Ever since Donald Trump won in 2016, media has relentlessly painted an image of the former entertainer and real-estate mogul as an ascendant authoritarian, a “strongman,” a dangerous populist who poses an existential threat to democracy. Although the press remains free, still this portrayal pervades headlines as major outlets declare former Vice President Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Cable news and mainstream publications alike described Trump’s pursuit of recounts and litigation as dubious or out of a despotic “playbook,” while other outlets such as The Atlantic celebrated voters for “[stopping] an authoritarian populist.” In a rather flagrant display of arrogance, one writer at the Washington Post even credited her fellow journalists for having “saved democracy” through their antagonistic coverage of the president.
These constant allegations of autocracy are especially jarring when evaluated alongside the plethora of actual authoritarian regimes plaguing the world today: emerging dictators corrupting elections in Belarus and Hungary; Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin censoring, jailing, or assassinating their political opponents; and the Chinese Communist Party perpetrating genocide against millions of ethnic and religious minorities.
Contemporary examples aside, a study of the last four years — as well as a look at the left’s policy preferences and political tactics — make clear that a Biden-Harris administration would threaten American democracy much more seriously than Trump ever will.
Trump Might Be a Buffoon, but He’s Not an Authoritarian
Read through the many articles on Trump’s supposed fascism, and you’ll find they inevitably center around rhetoric: Trump challenges political norms, speaks with open disdain for his opponents, spreads doubt about institutions such as the press, and lies quite a lot. (Whether this last point stems from malice or ignorance is, I think, up for debate.)
Rhetoric, however, is just rhetoric until it becomes policy. Mean tweets, historical illiteracy, and boorishness are not enough to qualify a democratically elected executive as “fascist.” Upon examination, Trump has protected individual freedom time and again. By appointing more than 200 judges, including three originalist justices to the Supreme Court, Trump strengthened checks on his own power and ensured more courts will reduce activist policymaking for decades to come.
Trump signed legislation in 2017 removing penalties associated with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which coerced Americans to enroll in government-run health care. His Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enabled greater economic participation by lowering tax rates across the board, empowering people, not the government, to spend more of their own money.
Trump’s First Step Act reduced overcriminalization by lowering mandatory minimums and expanding early-release programs, and his administration has steadfastly supported school choice while restoring due process for university students through improved Title IX regulations.
Perhaps most illuminating is the president’s response to the Wuhan virus. Could a would-be dictator dream of a more perfect opportunity to seize emergency powers and expand his authority than with the sudden, rapid emergence of a worldwide pandemic?
Yet as even far-left magazine Mother Jones noted, Trump instead opted to “push authority down onto the states and away from the federal government.” It is indeed a great irony that the president’s critics seemingly argue he hasn’t been enough of a strongman in his pandemic response. The media decried him, for example, when he encouraged Americans to live without fear of the virus after catching it himself — evidently appalled that he wasn’t stoking fear, as a proper authoritarian should.
For those unconvinced, consider the dictators of recent history. Fascists such as Fidel Castro, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler were active in politics throughout their lives, deeply committed to a very specific ideology, and served in military or government for decades prior to their ascent. Is it rational or even likely that a septuagenarian with no political or military background, who has spent decades as a high-profile celebrity running beauty pageants and reality television shows, harbors secret aspirations to overthrow democracy?
Beware the Left’s Authoritarianism
Conversely, Biden has consistently advocated for expanding governmental power to combat COVID-19 via more lockdowns and a national mask mandate. As vice president, Biden oversaw plenty of troublesome policies, such as Obamacare’s coercive individual mandate and, most egregiously, family separation at the border. Let’s also not forget that he has yet to disprove his involvement in a massive “pay-for-play” scandal with foreign entities while in office.
Kamala Harris, meanwhile, has a political record rife with malpractice. As California’s attorney general, she prosecuted thousands for marijuana-related offenses and punished parents of truant children. During her presidential bid, she promised to unilaterally rewrite immigration and gun laws by executive decree. Both Biden and Harris have yet to oppose adding justices to the Supreme Court in what would be a naked attempt to advance radically left policy.
Driving the Democratic Party is a radical, far-left bloc that increasingly dominates civil and corporate institutions. Inspired by various strains of Marxist thought, a favored ideology of dictators, mind you, these people have orchestrated riots in American cities for months, rallying behind an “anti-fascist” name but employing strikingly fascistic strategies: looting, destroying property, censoring, and violently coercing innocent civilians through mob-like intimidation.
Democratic representatives not only refuse to disavow these agitators but also increasingly adopt their tactics. Even before media crowned Biden the 2020 winner, for instance, members of Congress and left-leaning journalists alike requested lists of all people “complicit” in Trump’s administration. What purpose would this serve, other than future censorship, retribution, and intimidation?
Media has made much ado about returning to “normalcy,” and hopefully change in leadership will temper their biases and bring about more clear-headed coverage of American politics. Without those blinders on, they just might see how wrong they have been these past four years — but I won’t hold my breath.