In a fiery midterm campaign speech, President Joe Biden warned earlier this month of a grave threat to “American democracy.” He pointed the finger at “MAGA Republicans” as the source of that threat. As CNN reported:
“As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault,” Biden said. “We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise.”
Biden attempted to separate Trump’s most loyal followers from the Republican Party as a whole. And as he concluded, he sought to strike a more upbeat note, saying it was still within voters’ power to rein in the nation’s darkest forces.
But the heart of Biden’s address was a ringing alarm bell about what he called “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards. Backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy. No right to contraception, no right to marry who you love,” he said, striking on cultural issues Democrats believe can help them win in November.
Most news coverage focussed on Biden’s attack on Donald Trump-supporting MAGA Republicans.
But they missed “the elephant in the room,” the much greater threat exposed in Biden’s speech—his reiteration of the reactionary, anti-American ideology of Biden and his own party, that “the fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other rights flow.” That premise is the outright rejection of the revolutionary concept of inalienable individual rights, a denial of the very foundation of the American republic.
From what I have observed, most, as I’ve said, missed this critical significance of Biden’s diatribe, including prominent conservative voices like those at Fox News, which incessantly replayed Biden’s attacks on Trump and MAGA.
Most, but not all. At least one notable observer got it right—Jacob Sullum, writing for Reason. Sullum’s prescient piece is Trump Disregards Democracy, While Biden Ignores Its Dangers: The president's attack on the "extreme ideology" of "MAGA Republicans" elides the tension between majority rule and individual freedom. In a particularly important passage, Sullum correctly observes:
Biden says "the freedom to vote and have your vote counted" is "the most fundamental freedom in this country." The Framers saw things differently. They understood that unconstrained democracy, like unconstrained autocracy, poses an intolerable threat to liberty. The constitution they produced is chock-full of provisions that check the will of the people, including limits on the federal government's powers, requirements for passing legislation, and explicit recognition of rights that the people's representatives must respect, no matter what the majority demands.
Sullum goes on to point out how Biden twists and shreds the words of the U.S. Constitution to back up his reactionary claim. Pointing out the hypocrisy of Biden’s Democratic Party, and echoing what I’ve observed earlier, Sullum observes:
Based on Biden's words and deeds, we have a pretty good idea of what he believes about the proper size and scope of government. He thinks politicians selected by "the People" can do whatever they want, provided they do not impinge on the specific freedoms that he values. When it comes to abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage, the majority does not rule. But when it comes to nearly everything else, the people's will—or, more realistically, Biden's perception of it—prevails.
In fact, Biden’s own democratic ideology make even the rights to abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage alienable by elected representatives. That’s exactly what the Supreme Court did in overturning Roe v. Wade—It sent those rights into the hands of state legislatures, where Biden’s “the freedom to vote" will have the power to strip away the rights to abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage. If the vote is "the most fundamental freedom in this country," then no right is safe or sacrosanct from tyrannical elected legislatures, including the right not to be enslaved, no matter what Biden’s preferences.
I suggest reading Sullum’s article in it’s entirety. It’s a gem in America’s philosophically challenged culture.
The main beef I have with Sullum is that I think he significantly understates the Biden threat relative to Trump. But that's a minor quibble. I posted Sullum's article on Facebook, with this preamble:
Biden's attack on "MAGA Republicans" masks the much more dangerous totalitarian democracy espoused by him and his party. In truth, the Democratic Party has been a reactionary force against Americanism since its founding in 1828, when it came into being on a platform that included the "right" of majorities to vote minorities into slavery—exactly what you'd expect under democracy fundamentalism. The Democrats' hypocracy concerning abortion aside, a party that embraces the principle that "the freedom to vote is the most fundamental freedom" is an enemy of a free society and of America.
Sullum's analysis coincides in most respects with my long-standing views and of my take on Biden vs. Trump. Trump, whom I despise and would find it hard to vote for again, is nonetheless clearly the lesser of two evils hands down. I will renounce voting altogether before I'd ever vote Democrat.