawsuits that are unlikely to change the outcome of the election.

However, since the election was called, credible journalists and media have been reporting on how the last attempts of the Trump administration to discredit his successor will likely fail. AP had a concise list.

What Biden-Harris should do now

I believe the Biden-Harris are doing the right thing by allowing Attorneys General and journalists to fight and report on the frivolous lawsuits. State election officials — from the Attorneys General and down the ranks – can do a better job of explaining the data-driven systems that protect our voting process. It is their job to solidify the trust of the American voting public. For the most part, that is happening. It does not need to be done by the President-elect’s team.

Headline: “President-elect says Trump’s denial of the result would ‘not help his legacy’ but says lack of cooperation is not slowing transition.”

This is not simple verbal self-defense: this is a strategy. The Biden staff understand that the outgoing President is especially concerned with his legacy. Therefore, when Biden takes the microphone, it is effective to state clearly how that outgoing President is hurting his own image. His strategy is that he continues to not give air to the dumpster fires that Donald Trump likes to set and bask in.

Source: this post was informed by Lois Beckett at The Guardian


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