Resolute Square

No Moral Equivalency: Trump Threatens Our Democracy, Biden Does Not

As criminal indictments mount against former President Trump, his Republican allies have embarked on a disingenuous campaign to level spurious, mostly discredited, and often outright false allegations of corruption against President Biden.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Published:August 1, 2023

By Al From
As criminal indictments mount against former President Trump, his Republican allies have embarked on a disingenuous campaign to level spurious, mostly discredited, and often outright false allegations of corruption against President Biden.
Their goal is to create a false moral equivalency between Trump’s continuous criminal actions to undermine our democracy and Biden’s alleged misbehavior. 
Now at the beckoning of right-wing extremists in his caucus, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who should know better, is threatening to launch an impeachment investigation of President Biden. Republicans see their strategy as their best hope of putting Trump back in the White House.
Sadly, they have an unwitting partner in this effort: the political group No Labels, which is preparing to run a third-party candidate next year. “We have two very unpopular potential nominees,” No Labels Co-Chair Larry Hogan said recently, “and both of them potentially face very serious legal problems.” If Biden and Trump are equally bad, why not offer a third alternative, the No Labels leaders argue. 
Two reasons: First, Trump and Biden are not equal. Trump threatens the future of our democracy; Biden does not. Second, a third-party candidate would almost certainly throw the race to Trump. In a two way race, Trump cannot win a majority of the popular vote. The problem is that, as we saw in 2016, he can win in the electoral college without winning a majority of the popular vote.  
I believe that democracy is on the ballot in 2024 — and that Donald Trump represents the greatest threat to our democracy since the Civil War. He must be stopped.
The essence of our democracy is that we choose our leaders in free and fair elections and that all candidates for high office, including the presidency, abide peacefully by the results of the vote.
Donald Trump tried to undermine that system by refusing to accept the results of the 2020 election he lost to President Biden.
He tried to intimidate state elected officials into falsifying the election results in his favor.
He tried to put up false slates of electoral college electors in several states to steal the election in the electoral college.
He ordered his vice president to violate his constitutional responsibility by rejecting state-certified election results in the House of Representatives.
And he led a violent coup of his supporters at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power to the election winner.
As Maureen Dowd put it in the New York Times: “For the first time, a president who lost an election nakedly attempted to hold onto power and override the votes of millions of Americans.”
All of these actions undermine our democracy and threaten our freedoms. They are serious crimes — we believe that taken together, they constitute the greatest scandal in the history of the presidency — and he’ll likely be tried in court for these crimes and more over the next 18 months.
Even worse, three years after the fact, Trump continues to spread the same lies. Last December, he called for the termination of the Constitution that, as president, he was sworn to uphold. And he and his cronies are laying out plans for his second term that would punish his enemies and turn our democracy into an autocracy.
I understand that many voters don’t want Joe Biden to be president. They oppose his policies which they believe are bad for the country. They think he’s too old, that he’s no longer up to the job. Some may question his integrity.
Biden might not be an ideal president, but he doesn’t threaten our democracy. There is no moral equivalency between Trump and Biden. As a Republican friend told me, if we elect a Democrat and we think we made a mistake, we can correct it in four years; If we elect Trump, we may never be able to correct it.
In an ordinary year, with two unpopular major party candidates, a third-party candidate might make a lot of sense. But 2024 is not a normal year — not with Trump and his promise to destroy our democracy on the ballot. If Trump is the Republican candidate, the presidential election will be an up or down vote on democracy — and for democracy to prevail, the anti-Trump, pro-democracy vote must be consolidated behind a single candidate. 
Trump cannot win a majority of the popular vote, but in the 2024 election, like in the last two, the winner will be determined in a handful of swing states in the electoral college. 
All credible political research shows a third-party candidate would split the anti-Trump (pro-democracy) vote in those critical states — and almost certainly throw the election to Trump in the electoral college. That’s why No Labels should abandon its effort to put up a third-party candidate.
With democracy on the ballot in 2024, our first priority — indeed our only priority — should be to defeat Donald Trump and end his threat to democracy. Until we do, as conservative Judge Michael Luttig has said: our democracy “hangs on a knife’s edge.”