The Debate Was a Train-wreck
Last week viewers experienced the first national debate for the 2020 presidential election. The event was marked by the two candidates arguing over each other and left many feeling it was ultimately a contest of “who hates the left more.” Repeatedly, President Trump derided Biden for his centrist policies, saying the former Vice President had now “lost the radical left vote.” When discussing Biden’s plans for a public option for insurance, Trump then claimed that Biden’s plan was socialist. This disconnect a hallmark of Trump campaign messaging.
The vilification of the left was a significant part of Tuesday’s debate. Trump attacked Biden for his “big government” plans; Biden sternly confirmed that he does not support a Green New Deal. Though he did say there would never be a coal or oil powered power plant built in the United States ever again. Bernie Sanders’ effect on the political zeitgeist is evident, even if only through how fearful both presidential candidates appear to be of his policies and their popular support. Both spent several minutes attempting to distance themselves from policies that might seem too close to Sanders’ or tie them to the “radical left.” Though in notable moments, Trump veered to Biden’s left to land shots on issues such as criminal justice or trade.
However, most of the time, neither candidate seemed capable of articulating their views on any specific issue. Millennial Review favorite, center right pundit Jake Tapper referred to the night as “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck,” and insisted that “the American people lost tonight.”
Trump Blows Kisses to White Supremacists
When analyzing Trump’s arguments, it’s hard to disagree. After being asked if he would condemn white supremacy, Trump danced around the question and claimed that “most of the violence is coming from the left.” He never outright answered the question, instead ending his response by saying “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” referencing the militant fascist group responsible for escalating violence in the Pacific Northwest. Members of the group understood his message as such:
In being asked to condemn white supremacy, the President acknowledged and legitimized a white supremacist, neofascist militant group. In the end, he did answer whether he would condemn white supremacy: a resounding “no.” And it is far from the first time he has done as much.
In the last third of the debate, much of the conversation revolved around the legitimacy of the upcoming election. President Trump stated last Wednesday that he didn’t know if he could commit to a peaceful transition of power if he lost. He excused this statement at the time by implying he didn’t trust the ballots this year, and he stayed consistent with this argument during the debate, focusing on the fact that many mail-in ballots are in use this year.
Further, as he emphasized how allegedly easily manipulated ballots would be this year, he opened the door for him to justify not stepping down from the Presidency in November. Historically, fascist movements rise to power utilizing electoral means. What follows is an expansion of their power and an erosion on checks on their power, ripped from both other institutions or political organizations. Fascist leaders justify this expansion of power by claiming the illegitimacy of the forces that put them in office in the first place, usually to combat a political enemy. Mussolini was voted into the Italian Chamber of Deputies first, before using the power he had there to rewrite Italian government and pressure the King into appointing him Prime Minister. This did not happen overnight; Mussolini spent much of his time in power undermining the Italian people’s faith in their own democracy and claiming that he alone was the solution.
It is not a leap to connect the fascist tendencies to arise out of weakened liberal democracies under a charismatic leader who frames himself as the only solution to the actions of our current President. Trump has laid the groundwork subtly for a while. Tonight, Trump directly paved the way to justify staying in power and elevated a militant, racist, anti-left organization to continue its violent actions.
Biden spent the segment about this year’s election encouraging people to vote, in stark contrast with the President’s focus on the illegitimacy of the votes Biden was attempting to expand.
Multiple times throughout the debate, Trump claimed that Biden had lost the votes of the far left. While Biden is a centrist whose policy decisions leave much to be desired, voting for him is preferable to being complicit in the establishment of an American fascist state. As leftists, we can both vote for Biden and engage in direct action on the ground in order to benefit those around us.