By Reed Galen
American political campaigns are supposed to be simply built: The Democrat squares off against the Republican, and 50%+1 wins the contest. Then came dirty tricks, Swift Boats, and super PACs. In 2016, we added Russian disinformation to the mix. Today, President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign faces manifold opponents, all with one mission: Ensure the re-election of Donald J. Trump to the White House.
Trump himself, of course, needs to return to the White House. For his own protection, for his own ego, and for his bank account. Despite knowing he lost the 2020 election, freely and fairly, he and his supporters will never accept that fact. This fiction extends to the balance of the MAGA movement and too many of Trump’s primary ‘opponents.’ Those that hedge and prevaricate on Trump’s loss will say, ‘Of course Joe Biden is President.’ But their underlying message is more sinister: Biden is illegitimate, and his presidency is, too.
Trump’s movement, all the election deniers, front groups, financiers, right-wing outlets, and his Congressional allies are dedicated to creating a narrative about Biden. Their advantage, like Trump’s, is that they’re not bound by facts, alternative or otherwise. Whatever tales they weave will be duly detailed by Fox News, OANN, and the barnacle-like collection of propagandists that have affixed themselves to democracy’s hull.
In his own primary, Biden faces a quixotic bid by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. So addled is Kennedy that he was born on third base and thought he scored a touchdown. He’s Steve Bannon’s cat's paw, placed in the race to separate the extreme-left activist class (think anti-vax Marin County moms) from the broader Democratic Party. To help him along, Silicon Valley bros like David Sacks (who also hosted Ron DeSantis’ disastrous launch) are holding fundraisers for this glue-factory stalking horse.
Kennedy, like the rest of us, knows he won’t beat Biden. He isn’t running to represent his party next fall. His only role is to knock a few thousand votes off the President come next fall. Like 2016 and 2020, 2024 will be a game of small numbers. A few votes in this precinct, or that is enough to swing the entire election.
He’ll qualify for and participate in the New Hampshire primary next year to throw a monkey wrench into the DNC’s plans to move the opening contest to South Carolina. If Kennedy were to win, Republicans would crow about Biden’s weakness, and the mainstream media will follow them down the rabbit hole. This is the plan.
Not to be outdone in the realm of dangerous and malevolent behavior, No Labels, the so-called ‘centrist’ organization led by two ex-communicated Democratic grandees, is preparing the ground for a third-party candidate to run next year. No Labels cloaks their effort as an ‘insurance policy’ against two extreme and unwanted candidates in 2024.
This is the functional idea of seeing your house on fire, and rather than doing what’s necessary to douse the flames, building an addition on the back and the conflagration grows.
If No Labels succeeds in running a ‘unity ticket’ nationally, there is only one outcome: Donald Trump’s victory. Though they won’t release their donors, their supporters include the likes of Harlan Crow. Appealing to other nominally anti-Trump donors, No Labels is selling that they alone can return the country to something approximating the George W. Bush era. These donors may not like Trump’s antics or behavior, but they’ll take him if the alternative is four more years of Joe Biden.
Their electoral maps (four already this year) demonstrate either an incredible ignorance of American politics or a deliberate attempt to show how a ‘moderate’ candidate like Senators Joe Manchin or Kirsten Synema can beat both Biden and Trump next year when none exists. Their latest offering has Joe Biden losing Delaware. Read that again. This group believes that Joe Biden will lose Delaware.
No Labels’ own polling and an analysis by the Center-Left think tank Third Way demonstrates that a third-party candidate takes more votes from Biden than Trump. In the game of small numbers, Manchin would take enough disaffected Republicans, conservative-leaning independents, as well as some Democrats away from the President.
If these homegrown opponents aren’t enough, President Biden is also up against the likes of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea, all of whom would rather see Trump and his transparent ignorance and transaction nature return to the White House.
It’s not hard to see why Vladimir Putin needs Trump back; for him, it may very well be an existential event. China, despite Trump’s protestations and virulent language, prefers idiots to canny operators. Saudi Arabia paid Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner $2 billion. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman wants his money’s worth, and it’s certainly not for Kushner’s non-existent investment acumen.
As we look out over the next 18 months, we must understand and counteract the manifest threats not just to President Joe Biden’s reelection bid but to American democracy itself. They are inextricably intertwined. We cannot and must not ever underestimate the willingness and motives of our opponents. In fact, it is their motivation that should worry us most: If they’re willing to go to all this trouble, there is little they won’t do to ensure victory for the forces of illiberalism and authoritarianism next year.