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The Tragedy of American Politics

Donald Trump is erratic, but Biden scares me more

Photo: AP Images

Last week, Joe Biden was compared to a house plant.

The creator of the popular Instapundit blog, law professor Glenn Reynolds, suggested as much when introducing a story that featured a video — paid for by Trump supporters — that highlighted several clips of Biden displaying cognitive decline.

“The left knowingly nominated a house plant to run for the presidency,” Reynolds wrote. “I’m not sure what that makes them, but it’s not good.”

In one clip, we see Biden on a news show commenting on the coronavirus. With a face full of concern, he says: “We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse, no matter what.”

In another, speaking at a campaign rally, he said: “All men and women are created by … you know, you know the thing...” He meant to quote the Declaration of Independence, which reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It’s not just right-wingers who believe that Biden is mentally incapacitated, it’s a majority of Americans. A Zogby Analytics poll published on June 17 found that 55% of Americans believe it was “more likely (much more and somewhat more likely combined) that Vice President Biden is in the early stages of dementia.”

There’s more evidence: the behavior of the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee. As we go to press, it will be 88 days since Biden has held a press conference. He has left his Delaware home only sporadically since March, in what Democratic insiders are calling the “bunker strategy.” The idea is to let Donald Trump eat himself alive, and he’s doing a great job. Since Biden started hiding in his basement, he has opened up as much as a 14-point lead in one poll, and an average 9-point lead nationally. As one Democratic consultant told Politico: “Trump is running against Trump. And it’s smart of Biden to not get in the way of that.”

It’s a wise move. After months of promises about economic recovery, the United States is seeing an upsurge in coronavirus cases. Millions of Americans remain unemployed. And Trump’s approval rating reflects the reality. Just 40.6% of voters approve of his handling of the job, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, down from 45.8% on April 1. According to Gallup Polling, just one incumbent president with an approval rating below 50% won reelection in the modern era — Harry Truman in 1948. And that election was so close that the Chicago Daily Tribune called the election for Truman’s opponent, Thomas Dewey, in the now-famous headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” The two other incumbents with approval ratings lower than 50% — Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — lost reelection.

So the Democratic strategy is sound: Keep Biden out of the public eye. Don’t subject him to scrutiny. Don’t give him the opportunity to make a fool of himself. Win in November 2020.

The strategy may be clever, but it is also profoundly saddening. At a time when the United States most needs a strong leader, the man who will likely win the presidency is hiding at home, his advisors handling him like a prop. And the incumbent president, despite universal urging to just act like a mensch and win another term, can’t seem to handle the assignment. Donald Trump is unstable — there are just too many reliable accounts of his erratic and self-interested behavior (former national security advisor John Bolton’s book is just the latest) to deny it. He might have great instincts in some areas — in particular his policies toward Israel and Iran, and his trade war with China — but his behavior lately has shown that he puts his own interests above the nation’s and is willing to use the power of the presidency to enforce his will.

And yet, the idea of a Biden presidency scares me more than a second term for Donald Trump. If the recent protests over the death of George Floyd show anything, it’s that the people leading them are profoundly un-American. I have yet to hear one of them express love and appreciation for a country that has given them first and foremost the right to protest but more than that pride in a country that has done so much for the world over the last 75 years. The United States defeated Communism and promoted democracy around the world. The US government has spent billions of dollars feeding people in faraway places and standing up for political dissidents when no one else would. The US economy has lifted all boats, especially China’s, in the perhaps naive notion that once people could sustain themselves with a living wage, political freedom would follow.

But what do these protesters say? Kill the cops. America is racist. America commits war crimes. America is misogynist and homophobic and corrupted. It’s as if they are living in an alternate universe. Of course America has enforced “racist” (not to mention anti-Semitic) policies. Of course America has committed war crimes. But what country hasn’t? The question isn’t whether America is perfect, the question is whether America is the best alternative in a cruel and inequitable world.

Joe Biden is a great patriot who has served the United States with distinction for many years. My fear, however, is that like the corporations and news media bowing their heads in obeisance to the rioters, Joe Biden will be forced to do the same. He’ll do it not because his heart isn’t in the right place, but because he’s a 77-year-old man who has clearly lost his edge, and who will be surrounded by a group of young advisors, all of whom graduated from Progressive U., once called your local university. Like every president, Biden will be forced to pander to his base. It is not unthinkable that a radical like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be asked to handle immigration policy or that someone like Rep. Ilhan Omar will take on a greater role in the Middle East peace process.

President Trump is a rich man, but he’s got the guts of an Archie Bunker. To his credit, he has not given an inch to people who would destroy the very concept of the United States. The leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have admitted they are “trained Marxists.” Many of the radical ideas the rioters espouse, defunding the police most especially, are the highway to tyranny. We’ve already seen that these people shout down, ostracize, and “cancel” anyone who does not agree with them. What, exactly, do you call that? I call it the end of democracy.

President Trump is far from perfect, but he’s the best choice in a world gone mad.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 817)

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