On Jan. 20, 1969, Richard Nixon was inaugurated as the 37th president of the United States. What followed, according to historians and experts alike, was a press-silencing, lie-peddling, authoritarian-like administration, abruptly cut short and forever stained by the infamous Watergate scandal. While Nixon was a Republican, Democratic voters bear some of the responsibility for his victory. In the 1968 election, anti-war protesters, composed of young progressives, boycotted the ballot and chose not to support the Democratic Party’s nominee over his refusal to de-escalate the Vietnam War.
These liberal pacifists cut off their noses to spite their faces and indirectly elected a conservative president who would not only continue the war in Vietnam for five more years but destroy the trust between Americans and their elected officials for decades to come.
Today, President Joe Biden faces similar risks of a Democratic boycott from cross currents within his own party. However, the stakes are much higher now than they were 54 years ago. With former President Donald Trump as the current Republican Party frontrunner, American democracy is on the ballot this election cycle and a refusal to vote would be unprecedentedly consequential.
A look at Biden’s record as president shows that he remains the right candidate for the job. The championing and signing of key legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act (which includes the largest investment by the U.S. to date toward combating the climate crisis), the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the first comprehensive gun legislation in 30 years are all testaments to his ability to facilitate productivity in an otherwise gridlocked Congress.
Under Biden’s leadership, the American economy has outperformed the rest of the world. With inflation spiking globally as a result of COVID-19-era spending and the war in Ukraine, the president’s economic policy has contributed to a decline in U.S. inflation to below the rates seen in the rest of the industrialized world. Economists have long observed a relationship between high inflation and low unemployment, and vice versa. This stabilization has occurred while jobs and GDP growth continue to defy experts’ pessimism.
Primary challengers such as Democratic hopefuls Marianne Williamson and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., do not have the political experience or bipartisan skill set needed to be president. While a double-edged sword, a benefit to Biden’s age is his strong political credentials. Having worked in the Senate for 36 years, he knows how Congress operates and has experience accomplishing legislative initiatives in divisive times.
Let me be clear, a vote for Biden does not mean you have to agree with him or all his positions. Concerns over his age, one’s personal view on his foreign policies or his party affiliation alone may be valid reasons to be dissatisfied with Biden. However, in the final analysis, the stakes of the 2024 election transcend these reasons. Since 2016, American elections should now be viewed as less about politics and more about preserving the integrity of our democracy.
In lieu of a Biden win, Trump would implement an antidemocratic presidential transition plan designed to consolidate executive power and weaken the very institutions that fortify our republic. Developed by a conservative think tank called the Heritage Foundation, Project 2025 is filled with dystopian policies that strip environmental protection programs, replace federal officials with conservative loyalists and significantly blur the lines that separate church and state. We must take these threats seriously. If not, a Trump victory would mark an authoritarian turn that this country cannot afford.
Some may say these consequences are far-fetched and unreasonable. But if there is one thing we have learned these past few years, it is that Republicans are not afraid of the extreme. An evaluation of the Trump administration shows a frightening prelude to Project 2025 and acts as an indicator of the extremism and political revenge that would be unleashed with a second Trump term.
The American people should not forget the chaos and polarization of Trump’s presidency. Riddled with scandals, lies and high crimes, the former president left office with one of the lowest presidential approval ratings in U.S. history. His incitement of an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021 (for which he now faces criminal prosecution) is inexcusable. Not only was it a physical assault on our nation’s Capitol, but a symbolic attack on American democracy. Moreover, his alleged attempt to lead an illegal syndicate to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia underscores his blatant criminal behavior and the extent to which he will go to maintain power. There is no doubt that if Trump is reelected, he will finish his degradation of our democratic norms and institutions.
In order to preserve our democracy and continue to strive toward improvement, we must reelect Biden. Disapproval of some of his policies or even him as an individual aside, voters must think long-term. Abstaining from voting is not an option as we have watched this story play out before. Nixon’s 1968 win was caused by a split in the Democratic Party, and Trump’s win in 2016 was the result of low voter turnout among Democrats. Those Democrats or Independents who are too myopic to see the serious threats Trump poses to the stability of America risk forever damaging our nation’s democracy and impeding any path to recovery we are on.
Zach Ajluni is an Opinion Columnist who writes about American politics and current events for The Michigan Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.