by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Democrats claim to hate Trump, and many of them hope to see him thrown in jail. But the reality is they desperately need him. Biden continually resurrects the Trump bogeyman as a foil to define himself against. You could say that this is a ploy of political expediency. In the Midterms, Biden’s warnings about Trumpism were a useful distraction from inflation, urban crime and the other failings of his administration. You could say it worked, as the Democrats hung on to Senate seats and avoided a “red wave.”
But there is more to the Democrats’ anti-Trumpism than partisan politics. It provides a moral basis to their rule (‘We’re saving democracy, we’re fighting fascists’). It also offers a rationale for exerting greater state control over political life and society. Biden and the Democrats use the spectre of Trump to assert their own brand of authoritarianism – a version less obvious and more sophisticated than Trump’s, but authoritarianism all the same.
The debate over ‘election denialism’ reveals how the Democrats’ criticisms of Trump do not mean they are principled defenders of democracy. In a speech at Union Station in Washington, D.C., in November, Biden warned that ‘extreme MAGA Republicans aim to question not only the legitimacy of past elections, but elections being held now and into the future’. Yes, casting doubt on elections does damage democracy. But Democrats are just as guilty of this as ‘MAGA Republicans’. Democrats claimed Trump’s election in 2016 was illegitimate due to Russian influence (and many still believe that). Leading party figures backed Stacey Abrams’ claims that the Georgina governor race was stolen from her in 2018. And Biden himself showed doubts about democracy when he described Georgia’s changes to its election laws as ‘Jim Crow 2.0,’ adding that those laws could make the Midterm elections in Georgia ‘illegitimate’.