This week, the two presumptive nominees for the two major parties each did something despicable. Former Vice President Joe Biden took the black vote for granted in an extremely racist way, declaring that if a black voter had trouble choosing between him and President Donald Trump, “You ain’t black.” Trump, meanwhile, continued to push the snide suggestion that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough might be guilty of murder. This week, the bereaved widower of the woman in question wrote to Twitter urging the platform to remove Trump’s tweets, as they caused him and his family distress, and since there was no evidence Scarborough killed the woman.
Both of these statements are inexcusable. Sure, Trump did not explicitly accuse Scarborough of murder, but he did give prominence to a disgusting conspiracy theory. Sure, Joe Biden issued a half-hearted apology, but he went on to effectively blame radio host Charlamagne tha God for his own racist comments.
During the 2016 election, I could not support or vote for Donald Trump for a few reasons. I did not trust that he would fulfill his promises on the issues I cared about. I found his attitude toward women and his rhetoric — especially against Megyn Kelly and Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi — disgusting. I associated him with his morally suspect past: bragging about sleeping with other men’s wives and insisting that he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness.
Yet ever since that election, Trump has positively surprised me. He has directed his administration to cut red tape. He has cut taxes. He has pushed back on Obama’s social experiments, from transgenderism in the military and schools to due process in Title IX investigations. He has championed religious freedom. He has appointed — and had confirmed — two Supreme Court justices and many other judges who will restore America’s judiciary.
As Democrats have moved ever further to the left, pushing socialism and the Green New Deal and aiming to silence their political opponents by citing the discredited and corrupt Southern Poverty Law Center, I have become something of a Trump partisan. The prospect of a Joe Biden presidency scares me, especially as Biden appears mentally unfit for the challenge and as he surrounds himself with Bernie Sanders acolytes.
I have grown to accept the fact that Donald Trump is Donald Trump. His public bluster and schoolyard taunts are real and he won’t reject them. Meanwhile, while he has a sexually immoral past, he has apparently behaved himself in the White House, unlike Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. He has indeed fought for many issues I care about deeply, and I am willing to support him despite his use of disgusting rhetoric from time to time.
In November, Trump has to prove that his positives are worth his negatives. Many of my fellow evangelical Christians supported Trump in 2016, hoping this would be true. Others refused to support him, and some — my friends among them — still refuse to sully themselves with support for such a man. Yet now, the president has a track record, and skeptics like myself have come around to admit that he is a champion for many of our causes — though not without his flaws.
Trump’s flaws are more-or-less “baked in” at this point. He is the president who tweets schoolyard taunts at his opponents. Trump is the commander-in-chief who spreads baseless rumors that Joe Scarborough might have committed murder. This behavior is reprehensible, no matter how much you support Trump’s policies.
Yet Joe Biden set a much harder task ahead of himself. The Democrat began his campaign by promising to restore the soul of America. Biden is campaigning as a “return to normalcy” candidate. He has pledged to bring Americans back together after Trump’s divisive presidency.
The problem is, Biden is utterly unfit for such a task. As I argued two months ago, there are three major problems with Uncle Joe’s “return to normalcy” campaign.
First, America’s polarization predates Trump. Americans disgusted with Trump’s insults should not erase their memories of Obama’s IRS targeting conservative groups, Obama’s enflaming of racial passions in the Trayvon Martin case, or Obama’s policies railroading religious freedom, removing due process from those accused of sexual assault, and redefining the word “sex” in federal law to mean “gender identity.” They should also not forget Obamagate, which implicates Biden.
Second, Joe Biden’s gaffes are arguably far worse than Trump’s schoolyard taunts. The man who would be president said he was running for U.S. Senate, insisted nearly half the U.S. population died of gun violence since 2007, referred to God as “you know, the thing” while attempting to quote the Declaration of Independence, and much more. Far be it from me to attempt to diagnose a mental condition, but Biden’s gaffes do raise serious concerns about his health.
Finally, Biden has demonized his political opponents. He has insisted his number one priority would be passing the so-called Equality Act, which would enforce conformity on LGBT issues. He also appeared to advocate for a terror-style watchlist ostensibly to prevent attacks on LGBT people, which would likely mimic the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) defamation and tracking of organizations they accuse of being “hate groups.” Biden has bragged about the character destruction of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, which was so vicious it created a new word in the English language — “to Bork.” This grand Borking arguably set American politics on the polarization and demonization track that so divides the U.S. today.
Biden launched his campaign by falsely accusing Trump of defending white nationalists in Charlottesville, further inflaming divisions.
The former vice president’s “you ain’t black” comments revealed his patronizing attitude to black voters, an attitude that also emerged in the statement, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids… wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids.”
Then there are the Tara Reade sexual assault allegations. Reade’s claims are not without their problems, but this former Joe Biden staffer has far more circumstantial evidence to support her claims than Christine Blasey Ford ever did, and Joe Biden championed Ford’s case against Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump responded to Reade’s claims against Biden in a truly brilliant fashion. He identified himself with Biden. “I’ve been falsely accused by people that I’ve never even seen, I’ve never even seen many of these people. And some of these people, I met them – zero interest, Okay? Like zero,” the president said. “And all of a sudden you become a wealthy guy, you’re a famous guy, then you become president, and people just – people that you’ve never seen, that you’ve never heard of make charges. So I guess in a way you could say I’m, I’m sticking up for him.”
Dilbert creator Scott Adams laughed at that. “If that’s not the funniest thing you’ve heard in your whole life.”
Adams explained that Trump found the perfect solution to the dilemma. Reade’s claims open Biden up for attack, but women have also accused Trump of sexual assault.
“If President Trump had said yeah, ‘Joe Biden is guilty,’ that would totally open up Trump for the same accusations and you know that would be just automatic,” Adams said.
So Trump embraced Biden. “The president is using as a kill-shot that his opponent is just like him. Do you understand how sublime that is?” Adams asked. “Because there’s only one person in the race who can survive being just like Trump, and it’s not Joe Biden.”
“The more Trump says, ‘Yeah, we’re like brothers. We’re practically the same guy. I lie, he lies, I’ve got some allegations, he’s got some allegations. You know, … we’re practically bros,'” the better it is for the president’s campaign.
Indeed, the 2020 election seems likely to become the election of the “two Trumps.” Democrats will find themselves in the same uncomfortable position Republicans did in 2016. Do they embrace Biden — warts and all — or do they take the high ground?
Biden is just like Trump — he shoots from the hip, he has his gaffes, he has his sexual assault allegations, he’s extremely divisive. The real difference is that Joe Biden can’t win by being just like Trump. He has to bill himself as something better, something different. He also lacks the energy he needs to beat the president.
If Donald Trump were facing a polished politician who did not take black voters for granted, who did not trail off mid-sentence, and who really did try to bring Americans together in a compromise for the good of the country, he would need to work extremely hard to prevail in November. But he’s facing Joe Biden.
It’s still possible that Trump can lose, but when his major competition is a less good version of the blustering school-yard bully, his chances look rather good. After all, there can only be one Donald Trump.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.