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This Is Not a Normal Election

This election isn't just about Biden vs. Trump. This is about democracy vs. fascism.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at Berston Field House in Flint, Michigan on March 9, 2020. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at Berston Field House in Flint, Michigan on March 9, 2020. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

From a press conference in Berlin in 1933:

Reporter: "Mr. Hitler, please clarify. What kind of gas are you using to murder the Jews? Has it been adequately tested by scientists to guarantee it can do the job? Can you give us a timetable for when you think you'll reach one million Jews killed in the concentration camps? Some of your advisors say, off-the-record, that the ultimate goal is six million. Is this true? Can you give us an estimate of how many of your opponents you've murdered, how many you've put in jail, and how many have fled the country? And please tell us, where did your girlfriend Eva Braun, standing next to you, get that beautiful dress she's wearing? The German people want to know."

Trump is the worst president in history. He's incompetent, a pathological liar, a toxic white supremacist, a danger to the health and safety of the American people and the entire world, and a genius at propaganda, manipulating public opinion, and the use of scapegoating to whip up hatred and divert attention from his own failures. He's not George W Bush times three. He's Adolph Hitler on steroids.

Yet many journalists are treating this like a normal election—with two candidates trying to win enough swing voters to get a majority in the Electoral College—rather than the most serious existential threat to our democracy since the Civil War. They treat Trump like he's a normal person rather than a deranged psychopath whose policy agenda is one half from the Chamber of Commerce and one half from the Ku Klux Klan. They haven't learned from their mistakes covering Trump's 2016 campaign, when they gave him a free platform to say whatever he wanted, ignoring facts and inflating hatred.

Between now and November, Trump and his Republican allies (including GOP governors) will do whatever they can to disrupt the election and discredit Biden and all Democrats. He will escalate the torrent of lies and his attacks on the media.  He’ll fire more federal employees who dare to challenge his lies. He’ll encourage his cult followers to “liberate” blue states by challenging public health measures that will endanger more people. Republican governors and state legislators will engage in voter suppression—such as reducing the number of polling places in Democratic areas and making it more difficult to use mail-in voting. Don’t put it past Trump to whip up faux-patriotism and war fever against—name the enemy-of-the-week: China? The United Nations? Canada?

And, yes, some lefties are so angry that Bernie didn't get the Democratic nomination that (unlike Bernie himself) they are doing whatever they can to undermine Biden. Really, people?

This is not a matter of the ‘lesser of two evils.’ Biden is certainly no socialist. In the past he’s taken some positions that made him look like a corporate shill. In 2005, for example, he supported an overhaul of bankruptcy law that favored banks and credit card companies over consumers. At the time, Elizabeth Warren, then a Harvard law professor and bankruptcy expert, attacked Biden’s vote. Now, Biden has embraced Warren’s plan to roll back the 2005 law and make it easier for people to go through the bankruptcy process, including allowing student loans to be treated like other debts. Thanks in part to Sanders, and the Democratic Party’s leftward shift, Biden has adopted other progressive stances on key issues—the minimum wage, health care, workers’ rights, abortion, climate change, and college debt—and could be pushed further left during the campaign and after he takes office. Last week, for example, Biden said that the next round of coronavirus stimulus needs to be “a hell of a lot bigger” than last month’s $2 trillion CARES Act, including massive aid to states and cities to maintain essential services and avoid having to lay off teachers, cops, firefighters, and other public employees—and without the handouts to corporate America. Biden's far from my ideal candidate, but there's no contest when it comes to the damage that a Trump second term guarantees.

But this election isn't just about Biden vs. Trump. This is about democracy vs. fascism.

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Trump unleashed for four more years is both unthinkable and, unfortunately, very possible. After four more years of Trump, our democracy will be on life support, in need of hard-to-find ventilators. You don’t have to love Biden to understand that Trump unleashed for a second term will be much worse than his first term.

If he manages to win a second term, Trump will double down on his fascist instincts and foment increasingly overt white supremacist violence, xenophobia, nativism, and anti-Semitism. He’ll seek to dismantle unions and workers’ rights, slash the already-torn safety net, eviscerate voting rights and civil liberties, and hand over more public funds and government services (such as prisons, the post office, health care, national parks, and schools) to big corporations. Trump will try to starve cities and states by denying federal funding for key services, as Mitch McConnell recently proposed in a memo leaked to the press. McConnell’s plan is designed to punish Democratic cities and states and bust public-sector unions, who are leading the fight against Trump and the Republicans.

We will see an unprecedented level of human suffering. More than 30 million Americans have already lost their jobs. Trump has no plan to rebuild the economy, much less make it more humane and fair.  For those who can get back to work, they will see their pay and pensions cut.  Millions of Americans will lose their housing, health care, food stamps, clean air, and safe workplaces. He’'' put the right to abortion and the right to same-sex marriage in even greater jeopardy. Millions of undocumented immigrants will be deported.

Trump will further populate the federal courts with reactionaries and likely get to appoint at least two more Kavanaugh-like right-wingers to the Supreme Court (to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer), solidifying a supermajority for the Court’s Republicans.

Trump will use every means at his disposal (the FBI, the Justice Department, Supreme Court and other judicial nominations, and the Post Office) to repress progressive movements and restrict the right to protest.

Progressives will spend the next four years fighting defensive battles, simply trying to stop things from getting much worse.

There will be plenty of time and opportunity to push Biden after the election. If we want to move the country in a progressive direction, we first have to defeat Trump at all costs.

Stop whining and start winning.

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. He is the author of  The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books) and an editor (with Kate Aronoff and Michael Kazin) of We Own the Future: Democratic Socialism, American Style (published in January by The New Press). He is coauthor of the forthcoming Baseball Rebels: The Reformers and Radicals Who Shook Up the Game and Changed America.

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