Donald Trump’s biggest fan

The Wall Street Journal about this:

It’s been obvious for years that while Democrats claim to fear and loathe Donald Trump, they really can’t live without him. They need him around, they want him around, because they think he’s their ticket to remain in power.

Any doubt about that proposition vanished with President Biden’s Thursday night speech that had a single political purpose: Elevating Mr. Trump to the center of the fall campaign. Forget all the high-minded talk about saving democracy, which is hardly in danger in a midterm election in which Mr. Trump isn’t even on the ballot. Democrats want to pretend the former President is on the ballot to campaign against as the great Democratic foil.

The strategy is especially helpful for Mr. Biden, whose main (and perhaps only) utility to Democrats is as the man who defeated Mr. Trump. Without Mr. Trump to kick around, the unpopular 79-year-old President will likely be nudged, or perhaps elbowed, aside by younger Democrats in 2024. But if Mr. Trump runs again, Mr. Biden has a raison d’etre. As our columnist Holman Jenkins has argued, the two men are political co-dependents.

That’s why Mr. Biden has so pointedly goaded Mr. Trump and his followers with the “MAGA Republican” label. His escalating rhetoric is intended to smear the GOP as under Mr. Trump’s sway and “semi-fascist.” If voters believe the stakes in November are the future of democracy, the autumn debate will shift from inflation, rising crime and woke ideology. More Democrats might vote, and the party might hold Congress.

All of this is deeply cynical and divisive. It contradicts Mr. Biden’s pledge, during the 2020 campaign and in his inaugural address, that he would unite the country. He repeated that claim of “unity” on Thursday but by now it is a throwaway line.

His strategy is to out-Trump Trump by polarizing the electorate around the former President because he thinks a majority will come his way. Even as we write this, his own party is running ads in New Hampshire to support the most MAGA Republican in the GOP Senate primary. A group allied with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is supporting the other main GOP candidate.

In his broadside, Mr. Biden is maligning half the country and the 70 million Americans who voted for Mr. Trump. He includes a line that “not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans” are MAGA, but that too is a token gesture. He quickly moves on to say that “there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans and that is a threat to this country.”

Yet the people who really saved American democracy after the 2020 election and on Jan. 6 were Republicans:

• governors, secretaries of state and legislators who resisted Mr. Trump’s demand to change slates of electors to the Electoral College;

• judges appointed by Mr. Trump who followed the evidence and the law in assessing claims of election fraud;

• lawyers at the White House and Justice Department who refuted the claims of Mr. Trump’s clown-show legal team of Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell;

• and above all Mike Pence, the Vice President who followed the Constitution in rejecting Mr. Trump’s private and public pressure to stop the counting of electoral votes that certified Mr. Biden as the victor.

If Mr. Biden believed his saving democracy rhetoric, he’d include those Republicans as heroes of the cause. But he won’t because his democracy line is a political gambit. He has to smear most Republicans as would-be fascists to make swing voters believe none of them can be trusted with power.

It’s possible this will work for Democrats in November, especially if Mr. Trump keeps taking Mr. Biden’s bait. Mr. Trump did precisely that on Thursday night with a typically ad hominem rant in response to the speech, which is exactly what Democrats want.

But we wonder if the voters will be as gullible. They’ve been able to observe over the 20 months of the Biden Presidency that Democrats have their own authoritarian temptations and have acted on them when they can.

Mr. Biden forgives half-a-trillion dollars in student debt without the assent of Congress. White House aides collude with tech platforms to silence dissenting voices on Covid. His regulators stretch the law beyond previous understanding to impose more control over the private economy. And that’s before they get the votes to break the Senate filibuster, add new U.S. states, override 50 state voting laws, and pack the Supreme Court.

Mr. Biden has become his foe’s polarizing mirror image. It is exactly what he promised as a candidate he wouldn’t do.

Jacob Sullum, no fan of Trump:

In his speech [Thursday]  night about “the continued battle for the soul of the nation,” President Joe Biden said some things that are indisputably true. He noted that democracy requires candidates to accept the results of “free and fair elections” and that refusing to do so threatens the rule of law as well as the peaceful transfer of power.

Donald Trump and his followers have conspicuously failed that basic test. But Biden’s emphasis on preserving democracy sets the bar for good government pretty low, eliding the tension between majority rule and individual freedom. And his related claim that Trump’s refusal to concede electoral defeat amounts to an “extreme ideology” gives the former president, who is anything but a systematic thinker, too much credit.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden warns. But his response confuses means with ends, elevating democracy above the values it promotes when properly constrained.

Biden says “the freedom to vote and have your vote counted” is “the most fundamental freedom in this country.” The Framers saw things differently. They understood that unconstrained democracy, like unconstrained autocracy, poses an intolerable threat to liberty. The constitution they produced is chock-full of provisions that check the will of the people, including limits on the federal government’s powers, requirements for passing legislation, and explicit recognition of rights that the people’s representatives must respect, no matter what the majority demands.

Speaking at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Biden offers his take on the Declaration of Independence. “In America,” he says, “we’re all created equal”—a strange way to summarize Thomas Jefferson’s much less parochial assertion that “all men are created equal,” a “truth” he took to be “self-evident.” Biden notably skips over the part about the God-given “unalienable rights” that all people (not just Americans) have by virtue of their humanity.

Moving on to the Constitution, Biden locates its essence in the first three words of the preamble: “We the People…” Never mind all the operative provisions that follow, which impose numerous restrictions on majority rule.

“These two documents and the ideas they embody—equality and democracy—are the rock upon which this nation is built,” Biden declares. While he is surely right that equality under the law is a basic principle of a free society, he and his fellow Democrats tend to take a more expansive view of equality, one that requires redistributive schemes like the orgies of federal spending that he brags about later in his speech.

Although the authority for such programs is hard to locate in the Constitution, Biden is unconcerned about such niceties. He implies that “We the People” means popularly elected legislators can do nearly anything they think the majority wants. By identifying an ambiguous “equality” and a sacred “democracy” as the twin lodestars of American government, Biden issues a convenient license for his party’s policy agenda.

Biden does get around to mentioning “liberty,” but it seems like an afterthought, a value that takes third place at best. His idea of liberty includes the “right to choose” (abortion, presumably), “the right to privacy” (abortion, again), the “right to contraception,” and the “right to marry who you love.” All of those, he warns, are threatened by “MAGA forces.”

Biden’s understanding of liberty evidently does not include the right to armed self-defense, which is arbitrarily denied by the “gun safety law” that he proudly cites as evidence that America has “an unlimited future” and “is about to take off.” Nor does it include freedom of speech, judging from Biden’s assiduous efforts to control what people say on social media platforms and his assertion that our system of government “gives hate no safe harbor.” Biden’s support for kangaroo-court justice at public universities suggests he also is not so keen on due process.

The right to keep and bear arms, the right to freedom of speech, and the right to due process, unlike the right to abortion, are all explicitly mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Maybe Biden never got that far, since he is so mesmerized by the vast powers he perceives in the opening words of the preamble.

Based on Biden’s words and deeds, we have a pretty good idea of what he believes about the proper size and scope of government. He thinks politicians selected by “the People” can do whatever they want, provided they do not impinge on the specific freedoms that he values. When it comes to abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage, the majority does not rule. But when it comes to nearly everything else, the people’s will—or, more realistically, Biden’s perception of it—prevails.

Trump, by contrast, seems to have few firm beliefs. The “extreme MAGA ideology” that Biden perceives is not based on a coherent set of political principles. It is based on one man’s erratic impulses. And more than anything these days, it is based on Trump’s conviction that he actually won reelection in 2020.

Aside from a few longstanding instincts, such as Trump’s aversion to free trade and immigration, his only persistent motivation is self-interest. On abortion, Trump abandoned his pro-choice opinions and cynically embraced the pro-life movement, promising to appoint Supreme Court justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. On gun control, he turned against measures he once supported, transforming himself into “a big Second Amendment person.” It defies credulity to suggest that Trump has given serious thought to the constitutional issues raised by restrictions on abortion or guns, or to the merits of the originalism he espoused when he ran for president in 2016.

If the Republican Party’s always inconsistent defense of limited government was not enough to discredit its supposed devotion to constitutional principles, the fact that it has now organized itself around Trump’s self-flattering delusions decisively proves that it stands for nothing worth defending. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has always been willing to ditch the Constitution when it proved inconvenient.

Assuming that Trump runs for president in 2024 and Biden seeks reelection, voters will again be confronted by a choice between an old man who is manifestly unqualified for the job and an old man whose long political career has taught him nothing about the limits of government power and the fallible judgments of the people who wield it. While a willingness to accept the outcome of a free and fair election is a minimum qualification for the presidency, voters should demand more than that.

One thought on “Donald Trump’s biggest fan

  1. Dear Steve

    Hello from the UK and many thanks for your post. I have to say I was appalled at Joe Biden’s speech, not that I suppose he had anything to do with writing it.

    I have scanned through the White House transcript and having seen part of it at least on video, bumbling as used in your last paragraph is just right.

    I am not sure how anybody can think “… for more than two centuries, America has been a beacon to the world.” Possibly a Belisha beacon which you will find in the UK going on and off at some pedestrian crossings.

    It is clear to me too that the Democrats are desperate to blame everything and anything on Donald Trump and his supporters. It is quite ridiculous.

    Your last paragraph sums it all up, and sadly most of the world is looking at the USA and shaking their heads in disbelief at the charade of it all.

    Kind regards

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