President Trump isn't running against Joe Biden, not really. The former vice president may occupy the Democratic Party line on the presidential ballot, but it isn't Biden that Trump's rhetoric describes.
Trump is instead running against a straw man whom he describes as a Trojan horse for socialists and communists. Trump is running against someone who holds positions that aren't held by Biden himself — and if Trump convinces enough Americans that Biden and that straw man are one and the same, he might just win more votes.
In his speech accepting the Republican Party's nomination, Trump outlined a series of positions that he claimed are held by Biden but that, overwhelmingly, are not. It is, of course, not a new political tactic to stretch reality to cast your opponent in a negative light, but it is unusual to simply fabricate an opponent out of whole cloth.
Here is what Trump said about Biden, in bold, contrasted with the positions Biden actually holds.
Instead of following the science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country.
We begin with stark irony.
Perhaps one could argue that Biden has not adhered sufficiently closely to the scientific consensus on responding to the coronaviruspandemic as some might want, but there is probably no one in these United States in a weaker position to level that criticism than Donald Trump.
Trump's response to the pandemic has been a consistent tug-of-war with government experts and has included publicly undercutting the country's leading infectious-disease doctor. He has unveiled and then ignored scientific guidelines and has refused even to regularly wear a mask, sending a message of indifference that has certainly led to more infections.
That aside, his representation of Biden's position on potentially shutting down the economy again if needed is false.
Trump is referring to an interview Biden gave to ABC News. In it, Biden was asked if he would shut down the economy again if scientists say it needs to be done.
"I would shut it down," Biden replied. "I would listen to the scientists."
So not only is Biden's position not that he "wants" to shut the economy back down. His position is specifically that he would do so if it was required by following the science.
He has pledged a $4 trillion tax hike on almost all American families, which will totally collapse a rapidly improving economy.
Biden has proposed changing tax law in order to bring in an additional $3.8 trillion. That sum, though, would be spread over 10 years. On an annual basis, the country would be collecting about 10 percent morethan it currently does.
But this would only affect "almost all American families" if almost all American families either (1) earn $400,000 a year or (2) happen to be businesses. Those are the two groups to which Biden's increases would apply, and only a small percentage of American households earn that much money.
Joe Biden's agenda is "Made in China." My agenda is "Made in the USA."
While offshore manufacturing has been a significant part of the economy during both Barack Obama's administration (when Biden was vice president) and Trump's, both Trump and Biden have made pledges to bring manufacturing back to the United States.
Biden claims that his plan to do so would create 5 million jobs in "manufacturing and innovation" and be geographically diverse. Trump's campaign has not released any specific plans or detailed policy positions.
Biden has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale and natural gas, laying waste to the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico.
This is not true. At an event in February, Biden did endorse phasing out fossil fuels used in electricity generation, something that scientists argue is a necessary step for slowing global warming. But that was obviously an aspirational assertion. He supports a plan that would remove carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production — a major source of emissions — by 2035.
His climate plan talks about ending fossil-fuel subsidies, but not fossil fuels entirely. Biden also does not support ending hydraulic fracturing, just a ban on new permits for the process on federal lands.
As for an expansion of clean energy "laying waste" to state economies, this is likely hyperbolic. For one thing, clean energy production itself creates jobs. A report from the National Association of State Energy Officials found that about 950,000 people were employed in oil, gas and coal in 2019, compared to about 353,000 in solar and wind energy production.
The Biden-Bernie manifesto calls for suspending all removals of illegal aliens, implementing nationwide catch-and-release and providing illegal aliens with free taxpayer funded lawyers.
Trump has repeatedly focused on a document produced by the Biden campaign, which drafted recommendations for blending the policy proposals of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with Biden's own plans in order to engage Sanders's supporters in Biden's coalition. The "unity platform" is a lengthy document, 110 pages long, and the Biden campaign has not formally incorporated the recommendations into its platform.
In other words, this is not a Biden campaign document to which Biden is bound, which the campaign confirmed in an email to The Post. The Biden campaign proposals on immigration do include a focus on reducing incarceration by expanding the ability of immigrants with children who are awaiting hearings to live independently as part of nonprofit programs.
For what it's worth, the only mention of lawyers in relation to immigrants in the unity platform appears to be that immigration courts should allow for remote attorney appearances.
Joe Biden recently raised his hand on the debate stage and promised to give away — he was going to give … away your health-care dollars to illegal immigrants, which is going to bring massive number of immigrants into our country.
During a debate in June 2019, Biden did raise his hand at a Democratic primary debate to indicate he favored providing health-care coverage for people regardless of immigration status. But he later explained that his proposed expansion to the Affordable Care Act would include a nonsubsidized public option that anyone could buy into to get coverage.
This was actually one of the debates when the ACA was first introduced. People who need care will seek it anyway, usually at emergency rooms. If they go to a public hospital and can't pay the resulting bill, taxpayers cover the treatment anyway.
In an emergency, they should have health care," Biden said in an interview last year. "Everybody should. Anybody here in the country. How do you say, 'You're undocumented. I'm going to let you die, man?'"
He also supports deadly sanctuary cities that protect criminal aliens. He promised to end national security travel bans from jihadist nations, and he pledged to increase refugee admissions by 700 percent.
Trump and conservatives have effectively converted the phrase "sanctuary city" into a shorthand for a place where authorities allow any immigrant to do whatever they want. In reality, sanctuary city policies are aimed at improving public safety by removing disincentives for undocumented immigrants to work with city officials. If someone is assaulted, those cities want to encourage residents to work with police to solve the crime and not fear that the police will turn them over to immigration officers.
Biden does support such policies.
He also supports removing Trump's bans on travel from what Trump describes as "jihadist nations" — primarily ones with large Muslim populations. These bans were first implemented by Trump early in his administration, an attempt to institute his campaign pledge to keep Muslims from entering the country. Over time, as the courts rejected his plans, the administration figured out something that would satisfy both Trump and judicial review.
Biden also supports increasing refugee admissions substantially. That 700 percent figure should be taken with a specific grain of salt, though: Trump has slashed refugee admissions so substantially that evaluating Biden's proposal relative to Trump's is like evaluating your net worth relative to a kid who just opened a lemonade stand. The level Biden sets is 95,000 refugee admissions annually, a bit higher than what the Obama administration set in 2016.
It's interesting to note that, on these topics, Trump was largely accurate. He clearly thinks that the very idea of sanctuary cities and admitting refugees will, by themselves, be anathema to American voters.
The Biden plan would eliminate America's borders in the middle of a global pandemic. And he's even talking about taking the wall down.
The Biden plan will not "eliminate borders." Trump repeatedly claims that Biden and Democrats want "open borders," a nonsensical and indefensible claim.
As for Trump's wall, Biden has said that he would stop construction but not remove what's been built. Nearly all of what's been built to date replaces barriers that were in place during the Obama administration, albeit with much sturdier and higher obstacles.
Biden also vowed to oppose school choice and close all charter schools, ripping away the ladder of opportunity for Black and Hispanic children.
As FactCheck explained last month, Biden does oppose providing school vouchers — public money — for private education, which Trump uses his preferred "school choice" phrasing to describe. He does not, though, support closing charter schools broadly, instead opposing using federal money for private charter schools.
The party he leads supports the extreme late-term abortion of defenseless babies right up until the moment of birth.
The sleight-of-hand here isn't hard to spot. Trump attributes to Biden something that he purports Biden's party supports. Biden has not indicated support for late-term abortion.
Trump is even further from the mark in his assertions about support for abortion until the moment of birth. The president suggests that Biden is accountable for a party position that the party doesn't even hold. A proposed law in Virginia that would have made late-term abortions more broadly available under constrained conditions — and that didn't become law — ballooned outward in Republican rhetoric until support for its provisions was attributed to Democrats broadly.
It's not hard to see why — and it's not hard to see why Trump had few qualms about lashing it to Biden as well.
If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment and other constitutional freedoms.
Here again Trump conflates "the views of a minority" with "the views of Biden," albeit at more of a distance. For instance, some Democrats, such as former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, do support mandatory gun buyback programs. Biden does not.
But, being Trump, he also introduces completely wild and impossible assertions.
"The left" will "demolish the suburbs"? While creating a lot of jobs in the bulldozer industry, this is obvious nonsense. Trump is likely hyperbolizing his already hyperbolic claim that Democrats want to flood the suburbs with low-income housing, increasing crime (wink wink) and decreasing property values. This claim worked backward from Trump's intended goal — scaring suburban voters into voting for him — until he found a way to rationalize it, seizing on a rule that was in place at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That rule, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, aimed at upholding a part of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that intended to reduce housing segregation.
Also, Supreme Court justices can't "wipe away" the Second Amendment, and establishing a court that would significantly reduce Second Amendment protections would require a substantial shift in the composition of the justices.
This hand-wavey discussion of the court, though, isn't really about specifics. It's about stoking concern about what a Democratic president would mean for judicial picks. In 2016, a quarter of Trump voters said that court picks were their most important concern in the election.
The Biden-Bernie manifesto calls for abolishing cash bail, immediately releasing 400,000 criminals onto the streets and into your neighborhoods. When asked if he supports cutting police funding, Joe Biden replied, "Yes, absolutely." … If you give power to Joe Biden, the radical left will defund police departments all across America. They will pass federal legislation to reduce law enforcement nationwide.
Biden does support ending cash bail, which Trump here ascribes to the unity plan so that he gets to tie Biden to Sanders again. The rationale is that cash bail policies result in poorer Americans being disproportionately likely to face pre-trial incarceration, meaning they are more likely to suffer the negative effects of not being able to work or care for their families. It's not clear where Trump's 400,000 figure comes from — but it is worth pointing out that those arrested and awaiting trial are not all criminals and, in fact, are not considered criminals until they have been found guilty.
Trump's assertion about Biden supporting reductions in police funding rely on a common misrepresentation of comments Biden made in a recent interview.
Speaking to activist Ady Barkan, Biden agreed that there could be broad reforms in law enforcement, including shifting some responsibilities to unarmed social workers. A section of the interview in which Biden is asked if funding could be redirected away from police departments excludes Biden's full reply. In it, he says that funding could be conditioned on police department practices. Elsewhere in the full interview, he specifically states, as he has elsewhere, that he does not support defunding the police.
Biden's platform, in fact, calls for investing more in community policing.
Trump, of course, ends up looping all of this back into his claims that Biden is beholden to the "radical left," that it is people like Sanders who will be pushing Biden's agenda and not Biden himself. This is undercut a bit by the fact that Biden hasn't actually adopted the unity platform that Trump attributes to him. It is a sales pitch that depends on ignoring Biden's actual record.
Which was our original point. Trump isn't running against Joe Biden. He's running against the guy he wants to run against, a fictionalized Bernie Sanders acolyte who, Trump clearly thinks, makes it much easier for Trump to win.
Philip Bump, Washington Post, August 28: 2020
August 28, 2020
Voices4America Post Script. The Republican Party has no platform. Repeat. The Republican Party has no platform. Just #TrumpCult And the #DemocracyEating, #Lawless, #RacistInTheWH’s whole speech was lies about Joe's. 67 days. Fight like your life depends on it. It does. #BidenHarris2020
Trump did clarify his second term agenda: "But so I think, I think it would be, I think it would be very, very, I think we'd have a very, very solid, we would continue what we're doing, we'd solidify what we've done, and we have other things on our plate that we want to get done." Hahahaha.. except it is so sad.