Falling in Line, Not in Love

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/Getty Images.)


Joe Biden’s biggest asset is also his biggest liability: No one really takes him very seriously. Oh, but you wouldn’t know that from the coverage of his State of the Union Address. It was amaster class” according to, well, a lot of people.

But the fawning itself is evidence of my point. Biden benefits from being underestimated, as were many successful presidents. But while Reagan and Bush were underestimated, too, the more apt comparison is to Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not running wild with the comparison. But Donald Trump’s detractors—including yours truly—would often make the mistake of downplaying his political effectiveness simply because we were utterly immune to his (alleged) charms.

My point is that the fawning is a mix of overcompensation and relief. Throughout Trump’s presidency, whenever he gave a halfway decent speech or didn’t embarrass himself in a press conference, his fans would heap wildly over-the-top praise on him, in part because their expectations were very low. It always reminded me of the way parents go nuts when their high-strung, unathletic kid gets a hit in a baseball game. Their cheers are all the louder because they didn’t think he could do it.

This content is available exclusively to Dispatch members
Try a membership for full access to every newsletter and all of The Dispatch. Support quality, fact-based journalism.
Already a paid member? Sign In
Comments (398)
Join The Dispatch to participate in the comments.
Load More