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The substantive stakes of the 2024 election

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Are not, as you may have been reading, whether an 81-year-old or a 78-year-old will prevail in November, but whether liberal democracy or authoritarianism will:

Within a 24-hour period, the 2024 presidential campaign kicked off in a way that could not present the choice before the American public more starkly.

Joe Biden stood before the Congress and, in his State of the Union address, made a powerful case that he would fight with every fiber of his being to preserve American democracy and the fundamental freedoms of all Americans.

Then, late Friday, Donald Trump hosted Hungary’s authoritarian ruler, Viktor Orban, in the kind of pro-Putin, anti-democracy summit that perfectly captured the true nature of today’s MAGA Republican Party. The dinner reception was so important that even Melania Trump made one of her rare appearances at her husband’s side. Trump said, “There’s nobody smarter or a better leader than Viktor Orban. He’s the boss. He’s a non-controversial figure because he says, ‘This is the way it’s going to be and that’s the end of it.’ He’s the boss. He’s a great leader.”

A day earlier, Orban—Vladimir Putin’s man in Europe, his acolyte and champion—met behind closed doors with the leaders of the new American right at the Heritage Foundation.

There it is, America. Biden is running to preserve America’s traditional values and institutions. Trump and the GOP have openly embraced autocracy, celebrating the virtues of “strong man” government.

The idea that Trump is only out for material gain and doesn’t believe in anything is pernicious nonsense. He’s been celebrating brutal dictators his entire public life — it’s his core value.

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