Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have been indicted in the same misuse of presidential authority in the span of a few months. It’s certainly drummed up a lot of controversies. The Associated Press reported that former President Donald Trump hoarded more than 300 documents at Mar-a-Lago, some of which allegedly could’ve led to massive security leaks. Given Trump’s penchant for wanton incompetence, it doesn’t sound too far-fetched to me. Biden’s number of official and classified documents isn’t publicly disclosed just yet, but it seems to be at least a little less grievous than Trump’s. Given the slew of criticism levied at Trump and his administration for such a grievous breach of trust, many have labeled the Democrats as hypocrites for backing a leader who committed such a similar act of duplicity. Despite everything, however, there’s a clear problem in how the Democrats are handling this gaffe. Don’t cede ground, plain and simple. It’s worked for the Republicans, right? The priorities have changed.
Every single president in the history of the country has had some kind of controversy surrounding the abuse of power in some way, shape or form. I don’t really care that Joe Biden was hiding documents in his Delaware home. Donald Trump had plenty of scandals and was grossly incompetent. Former President Barack Obama had his fair share of scandals, some more valid than others. Remember when his justice department illegally obtained phone records of the Associated Press? How about when former President George W. Bush and his administration lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction to justify a literal war? Bush’s arguable election fraud in 2000? The variety of Clinton scandals that were overshadowed by the misogynistic Lewinsky debacle? I can go on, but my point is that no president ever comes out clean from a scandal.
The mentality of “when they go low, we go high” just isn’t going to cut it anymore. To Biden’s credit, however, he has been slightly more aggressive as of late when it comes to challenging the opposition. At a DNC meeting in Maryland preceding the 2022 midterms, Joe Biden actually came out and said that a faction of Republicans were, “semi-fascist,” and actively working to undermine democracy. He was decently cheeky during his State of the Union address on Feb. 7, too, actively provoking the newly-acquired Republican house majority to stop attempting Social Security cuts. Relatively, these are forward strides for a party so focused on reaching across the aisle with a party that’s been uncooperative since the Obama administration.
Am I saying to throw civility out the window? No, but people forget that politics is mostly a game of power with real stakes and real consequences. Donald Trump hoarding files is bad, but what makes him truly despicable is how he worked to destroy our institutions and tried to enact a of myriad racist, xenophobic and destructive policies that either killed people or deepened economic and racial inequality. It’s a matter of priorities, of which neoliberals desperately need to sort out. The era of civility politics is over.
Democrats have been relatively eager to criticize Biden for his conduct, and I can’t necessarily blame them. However, I don’t think it’s productive to cause disarray in the party when Democrats’ chances in 2024 look so shaky. Biden’s candidacy is questionable at best due to his age, and there are practically no other candidates enthusiastic about a challenge in the next presidential cycle. Do most Democrats even want Biden in 2024? “Not really” is the overwhelming response.
Things aren’t looking clear for the Republicans either, stuck between Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for 2024, but both of those guys are bad news. More Trump is one thing, but a DeSantis administration would be devastating. Ron DeSantis is a fascist, and I have no qualms with saying that. To risk giving him the highest office in the nation over something as petty as a breach of national security (which happens, like, all the time) is a gamble I’m uncomfortable with taking. My contention is about priorities, and the Democrats historically mire themselves in controversy instead of making smart electoral decisions. I don’t think any of us need a reminder of 2016 and Hillary Clinton’s botched campaign. Do what needs to be done first, and then we can talk about moral integrity and hypocrisy. All I’m saying is, it’s okay to be a bit mean and underhanded if you win.
Sam Fogel is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.