Is ‘Trump is Hitler’ the best Biden’s got?
Three years into his presidency, Joe Biden has nothing to offer voters apart from anti-Trump hysteria.
With the US presidential election approaching later this year, Joe Biden faces serious headwinds in his attempt to secure a second term.
Most Americans disapprove of his performance, with 54 per cent deeming the 81-year-old too old for the job. Even among Democrats, there is a palpable lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy – 40 per cent don’t even want him to run. Perhaps most damning of all, the current polling shows him consistently trailing Donald Trump, a man accused of 91 felonies.
Biden’s response to Trump’s current lead is now becoming clear. He has decided to frame the 2024 election as a choice between democracy and tyranny. Biden’s rhetoric during this week’s two campaign-launch speeches was end-of-days stuff. ‘Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time’, he said in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, ‘and it’s what the 2024 election is all about’. He claimed that Trump is ‘willing to sacrifice our democracy, put himself in power’ and establish a ‘dictatorship’.
Biden is likely to double down on this message in the weeks ahead. His campaign aides told CNN that Biden will be ‘ratcheting up the intensity’ against Trump in the coming months. The only question apparently is when to go ‘full Hitler’ and directly compare Trump to the Nazi leader. Judging by Biden’s Valley Forge speech, he’s pretty much at ‘full Hitler’ already – he accused Trump of ‘echoing the same exact language used in Nazi Germany’.
Biden has been justifying the Nazi analogies by pointing to Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, and his involvement in the ‘January 6’ Capitol riot in 2021. At one of his campaign launch speeches, Biden told a largely black audience in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina that January 6 was ‘one of the darkest days in American history’, before adding: ‘We saw something on January 6 we’d never seen before, even during the Civil War. Insurrectionists waving Confederate flags inside the halls of Congress built by enslaved Americans.’ In Valley Forge, he called the Capitol riot a day when ‘we nearly lost America – lost it all’.
Trump’s efforts to reverse the election results were certainly delusional and anti-democratic, and his behaviour on January 6 was shameful. But painting all this as a fascist threat to democracy is patently ridiculous.
The unarmed protesters who aimlessly roamed around the Capitol building three years ago were not ‘insurrectionists’. None of the nearly 900 who have been convicted for their involvement in January 6 were charged with insurrection. And they never came close to stopping the electoral process and Congress’s verification of the results. As for Trump’s attempt to overturn those results in the courts, even Biden himself noted in his Valley Forge speech that Trump had lost all 60 of his court cases on the matter.
It’s desperate stuff from Biden’s team. The attempt to present Biden as the great defender of democracy might be a little more convincing if his Justice Department wasn’t trying to put Trump, his likely presidential opponent, in jail. And while Biden might claim that Trump has been trying to ‘deny your right to vote’, his fellow Democrats in other US states have been trying to remove Trump from the ballot. Jailing your opponent and removing him from ballots sounds awfully autocratic to me, but what do I know.
It’s remarkable that the ‘Trump is Hitler’ strategy is the best that Biden’s team can come up with. Here we are, three years into his presidency, and his re-election message is all about events that happened before he entered the White House. Biden’s campaign team has clearly decided that his supposed achievements – such as Bidenomics and green investments – will have little purchase with voters.
This is weak, negative campaigning. And yet there is method to Biden’s apparent madness. Demonising Trump and his supporters, as Biden did in a manic speech delivered against a blood-red backdrop in Philadelphia in 2022, was a big factor (along with the abortion issue) in rallying Democrat support and winning over independents in that year’s Midterms. Biden’s campaign team clearly hopes that a repeat of this approach will bear fruit again.
Perhaps it will if Trump is the Republican candidate. While he is no fascist, his anti-democratic tendencies are real and put many voters off him. Trump’s tendency to shoot his mouth off, promising ‘retribution’ and joking about becoming ‘dictator for one day’, doesn’t help his cause. Indeed, it looks as if he’s all too willing to play-act the role Biden has assigned to him.
Furthermore, Trump plays into Biden’s hands by continuously talking about January 6, and reiterating his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. He now refers to those convicted in connection with the Capitol riot as the ‘J-6 hostages’ and promises to pardon them all.
Trump’s base might love such talk, but many others will be driven away. A CBS News poll found that about three-quarters of voters disapprove of the Capitol rioters. And a Washington Post / University of Maryland poll found that 70 per cent of independents say that the punishments for those who broke into the Capitol have been ‘fair’ or ‘not harsh enough’.
So Biden’s negative anti-Trump approach might be deeply flawed and uninspiring. But it could still be a good hand for Biden to play, especially with the backing of a national media well-versed in whipping up anti-Trump hysteria. Last week, one American journalist even called on her colleagues to give up ‘performative neutrality’ between Biden and Trump and effectively propagandise in favour of Biden and ‘democracy’.
As the first few days of 2024 have already shown, a Biden-vs-Trump rematch will be unedifying and uninspiring. It won’t be ‘democracy’ on the ballot, as Biden claims; it will just be two well-past-their-prime incompetents shouting about events from three years ago.
Americans deserve so much better.
Sean Collins is a writer based in New York. Visit his blog, The American Situation.
Picture by: Getty.
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