A piece by Melanie Phillips in today’s Times:
Today one of the strangest, most polarised and momentous presidential elections finally reaches its conclusion. Millions are terrified that President Trump may win a second term. Millions of others are terrified he may lose.
For those who detest Trump, his re-election would mean the unspeakable continuation in office of a dangerous, unhinged, racist white supremacist; a mendacious, narcissistic, demagogic fantasist. And that’s on one of his good days. For them the election of Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, would mean a return to moderation, recognisable presidential behaviour and sanity.
Those who back Trump believe that, if he is defeated, the country will finally lose its already weakened grip on civilised values and stop being recognisably America.
How, one might ask, could that possibly be? After all, even if Trump is defeated he has ensured a conservative majority of 6-3 on the Supreme Court, which plays an outsize role in formulating American social policy.
Trump supporters fear, however, that the Democrats now threaten the integrity of the court itself. This is because a number of prominent party members, including Kamala Harris, the vice-presidential candidate, have suggested that they could pack the court with liberal judges in order to wipe out that conservative majority — a move which Biden has refused to rule out.
The number of justices on the bench has remained at nine since 1869 but is not constitutionally fixed. Adding to them explicitly to increase the court’s partisan power would be widely viewed as an attack on the principle of dispassionate justice.
Beyond this, there are grounds for the belief that the Democrats hold the rule of law and core American values in contempt. For months several cities have been subjected to persistent attacks by Black Lives Matter and Antifa with their agenda of attacking and defunding the police and destroying “white privilege”. This has involved arson, looting, destruction of businesses, attacking the police and assaulting passers-by.
Far from condemning such mayhem, let alone stopping it, various Democratic mayors and prosecutors have uncritically supported what they have called “largely peaceful protests”. They have ordered the police to stand down and flirted with the defunding agenda.
Democrat staffers and Harris herself have urged people to “chip in” to a “freedom fund” to help post bail for those “protesting on the ground in Minnesota”. When federal law enforcement officers were sent in to restore order in Portland, Oregon, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, smeared them as “stormtroopers”.
Then there’s the Democrats’ implacable support for “sanctuary cities”, which frustrate attempts by federal law enforcement agencies to apprehend illegal immigrants — even if they have committed serious crimes — with the result that they escape deportation by melting into the community.
And then there’s the Democrats’ wholehearted embrace of identity politics, with its onslaught on sexual difference and traditional family structure, its attack on the statues and legacies of America’s founding fathers, its vilification of “whiteness” and its victimisation of anyone who stands up against any of this. Which is why the Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said that this election is a choice between freedom and tyranny and “the most important one since 1864, when America would have died if Abraham Lincoln were not re-elected.”
For those who see Trump himself as the main threat to the constitution, justice, freedom and all good things, this would seem incomprehensible. But some who previously dismissed voting for him as utterly unthinkable have changed their minds — not because their concerns about him have gone away but because of their fear of what the Democratic Party has become.
One such, an African-American woman who voted twice for Barack Obama and was devastated when Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016, told a writer on the American Thinker website that she will not only vote for Trump but intends to quit the Democrats. The party, she said, now stood for “appeasement without the empowerment of minorities, defunding the police, hatred for tradition, disdain for regular folks [and] citizenship, and benefits for illegal aliens, conformism, cancel culture and faux political correctness”.
In similar vein the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which hasn’t supported a Republican for the presidency since 1972, says that while it disapproves of Trump’s character and divisiveness it wants him to win the election. This is not just on account of his economic and other achievements but crucially because “the Biden-Harris ticket offers us higher taxes and a nanny state that will bow to the bullies and the woke who would tear down history rather than learning from history and building up the country”.
So some who still think Trump isn’t the kind of person they’d ever want to see in the White House will be voting for him nevertheless, as if their lives depended on it.
This is a culture-war election. And many fear that it may turn into more than a verbal battle of ideologies. With each camp believing that its opponents will destroy the values it holds most dear, parts of cities such as Los Angeles and New York are being boarded up out of fear that there will be violence whatever the result. Biden says this is a “battle for the soul of America”. Both sides would fervently agree. They just have diametrically opposite views of who will save it.
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