America enjoyed one of those rare split-screen moments on Tuesday when two visions of the nation were starkly juxtaposed across cable news. On one side was President Joe Biden, preaching a vision of America that hasn’t substantially changed for decades. It was a speech heavy with Joe-isms: slightly stumbling at times but still powerfully articulating old-fashioned virtues, folksy wisdom, small-town Americana, the nature of Democracy, and the importance of the law. By a good measure, it was one of Biden’s strongest performances. Adjust your gaze a few inches, however, and you would see a quite different America. That was the America of former president, Donald Trump, who was busy on his social media platform, Truth Social, engaging in the new politics of outrage and memes that tacitly call for political violence.

Almost lost in the subsequent headlines was that this marked the start of the midterm fight. Monday is Labor Day in the US, traditionally the day when the campaigning sparks into life, but this year Biden pre-empted it with a speech in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (a key swing state) that established the tone of the elections, as well as underlining a few things we already knew.