In 2016, I never considered voting for Donald Trump. The Johnny-come-lately Republican and his nasty schoolyard jibes seemed to me the worst degradation of American politics. But in 2020, I may be forced to vote for the man. Hear me out.
I don’t need a bumper sticker or a lawn sign to convey my distaste for Trump—his odious tweets, his chronic mendacity and general crudeness. Over the past four years, like an oil slick that besmirches all it touches, Trump has managed to obscure his administration’s more-substantive accomplishments, such as focusing the world’s attention on China’s threat to global security and brokering a new era of Middle East peace.
I fear Trump’s erratic personality-driven decision-making. His contempt for NATO is alarming, as is his delusion that he can manage rogue leaders. And I fret that his bizarrely isolationist attitude toward international trade will hurt the U.S. economy and splinter the global trading juggernaut that over the past half-century has brought the world amazing prosperity, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty.
But I fear the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party even more.
What is there to be afraid of? I fear that former vice president Joe Biden would be a figurehead president, incapable of focus or leadership, who would run a teleprompter presidency with the words drafted by his party’s hard-left ideologues.
I fear that a Congress with Democrats controlling both houses—almost certainly ensured by a Biden victory in November—would begin an assault on the institutions of government that preserve the nation’s small “d” democracy.
That could include the abolition of the filibuster, creating an executive-legislative monolith of unlimited political power; an increase in the number of Supreme Court seats to ensure a liberal super-majority; passage of devastating economic measures such as the Green New Deal; nationalized health care; the dismantling of U.S. borders; and the introduction of socialist-inspired measures that will wreck an economy still recovering from the pandemic lockdown.
I fear the grip of Manhattan-San Francisco progressive mores that increasingly permeate my daily newspapers, my children’s curriculums and my local government.
Nor do Biden’s national-security positions reassure me. While he promises a welcome change in style and a renewed respect for U.S. alliances, Biden would, like Trump, pull our troops from the Middle East and South Asia.
Worse yet, he would slash defense spending and likely renew the Obama administration’s misbegotten love affair with Iran’s tyrants.
Are there problems on the right—horrible nasties on a par with the violent protesters who have lately inflicted untold damage on many U.S. cities, businesses and lives? You bet. These execrable gun-toting racists have received too much tacit encouragement from Trump. But they do not represent the mainstream of the Republican Party or guide the choices of the vast mass of Republican members of Congress.
A year ago, I thought the Democratic Party was similarly insulated from the extreme left. But I don’t anymore.
With Trump, I know what I am getting. He wears his sins on the outside. For good and ill, he runs his administration. I worry more about his incompetence and vacillation than I do about any dictatorial tendencies.
On the other side, however, I am increasingly persuaded that what I see in Biden—whom I first met in 1992, and whom I believe to be a decent person—would merely be the facade for an administration, fully backed by both houses of Congress, with an agenda that would seriously damage the nation.
The corrosive left-wing extremism of 2020 would be ascendant, while a smiling President Biden assures the country that everything is fine. Trump, for all his flaws, could be all that stands between our imperfect democracy and the tyranny of the woke left.
Danielle Pletka is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.