Before the first presidential debate, I had both hopes and fears. Hopes that Biden would be able to tell Trump’s lies, or at least expose the president’s callous indifference to the terrible suffering of Americans in recent months. Fears that Trump – a far more gifted television performer than he is usually credited with – is a plausible falsification of competence and leadership to convince the tiny but potentially crucial voters who have not yet made up their minds. (And yes, “Where the hell have you guys been ?!” is a perfectly fair question.)
But both hopes and fears faded within minutes of being exposed to the actual event – which, as many of my fellow press members will tell you, was far, far worse than any prediction. Chris Wallace, who hosted the debate with the whole back of a jellyfish serving in an amoeba beauty pageant, deserves much of the blame for this.
But as the trial drew to an excruciating end, I realized that in addition to Trump’s gross bullying and incessant interruption, we were being offered a range of fantasies. For those of us who are not sympathetic to the man or his cause, Trump’s fantasy world was more glaring: a world of unhindered male dominance and barely embarrassed white supremacy, in which suburbs full of well-armed white people live under the threat of the multicolored, multicultural people. cosmopolitan hoarding. Where screaming wins the argument. Where peaceful protesters are anti-fascist activists, centrist Joe Biden is a secret Sanders sympathizer, and socialism is at the door. Fortunately, too, where authority always trumps reality.
It would be easy to laugh – and God knows, Biden simulated laughter often enough. But he too sold properties in never-never-land. Biden’s imagination was of course more appealing – at least for me: a world of sensible men (my colleague Elie Mystal) asked“Is that really the best whites can do?” Good argument. But also: is this the best that males can do?), Non-partisan togetherness and avuncular authority, where irreconcilable interests and the darkest chapters of American history can be appeased and smoothed by a crooked smile, a rueful shake of the head, and a promise to bring both sides together in one room. Or the oval office.
Both fantasies seem terribly dangerous to me. The first – the Trumpian fantasy of Aryan ascension – is terrifying because of the world it leads to. The world we are increasingly living in – which, with a 6-3 Supreme Court sanctifying its authority, will likely last decades (if not fully) millennial empire.) But as a strategy to combat all of these horrors, Biden’s tenacious belief in institutions like his calling seems criminally naive to the conscience of the Republican senators. And terribly dangerous.
Everyone who watched tonight saw Trump asked by Wallace to deny his white supremacist supporters and instead called on the Proud Boys – a group of armed racists – to “step back and stand by”. Everyone who watched saw Trump, asked if he would promise to wait for the official result of the election and stick to the result, turned it down and instead launched a foam attack on postal ballots without claiming any evidence that the Democrats were preparing to steal the elections.
Biden’s strongest argument of the night came when he said, “If we get the votes, it’s all over. He can’t stay in power.” It would be nice to think so. But when it comes to a real fight – whether in court, in Congress, or on the street (because right now, all of these possibilities seem terribly likely), someone really believes the Biden who let Trump keep interrupting them, who it was persistent in defending his surviving son, but unwilling to point out the contrast between his dead son’s ministry and the Trump family legacy of evading and evading, which kept looking at Wallace as if he were the gym teacher who was about to do so was ending a fight only to keep being cruelly disappointed – does anyone really think Biden has what it takes to stay in the fight and win it?
If you do, please send me some of what you smoke The nation. Of course we all have to vote out the bastard. But as was made abundantly clear tonight, this is just the beginning of this fight. We have to be ready to overorganize, mobilize and survive. Anyone who tells you otherwise fantasizes. Or dream.