Former Vice President Joe Biden penned a stirring op-ed in The Atlantic yesterday, calling on all conscientious Americans to go to battle for ‘the soul of this nation’. As he sees it, the dark forces of fascism, xenophobia and hate are on the rise in response to the “giant steps forward we have taken in recent years”. He wrote:
If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now: We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation.
The giant forward steps we have taken in recent years on civil liberties and civil rights and human rights are being met by a ferocious pushback from the oldest and darkest forces in America. Are we really surprised they rose up? Are we really surprised they lashed back? Did we really think they would be extinguished with a whimper rather than a fight?
Did we think the charlatans and the con-men and the false prophets who have long dotted our history wouldn’t revisit us, once again prop up the immigrant as the source of all our troubles, and look to prey on the hopelessness and despair that has grown up in the hollowed-out cities and towns of Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania and the long-forgotten rural stretches of West Virginia and Kentucky?
We have fought this battle before—but today we have a special challenge.
Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.
We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.
This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America. Hatred of blacks, Jews, immigrants—all who are seen as “the other”—won’t be accepted or tolerated or given safe harbor anywhere in this nation.
Whatever you might think of Joe Biden and his politics, he never sought to divide Americans or appeal to their hate. Biden didn’t use minorities as scapegoats, insult women or deride allies, and while he wasn’t perfect, Biden was a man of dignity who always appealed to our better nature.
And therein lies the major problem with Trump. Regardless of his actual policies (which are mostly terrible), his politics are the most terrifying aspect of his presidency. He is the textbook definition of a fascist — a thin skinned bully who pretends to be a friend of the working man, uses minorities as scapegoats, and ran on a platform of ‘protecting’ the majority from the minority — which is the exact opposite of what the American democratic system was set up to do.
I’m not a fan of Ronald Reagan and completely disagree with his politics, but he did not appeal to hate while in office. He did not vilify immigrants, demean women, or equate Neo-Nazis with anti-fascist protesters. This is why many conservatives and almost all liberals recognize the danger in Donald Trump. This isn’t so much about policy, it’s about politics and the devastating effect divisive language and demagoguery has on the psyche of a nation. “You, me, and the citizens of this country carry a special burden in 2017,” Biden wrote. “We have to do what our president has not. We have to uphold America’s values. We have to do what he will not. We have to defend our Constitution. We have to remember our kids are watching. We have to show the world America is still a beacon of light.”
Joe Biden, real American.
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.