September 18, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Biden reminds us who the real tyrants are

Trump hasn’t just failed to protect us. He’s failed to protect our liberty.

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Joe Biden was on a CNN town hall Thursday night. The Democratic nominee’s performance was fine. Nothing special. Good enough. Relative to the president’s performance two days prior, however, Biden’s was virtuosic. As you’ll recall, Donald Trump is a lying, thieving, philandering sadist. That didn’t change Tuesday night when he fumbled through an ABC News town hall. Compared to that, all Biden needed to do was comb his hair, brush his teeth, stand up straight and act a little bit presidential.

Biden did more than that, obviously. The former vice president touched a nerve sending quick shots of pain through the body politic. I hope we remember them as we enter the final weeks. He brought up recent comments by the US attorney general, who said lock downs ordered to stop the spread of the new coronavirus were “like house arrest.” “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” Bill Barr said Wednesday.

The president’s rhetoric is upside, backward and prolapsed.

Biden demurred. “What Bill Barr recently said is outrageous. … I will tell you what takes away your freedom: not being able to see your kid, not being able to go to the football game or baseball game, not seeing your mom or dad sick in the hospital, not being able to do the things, that’s what is costing us our freedom.” Biden went on to say our collective loss of liberty is the result of a president who knew how bad the pandemic was going to be “in clear terms” but failed “to deal with this virus.”

I don’t think most people knew the nerve was hurting until Biden touched it. I don’t think Biden himself knew. Most people are just enduring a pandemic that has killed more than 202,000 Americans (per Worldometer, as of this writing), infected more than 6.8 million others and brought the US economy to the brink of collapse. But this moment, amid an objectively so-so performance, was like that feeling of lightning flashing down your arm. You knew you were in pain. You didn’t know how much till now. Trump hasn’t just failed to protect us. He’s failed to protect our liberty, too.

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Hold that truth firmly in your mind as you face a barrage of breathtaking propaganda for which every accusation against Biden and the Democrats is either a confession of what the president and his GOP confederates are doing, or a projection of what they would like to do. In that world, up is down, left is right, wrong is right. When it comes to understanding Trump’s campaign rhetoric, presume first that it’s a lie, and second that whatever degree of truth it contains is upside down, backward and prolapsed.

On this score, John Avlon did yeoman’s work. The CNN analyst recently compiled a list of things the president and his confederates accuse Biden and “the left” of being while showing the accusations are precisely what the president and his confederates are. They accuse liberals of being “snowflakes.” Trump and his supporters are world-historical snowflakes. They accuse the Democrats of practicing “identity politics.” They’d be nothing without white identity politics. They accuse Democrats of wasteful spending. Trump and the GOP have spent our way to historic levels of national debt. They accuse liberals of warping the US Constitution yet they stand by a president acquitted of attempting to defraud the American people. Treason, in other words.

When they demand “law enforcement,” they are really demanding punishment of their imagined enemies. When they demand “traditional values,” they are really demanding control over their women. When they demand “freedom,” they are really demanding conformity to group identity, which equates morality to obedience to white authority. When they demand “patriotism,” they are really demanding that an envisioned nation-within-a-nation, handpicked by God, achieve dominion over America in God’s name. Most important, they accuse “radicals” of being violent when the obvious source of violence is from right-wing actors who believe accusations against Biden and “the left” justify any and all reactions, including violent ones. This is why it’s a mistake to see hypocrisy where there’s actual motivated reasoning. It doesn’t matter that they are in fact what they accuse others of being. To them, what matters is creating excuses to act as they wish. Upside down, backward and prolapsed—if you do not understand that, you are allowing yourself to be duped, and in the process surrendering your liberty.

Fortunately, I think most Americans know who the real tyrants are. I think most of us understand how much pain we are in. If we don’t, perhaps Biden’s performance helped. There’s nothing like lightning shooting down your arm to wake you up.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    Jerry Falwell Jr.’s collapse is a microcosm, personification, and harbinger of what we’ll see for the next 2-4 months. Between Trump’s crude propaganda and Barr’s self-righteous and autocratic mendacity, we’re going to be treated to a tsunami of garbage.

    The good news is that Biden just needs to be sane and stable while clearly highlighting their treasonous evil. The sober minded contrast he brings while showing what we’ve lost because of their chaos and destruction should be decisive. Trump and crew think that scaring their base and perceived swing voters will work but that strategy failed miserably in the 2018 midterms. Add the pandemic and economic depression we’re facing plus smart, honest politics by the Democrats, we could see a repeat of the 1932 landslide that brought FDR to power.

  2. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    These evangelicalists that talk about how much they read their Bibles have apparently not gotten to Matthew 25:31-46. If they had they would behave with humility, and kindness. I know they would say I’m a humanist but I’d rather be that than inhuman and cruel. Thanks, John, for helping me think about what is really important.

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