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Opinion | Where Hope and History Rhyme

“We don’t need a tax code that rewards wealth more than it rewards work,” Biden said. That’s scarcely rocket science. If elected, Biden will be measured on whether he can change the tax code, a foundation of the growing inequality and injustice in a fractured America whose ability to cohere has been lost.

This is the America of five million infected with the Covid-19 virus, of 170,000 dead in the pandemic, of over 50 million unemployment claims, of, as Biden said, “by far the worst performance of any nation on earth.”

And, as Biden failed to say, of major United States stock indexes at or close to record highs. The virus, destroying small businesses, has completed the financial money game’s takeover of the economy. Trump is counting on this, and on blather about Democrats’ “socialism,” to win. His chances should not be discounted. The state of a 401(k) is a significant vote indicator. But less so, I think, in this desperate America of Trump’s making.

In recent weeks, I have been watching the United States from a Europe orphaned of its American ally. “It’s not this bad in Canada. Or Europe,” Biden said. It’s not. Confronting a crisis with a plan does help. Under Trump, an American passport in Europe has become a good thing not to have.

Biden understands an alliance undergirded by values. The passion in his voice rose as he said: “I will be a president who will stand with our allies and friends. I will make it clear to our adversaries the days of cozying up to dictators are over.”

Hope is often unfounded, but it is not an irrational response to human experience. The miracle of a peaceful Europe today is built on joint American-European defiance, in freedom’s cause, of fascism and totalitarianism.

Biden quoted the Irish poet Seamus Heaney on how, every now and again, “hope and history rhyme.” Gazing this week at the beauty of Florence, where my uncle Bert Cohen, of the Sixth South African Armored Division, 19th Field Ambulance, came from Johannesburg in 1944 to join the fight for freedom, I thought, yes, they do.

After Biden’s sober speech the chances they will again in November have risen.

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