Errol Louis is the host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN)Throughout the second night of their national convention, Democrats wisely highlighted Joe Biden’s encounters with personal tragedy. At a time when Americans are reeling from the raw horror of an average of 1,000 deaths a day from the coronavirus — and with a president, Donald Trump, who has dismissed the death toll with a stoic “it is what it is” — Democrats are showing that Biden would be a president capable of genuine empathy for families shaken and sorrowful in a time of catastrophe.
Errol Louis A biographical video noted that Biden, while still in his twenties, was sworn in as a US senator inside a hospital while still mourning the loss of his first wife and infant daughter in a car accident that also left his young sons with injuries. Multiple speakers referenced Beau Biden, the candidate’s late son, who served as attorney general of Delaware and died of a brain tumor in 2015. His wife, Jill Biden, in her speech says these experiences deeply affected Biden, noting “all those people Joe gives his personal phone number to, at rope lines and events — the ones he talks to for hours after dinner — helping them smile through their loss — letting them know that they aren’t alone.” Read More She explicitly connected his personal grief to his ability to lead. “How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole,” she said. “With love and understanding — and with small acts of kindness. With bravery. With unwavering faith.” It’s impossible to imagine anyone offering a comparable assessment of Trump, who in March famously answered a question about the nation’s inability to implement a robust coronavirus testing program with a dismissive “I don’t take responsibility at all.”Opinion: The phrase Trump may wish he didn't use Biden’s close encounters with personal tragedy make him relatable to countless Americans who are still grappling with the loss of a friend, neighbor, co-worker or family member from Covid-19 during the global pandemic. The number is vast: Back in May, when The New York Times tried to memorialize some of the 100,000 people who had died from the coronavirus up to that point, the mini-obituaries of 1,000 people took up pages and pages of the broadsheet newspaper — even though those listed only represented 1% of losses. The death toll now stands at nearly 172,000, and the number keeps growing. A big part of the Democratic case against Trump is that he lacks the emotional maturity to comfort the nation in this moment of fear and sorrow. As Michelle Obama put it on the first night of the convention, “Whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division and a total and utter lack of empathy.”Get our free weekly newsletter
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Democratic strategists are betting that Biden’s ability to connect with people will translate into votes. A June Pew Research Poll found that Biden beats Trump by 13 points on the question of which candidate “cares about the needs of ordinary people.” In the era of the pandemic, ordinary people are lonely, frightened and grieving. A big part of Biden’s appeal — and a major theme of the convention — is that he can connect with them because he’s been there.