Everybody Should Recognize the Stakes

The new management at CNN has decided to split the difference between truth and lies by becoming more like Fox “News”. One piece of evidence is that they invited the deplorable former president to do his act in front of an audience of likely Republican voters who’d been told it was fine to applaud and cheer their cult leader but not to boo him. It was painful for any decent person to watch. It did, however, convince the Washington Post‘s editorial board to describe the stakes in the next presidential election. What they wrote was somewhat less wishy-washy than usual:

… What will, or should, the 2024 presidential election be about? Will it be about the normal issues and concerns of most elections — topical issues such as the economy, immigration, abortion? Or should it primarily be about the existential threats posed by the reckless former president?

Voters will make their own calculations about what’s important as they weigh their choices. But after [his] performance … on Wednesday, there is no escaping that he has an agenda that is anything but normal. This includes pardoning those convicted during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol; reveling in attacks and mocking victims of sexual abuse; and promoting an anti-democratic view of the office of the presidency. There is no turning a blind eye to what this would mean if he were reelected.

The former president might not become the Republican Party’s nominee…. By the time the primaries take shape early next year, Republican voters could have genuine reservations about his electability in a general election… [But] he remains the party’s dominant figure and its most likely nominee.

President Biden has no serious opposition for the Democratic Party nomination….That means America could be heading for a rerun of the 2020 election, with the two nominees having traded places as incumbent and challenger.

…. A rematch between these two politicians would be an election with clear choices and enormous consequences for the future of the country that go beyond normal considerations of presidential elections.

In many ways, the election next year will look and feel like all elections… Put aside the [orange] elephant in the room and it’s just like elections always were…. The two would outline drastically different policy agendas that would move the country in opposite directions. The policy debate will be familiar and not unimportant, but it will not be the most important element of the election.

Txxxx’s [appearance] on CNN was a bright spotlight reminding everyone that this is a different era politically. He is anything but a traditional candidate, and, therefore, the stakes in these elections have been and will be unlike those that voters have had to confront….

For some Republicans, opposition to the Democrats’ priorities has been enough for them to stick with Txxxx. No doubt that is still the case. But it was perhaps easier for them to compartmentalize policy choices on the one hand vs. Txxxx’s [authoritarian]  instincts…. It’s not that Txxxx has changed; it’s that he takes every opportunity to reiterate those anti-democratic instincts, making the threats he represents more difficult for anyone to ignore.

His statements at the town hall were replete with false claims. He lied when he said the election was stolen. He still claims that those supporters who stormed the Capitol are patriots and good people. He still will not commit to accepting the outcome of the 2024 election. As he puts it, he will accept the outcome if he thinks it is fair. And he has made clear that he intends to attack the institutions of the federal government if he is reelected to the presidency.

Most Americans know where they stand on Txxxx and have for years. Close to a majority simply oppose him outright, and they have turned out in big numbers in three consecutive elections: 2018, 2020 and 2022. A portion of the electorate, the hardcore loyalists, will follow him wherever he takes them. Another portion … may still be torn.

Republican voters will render the initial judgments… Some of his rivals may attack directly. Others are likely to tiptoe around the big question about his fitness for office and the dangers another term in the White House would represent.

If he becomes the nominee, a broader electorate will judge him, and he said a number of things during the town hall that could hurt him, among them claiming credit for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The instincts of many people will be to approach 2024 as something familiar and with choices comparable to those of the past. But [his] candidacy presents a unique challenge to the electorate, to elected officials, to strategists and operatives, to the media….  That is the [issue] of the 2024 election.


In other words, he’s a monster. He’d be even less restrained given another four years in office. He’d use the government to punish everybody he sees as an enemy. That means nobody should treat him like a normal candidate. And although the Post’s editorial board is too anemic to say it out loud, we should all vote for the Democratic presidential nominee no matter if it’s Biden, Vice President Harris, a random governor or senator, or the least charismatic Democrat on some town’s city council.

My hope is that voters will have a more realistic view of the parties and economy a year and a half from now and will elect more Democrats than anybody now thinks possible. That will happen if enough of us keep in mind the stakes.