The Contrast Between Trump & Biden

Heather Cox Richardson

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They spoke at Girard College, a school where Black Americans make up most of the student body, where they emphasized the importance of Black voters to the Democratic coalition and the ways in which the administration’s actions have delivered on its promises to the Black community. 

“Because Black Americans voted, Kamala and I are President and Vice President of the United States,” Biden said. “That’s not hyperbole. Because you voted, Donald Trump is a defeated former president.”

Harris noted that Black Americans are 60% more likely than white Americans to be diagnosed with diabetes, and called out the administration’s capping of insulin at $35 a month, along with the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that permit Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. She called out the administration’s relief of more than $165 billion in student loan debt for more than 5 million Americans, as well as the first major bipartisan gun safety law in 30 years. 

What has guided them, Harris said to applause, is the “fundamental belief” that “[w]e work for you, the American people, not the special interests, not the billionaires or the big corporations, but the people.” 

She contrasted their record with that of former president Trump, who tried to get rid of the Affordable Care Act that puts healthcare within reach for millions of Black Americans, proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and handpicked Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. “And as he intended, they did,” she said. “[T]oday, one in three women and more than half of Black women of reproductive age live in a state with an abortion ban.”

Then Biden took the stage to chants of “Four more years!” He added to Harris’s list of ways in which the administration has worked for racial equality: reconnecting the Black and brown and poor neighborhoods that were cut apart by highways in the 1960s and addressing the decades of disinvestment that happened as a consequence of the carving up of those neighborhoods (this cutting apart of neighborhoods is a really big deal in urban history, by the way); getting rid of the lead pipes that still contaminate water, especially in minority neighborhoods; making high-speed internet widely available and affordable; investing in historically Black colleges and universities; appointing more Black women to federal circuit courts than all other U.S. presidents combined. 

Under the Biden administration, he noted, Black unemployment is at a record low and Black small businesses are starting at the fastest rate in 30 years. The wealth gap between Black Americans and white Americans is the lowest it’s been in 20 years. “We’re opening more doors for economic opportunity, including access to capital, entrepreneurship, workforce training so you can build a life of financial freedom and create generational wealth…all while being the providers and leaders of your families and community,” the president said.

Biden drew a contrast between his administration and Trump, saying, “I’ve shown you who I am, and Trump has shown you who he is. And today, Donald Trump is pandering and peddling lies and stereotypes for your votes so he can win for himself, not for you.” “[W]e’re not going to let Donald Trump turn America into a place that doesn’t believe in honesty, decency, and treating people with respect,” he said, “and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Donald Trump turn America into a place filled with anger and resentment and hate.” 

According to Myah Ward and Brakkton Booker of Politico, this was Biden’s fifth trip to the Philadelphia area and his seventh to Pennsylvania this year. As he tries to win the state in 2024, the campaign has opened 24 field offices and outspent Trump there by a ratio of more than 4 to 1.   

Harris and Biden’s appearance in Philadelphia looked pretty much like a normal day in a normal presidential campaign season.

The same was not true of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who was in a courtroom in Manhattan as Judge Juan Merchan instructed the jury in the criminal case  against Trump for falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, to stop her account of their sexual encounter from becoming public in the days before the 2016 election.  

Legal analyst Joyce White Vance explained that to find Trump guilty, “[t]he jury must find unanimously that Trump created fraudulent business records and that he did it with the intent to influence an election through unlawful means.”

Trump and his supporters immediately took to the media to misrepresent the court system. Trump appeared to sleep through the jury instructions but later posted on social media: “I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE CHARGES ARE IN THIS RIGGED CASE…. THERE IS NO CRIME.” (He had told the judge on April 4, 2023, that he understood the charges against him.) Trump insisted that he had been railroaded by the fact that “a lot of key witnesses were not called,” although his own defense did not call them and he declined to testify himself. He called the judge “conflicted” and “corrupt,” and said “Mother Teresa could not beat these charges,” a reference to the Albanian-Indian Catholic nun canonized by the Catholic Church in 2016. 

Fox News host John Roberts misrepresented the judge’s instructions, launching a wave of fury on right-wing media stations and prompting Florida senator Marco Rubio to write: “This is exactly the kind of sham trial used against political opponents of the regime in the old Soviet Union.” Utah senator Mike Lee chimed in with his own attacks on Judge Merchan. Roberts later corrected his tweet, but it was too late to change the narrative.

Tonight, those two themes reappeared again and again on social media in both Trump’s feed and those of his supporters. Their frenzy suggested they are concerned about the jury’s verdict. Newsmax host Todd Starnes tweeted: “President Trump needs to get out of New York City RIGHT NOW! Fly back to Mar-a-Lago or another state that will provide him safe harbor.”

Indeed, it seems we are seeing the fear of accountability that has been missing from the top levels of American politics since President Gerald Ford pardoned President Richard M. Nixon in 1974. While Ford believed Nixon’s accepting the pardon was an admission of guilt for his participation in the coverup of the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel before the 1972 election and anything else he might have done, Nixon never admitted such guilt. 

In the fifty years since then, certain powerful people seem to have concluded that they cannot be held accountable to laws or rules. The MAGA Republicans are illustrating that disrespect for the rule of law on a daily basis as they work to undermine the courts and the Department of Justice. 

Yesterday, Jodi Kantor of the New York Times reported that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s story that his wife flew the upside down flag of distress favored by the January 6th rioters as a response to a hostile neighbor did not line up with accounts given by neighbors and a police report. 

Because of that distress flag, as well as the “Appeal to Heaven” flag that flew over his beach house, Alito is under increasing pressure to recuse himself from considering cases related to the events of January 6, including whether Trump is immune from prosecution for his actions surrounding the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Today Alito refused to recuse himself, blaming his wife for flying the flags—“My wife is fond of flying flags. I am not,” he wrote—and suggesting that anyone who thinks he should recuse himself is “motivated by political or ideological considerations.” 

And in what should almost certainly be read as trolling those who disagree with him, Alito, the author of the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision taking away from American women the right to make their own decisions about their healthcare, wrote: “[M]y wife is an independently minded private citizen. She makes her own decisions, and I honor her right to do so.”  

Trump promptly congratulated Alito “for showing the INTELLIGENCE, COURAGE, and ‘GUTS’ to refuse stepping aside from making a decision on anything January 6th related.” 

MAGA attacks on the rule of law affect real people’s lives. Ryan J. Reilly of NBC News reported today that after former Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone called Trump “authoritarian” with a “violence fetish” in front of the Manhattan courthouse yesterday, Fanone’s 78-year-old mother was swatted, with officers showing up at her home after reports of a murder there. Fanone protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and went into cardiac arrest after a rioter assaulted him with a stun gun. “This is the reality of going up against or challenging Donald Trump…. These swatting calls are incredibly f—ing dangerous, especially when the target is somebody like my mom.”

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