Biden Can Stop the Terrifying Prospect of Second Trump Presidency—By Stepping Aside

AARON REGUNBERG

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams.

Last week we celebrated the Fourth of July, remembering the day in 1776 when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. The third sentence of that august document states that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This was the key innovation of our republican experiment. In a divinely ordained monarchy, authority derives from God; the people are there to be ruled by and serve the monarch. But in the system of government envisioned by America’s founding fathers, political leaders exist to represent and serve the people. 

This can be a fragile ideal. George Washington could have shattered it right from the get go had he wanted to hang onto power. But instead he relinquished his position and retired with honor when the time was right, a choice that—more than any other—made him a foundational hero of American democracy. 

Though this principle has survived many crises since then, today it faces arguably its greatest threat yet. Donald Trump has already tried to roll back our democracy once. Now he’s running with an explicit plan to do so, and with the twisted authority of the Supreme Court to back him up.

This kind of dangerously blind loyalty from some Democrats right now is not just disturbing, it’s dangerous.

Of course, to realize his dark vision, Trump needs to win in November. So the most terrifying thing about our current moment is that the presumptive Democratic nominee, President Joe Biden, is by every objective measure, on track to lose reelection. His 37% approval ratingmakes him historically unpopular, three quarters of Americans do not believe he has the cognitive health to be president, he is consistently losing in swing state polls (where he is polling far behind other Democrats), and his disastrous debate and interview performances show that he is not up to the task of effectively prosecuting the case against Donald Trump.

In this context, it’s easy to understand the anger many Americans have felt at the Democrats—some at high levels within the party but also worryingly large numbers at the grassroots—who’ve been insisting that President Biden deserves our unconditional support.

This is a dangerous claim to make on behalf of any political leader. In a democracy, no individual politician deserves unconditional support. That’s the whole idea behind a government “deriving [its] just powers from the consent of the governed.” Our leaders serve us, not the other way around.

Biden has helped accomplish some great things as president. That deserves a huge amount of appreciation and gratitude. But it doesn’t deserve the strange, almost parasocial loyalty we’re seeing from a minority of Democrats right now who are claiming, despite all objective signs to the contrary, that Biden is the only person who can beat Trump. In many cases this position has led to downright conspiratorial thinking, like the now omnipresent claims that concerns about Biden’s age and mental acuity are entirely an invention of the “mainstream media.”

If this kind of language sounds distressingly familiar, that’s because it’s the exact posture Democrats have spent the last eight years decrying on the MAGA right: don’t believe the fake news, don’t believe what your own eyes and ears tell you, the only truth is what comes from our supreme leader. To see this kind of dangerously blind loyalty from some Democrats right now is not just disturbing, it’s dangerous.

In a democratic republic like the United States, our loyalty belongs to our country and the core principles it represents: freedom, equality, and democracy. Those of us who are Democrats are also loyal to our party because we see it as the best vehicle for realizing those principles.

Within that context, some degree of loyalty to an individual leader is fine, but not unconditional loyalty. In fact, when a politician is leading us to disaster, as Biden clearly is by refusing to step down, unconditional loyalty to that leader actually constitutes disloyalty to one’s country and one’s party. As Democrats we seem very capable of understanding this concept when we rightfully critique the GOP’s slavish devotion to Donald Trump. But this principle applies to our side, too.

Being president is not a sacrifice. Certainly it’s a tough job, one that requires a lot of energy and endurance. But it’s also the most plushy, prestigious, privileged thing someone could ever do. That’s why Trump wanted the position in the first place, and I understand why Biden, his family, and his team would want four more years with all that power and prominence.

But they aren’t entitled to it. We have a hell of a lot more on the line in this election than one man’s ambitions and ego. The minority of Democrats insisting otherwise resemble nothing so much as a blue-shaded MAGA, not just in their conspiracies and increasingly unhinged perspective on the race, but also because they, too, are trying to drag us down a path that will very likely end in a second Trump presidency.

^^^

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams. Join Us: News for people demanding a better world.

Articles from Common Dreams are licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

AARON REGUNBERG is a former state legislator and a long-time progressive organizer. His writing can be found at The New Republic, Newsweek, The Boston Globe, Balls and Strikes, Dissent Magazine, Ecology Law Quarterly, and Harvard Environmental Law Review.

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Image by Kalyee Srithnam.

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