Many thanks to the hundreds of readers who responded to our survey with thoughtful questions, and those who took the time to write detailed feedback to us yesterday! We’re delightfully overwhelmed. We’re continuing with our Q&A; today’s themes are Biden, Trump, and elections.
Ask a Liberal:
“What is Biden doing well?” - Amira, Virginia
Biden has not gotten enough credit for the two (hopefully soon, three) massive bills that he has signed into law in less than one year as president. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill this month are ambitious bills that already have or will soon tangibly improve people’s lives. The media and even many politicians have focused on the infighting between the various Democratic factions and framed the passing of these bills as a “win for Biden” or a “win for Democrats,” but the win actually belongs to the majority of Americans who support these bills and stand to benefit.
While wage gains have not quite kept up with inflation, under the Biden administration the stock market is booming, unemployment is down, and the economic outlook remains positive.
“Where do you think Biden is falling short/could improve as president?” - Joshua, Florida
The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a dismal failure. It’s inexplicable that no one predicted the swift fall of the Afghan government, and inexcusable that Americans were stranded. However, the decision to leave was necessary, and in fact based on a plan from Trump. The failure belongs not just to Biden but to the failed policies of multiple successive administrations, which spent billions but failed to create a viable Afghan state, as well as the military and intelligence communities.
The situation at the border is also problematic. Biden rightly reversed some of Trump’s extreme measures, but he has not yet managed to come up with a sustainable alternative and continues to deny asylum seekers entry under a Trump-era CDC order.
“Joe Biden can be seen across the board on all news sources as compromised with regard to his mental faculties. This objective perception is not fabricated and is not a product of editing, clipping, or bias. How come most media sources don’t cover the dangers this represents to the country? Are good journalists on the left willing to confront this issue?”
While many on the left acknowledge that Biden is getting older, there’s no evidence that he’s mentally incapable of governing. Critics point to various gaffes/false statements, but Biden has a long history of gaffes and false statements (just as Trump also had a long list of false statements). For better or worse, this is who Joe Biden is.
“What would you say were some of Trump's biggest wins as president?” - Joshua, Florida
Operation Warp Speed, which helped to develop vaccines in record time, was a huge success. The First Step Act was a bipartisan triumph which retroactively reduced sentences for non-violent offenders. Trump defeated ISIS and was the first president since Jimmy Carter not to commit US troops to any new foreign conflicts. USMCA, Trump’s replacement for NAFTA, received support from Nancy Pelosi and the AFL-CIO, a major trade union group. Finally, Trump pushed back against Chinese human rights violations and trade abuses.
Ask a Conservative:
“What are the three best things the Biden administration has done so far?” - Michelle, Missouri
The AUKUS deal to provide nuclear submarines to Australia helps to counter growing Chinese aggressiveness. Many Republicans support parts of the Covid relief/bipartisan infrastructure bills such as additional stimulus checks and spending on roads, bridges, ports, and pipes for drinking water. Biden also deserves some credit for pushing back against the far-left wing of his party. Facing calls to pack the Supreme Court, he created a commission designed to bury the issue. He’s so far resisted calls to abandon Title 42, a CDC order which allows migrants to be immediately expelled, without which the border crisis would be even worse.
“How, specifically, are Democrats ‘destroying’ our country?” - Mary, Michigan
“Is Biden really doing such a horrible job?” - Anonymous
Biden ran as a moderate, but has not been governing as one. He’s proposing a massive FDR-like expansion of government (and government debt), but unlike FDR has only a razor-thin majority. The proposed trillions in new spending would nearly triple the national debt over the next decade. Given that Biden won the primary by pushing back against progressives, it’s inexplicable that he’s adopted their agenda after gaining power.
The administration has also been incompetent. Despite running on a platform of foreign policy experience and competence, the withdrawal from Afghanistan was horribly botched, with Americans left behind while the Taliban took power in a matter of days. Our southern border is being overwhelmed, with no solution in sight. Apprehensions at the border have hit an all-time high; the situation has gotten so bad that migrants are being released into the country without processing or paperwork. Last but certainly not least, inflation is at its highest level in 30 years.
“All I hear is that Trump was obnoxious but he had some good policies. What were they?” - Jo, South Carolina
Trump supported many good policies. First of all, he nominated (and saw confirmed) three Supreme Court justices and numerous other federal judges. He also cut tax rates, both for corporations and all income brackets, while limiting the regressive SALT deduction. On foreign policy, he got tough with China, abandoned the problematic Iran nuclear deal, facilitated diplomatic agreements between Israel and Arab states, and defeated ISIS.
Trump was responsible for Operation Warp Speed, which helped to develop and produce Covid vaccines in record time by eliminating red tape and other unnecessary delays. Prior to the pandemic, he oversaw a successful economy including strong wage growth, particularly for those in lower income brackets. The USMCA improved upon NAFTA to protect American workers. The unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and those without a high school diploma all hit record lows pre-pandemic.
“How can you support Trump?” - Sabrina, Texas
“How can you still believe Donald Trump was a good President?” - Maryellen
In addition to his policies (see above), Trump has been the subject of relentless attacks, many of which turned out to be based on false or misleading information. Instead of the predicted global recession, Trump oversaw a strong economy until the pandemic began. Instead of the predicted new wars, the Trump administration brokered multiple peace deals in the Middle East. And despite the constant accusations of racism, Trump improved his performance among African American and Hispanic voters between 2016 and 2020.
The Steele dossier, which was widely covered in the media, has turned out to be full of inaccuracies. While extensive corrections have been issued, they have come years after the initial report (and after Trump left office). Compare that coverage to that of Hunter Biden’s laptop, which was banned from social media even though later evidence indicated that the story was in fact accurate. Trump was also impeached twice based on highly contentious allegations, and faced a trial after he had already left office. Many see turning against Trump as, in essence, vindicating these smear campaigns. That said, it’s worth noting that many Republicans who continue to support Trump don’t necessarily want him to run again in 2024.
One of our contributors adds: my main reason for voting for Trump in 2016 was that he was the best chance to disrupt the status quo (barring third-party candidates). That is still true. Career politicians, like Biden and Clinton, are literally the people who got us into our current situation. The state of our nation is directly their fault. They cause problems and then campaign on promises to fix them. Why would I vote for that? Trump was a roll of the dice; a wild card. Before 2016 Trump bore no blame for our nation’s problems. The other candidates did. Why hire the people who created our problems to solve them?
Ask a Liberal:
“Regarding the election, the facts don’t add up to me. The HBO documentary Kill Chain, from March 2020, talked about the vulnerability of US voting machines. Fast-forward to November and accusations of election fraud. But the accepted narrative was (and is) that our elections were totally secure. Mike Lindell's folks cite proof that machines were hacked. Granted he's considered fringe, but shouldn't someone at least look at their evidence and consider it against Kill Chain?” - Donna, Iowa
Numerous allegations of fraud have in fact been investigated, and aside from a few isolated incidents, the allegations have not been substantiated. For example, a controversial hand recount/audit in Arizona confirmed that Biden won and in fact that his margin was slightly higher than reported. A similar effort conducted by Michigan’s Secretary of State also confirmed Biden’s victory. This was also the case in Wisconsin, Georgia, and Texas.
While it may have seemed suspicious that Trump’s early lead disappeared as additional votes were counted, it was always expected that mail-in ballots (counted last) would heavily favor Biden. In Pennsylvania, for example, mail-in ballots were sent in by nearly three times as many registered Democrats as Republicans. Moreover, many of the fraud allegations involve large cities. But Trump’s margins in those cities were similar to 2016; Biden won by improving his margins in the suburbs.
Lastly, Democratic lawmakers fully support election security, and have pushed for additional federal funding to that end (funding generally opposed by Republicans). In addition to improving security, modernizing voting machines and infrastructure would result in fewer voting delays and lost votes.
Ask a Conservative:
“If every government agency believes the election wasn't stolen, why do people still think it was?” - Kathy, Maryland
“Why, contrary to all the facts, do conservatives continue to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen?” - Anonymous
While there is little credible evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, fraud does happen. In 2018, a House election in North Carolina was overturned and re-run due to evidence of widespread fraud involving absentee ballots. In the 2008 Minnesota Senate Race, Democrat Al Franken (coincidentally, the 60th vote to pass Obamacare) won by 312 votes. However, later analysis indicated that 1,099 people ineligible to vote due to felony convictions had in fact voted during the election. While this isn’t proof that Franken would have lost, it’s obviously concerning when the number of illegitimate votes is larger than the margin of victory. Last year, a judge in Philadelphia pleaded guilty to providing votes in return for bribes. In three separate primary elections between 2014 and 2016, he “stuffed the ballot box by literally standing in a voting booth and voting over and over, as fast as he could, while he thought the coast was clear.”
Those who do believe the presidential election was stolen often point to the fact that the 2020 election saw a widespread relaxation of voting rules and expansion of mail-in ballots. Prior to the election, a mayoral candidate in Texas was arrested for fraudulently obtaining over 100 ballots on behalf of nursing home residents. A nursing home worker in Michigan faces similar charges. This isn’t proof that the election was stolen, but it does raise concerns.
Finally, it’s worth noting that concerns about election integrity are bipartisan. In a 2018 poll, 66 percent of Democrats stated that they believed “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President.” There has been no evidence of this. Unfortunately our nation is so polarized that whether each side believes the next election will be open and fair depends on who’s currently in the White House. In 2019, only 39 percent of Democrats said the next election would be open and fair; in 2021, only 37 percent of Republicans say the same.
“Do you agree that there are now new election laws in some states that allow state legislatures to essentially over rule the popular vote? If yes, why isn't this a serious threat to American democracy under the Constitution?”
“Why are Republicans afraid for everyone to be able to vote?”
No state currently allows the legislature to override the popular vote. Some such measures have been proposed, but they have not succeeded. Some states (such as Georgia) have given the legislature a larger role in election oversight. However, it’s not clear why this is problematic, given that elections are already overseen by Secretaries of State who are selected in partisan elections. Georgia is moving authority from an elected (Republican) Secretary of State to an elected (Republican) legislature.
Republicans are not afraid of people voting, but they are concerned about fraud (see examples above). While some states have recently tightened voting laws, it’s hardly accurate to suggest these restrictions prevent people from voting, given that they were in effect in most states for most of the country’s history. It’s not disenfranchisement to require voters to register in advance (as 30 states do), or to require them to show up on election day and vote in person unless they have a specific need to vote by mail, for example if they are traveling.
Contrary to some claims, research shows that voter ID laws don’t reduce turnout. Voter ID laws are also extremely popular, supported by 80 percent of voters, including 62 percent of Democrats. Finally, it’s worth noting that just a few weeks ago voters in New York, a blue state, rejected ballot measures that would have allowed same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting.