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Why We Need to Move on From Biden


These posts have been shockingly controversial, but whatever, it’s THE STORY right now. Jill Filipovic, no liberal’s idea of some shitposter, really lays out the problem here and it’s not the media.

That debate performance, though, was a shock to the national system. It wasn’t just bad; it felt like a veil-lifting moment when the gauzy image of the president we assumed to be true—old, sure, but mostly ticking along just fine—was revealed to be a dangerous illusion. This was a turning point for the electorate, but also for the political press and for political pundits. The Biden administration has radically limited journalists’ access to the president, an ongoing source of frustration. And so journalists have, as they do in any administration, relied on insider sources for information. The dissonance between what Biden administration insiders have long been saying and what all of America saw live on CNN wasn’t just jarring. It was appalling and enraging. For many people, whether they be voters or pundits or reporters, the feeling was one of betrayal. It’s not that journalists didn’t report the facts; it’s that many journalists and commentators may now conclude that they were manipulated and lied to. And voters may feel the same way.

Partisans on both sides of the aisle, whether they’re MAGA or “ridin’ for Biden,” are quick to blame the media. The right-wing theory is that biased liberal journalists helped to cover up Biden’s decline, which they say was in full force in 2020. The pro-Biden theory is that mainstream outlets want Trump to win because his politics-as-entertainment shenanigans are better for their bottom line but also refuse to cover Trump because they’re too busy undercutting Biden’s campaign. And they’re not wrong that the political press has made some grave errors that did, especially in 2016, put a thumb on the scale for Trump. (The “but her emails” campaign and the breathless Comey report coverage just before Election Day have rightly gone down as some of the biggest journalistic mistakes in the past several decades.)

But it’s also true that liberals have gotten much better at pushing back on slanted coverage. Biden’s age has been the topic of much reporting—and every time it’s discussed, there is an onslaught of outrage from Biden supporters who claim that it’s the invention of a biased media or even simple ableism (a confusing accusation, given the near consensus that it’s not only acceptable but necessary to discriminate based on a person’s thinking, speaking, and campaigning abilities when we’re talking about people who want to be president). Many well-meaning political journalists, I suspect, do not want a “but her emails” do-over and have likely considered, in that context, how hard to push the Biden age issue. Trump’s age, his penchant for lying, and questions about his temperament and cognitive abilities were a big part of the coverage of his first campaign and are dutifully folded into stories about Biden’s age-related shortcomings.

But Trump has a huge advantage in that he has been a ranting nutter of a candidate for nearly a decade now. Voters are well informed about his clear mental instability, his lies, and his shockingly bad acts. But his party and many of its voters simply don’t seem to care. The news business is one of, well, news. That isn’t an excuse for outlets’ not covering Trump’s various wrongdoings or dangerous plans or continuous lies, and news outlets should be doing more of this very coverage even if doing so feels repetitive, to make the stakes of this election crystal clear. But Trump remains extensively covered, including, crucially, his chilling plans for a second term. That his one-millionth fabrication doesn’t move the electoral needle isn’t the fault of any newspaper or network; it’s the result of a Republican Party that has devolved into something resembling a reality-denying cult.

That voters hold Biden to a different standard from Trump, and that Biden’s apparent decline has dominated the news cycle of the past week or so while Trump’s has not, is less the result of pro-Trump media bias or liberal media bias and more the result of real differences between the Democratic and Republican electorates, actual newsworthiness, and simple human fallibility. Biden insiders who may very well have assumed that they were doing what was best not just for their candidate but for the nation are now facing a public and a press that believes that they have been lied to and cunningly misled. (And the fact that the Biden team did, in fact, squirrel him away from the press and turn him into a teleprompter-only candidate seems to be part of a very real effort to obscure and mislead, even if it’s not quite a prop-up-a-corpse conspiracy.) Voters are rightly asking why we weren’t made fully aware of this earlier. There is a vast sense of betrayal and distrust, made all the more acute by the deep, stomach-twisting fear felt by anyone who reasonably understands the stakes here—stakes emphasized by the Biden campaign’s own rightful insistence that this is a nation-defining election of life-and-death proportions because democracy itself is on the ballot.

This is exactly right.

I also want to note that the frequent commenter outrage–WHY DON’T THEY HOLD TRUMP TO THE SAME STANDARD–is really just weak beer. It’s not wrong. It’s that no one cares and it doesn’t matter. For almost a decade now, we have seen people make arguments that if you just highlight Donald Trump’s horror, voters will turn against him. That’s just not true. It is true that the not bright middle of the road voter who is lightly engaged and has the memory of a mayfly may learn about Project 2025 and be disgusted enough to remember to vote. But as for Trump the person? C’mon now. What possible evidence is there that talking more about the worst person in American history as the worst person in American history makes any difference. If grabbing women by the pussy on tape only leads him to get elected a few months later, what will talking about his own cognitive decline do now? I just don’t see the evidence that it will matter, as much as we all might want it to. Donald Trump is simply a force above traditional American politics, because he is funny or something to a lot of people who see it all as lulz. I don’t know what to do about it either. But I think that blaming the media for what is happening with Biden’s age is a pretty weak rejoinder.

Let me also note this–there is real reason to worry about a lot of states.

If there is any truth to this polling, then we are in real trouble. I have absolutely no idea if Kamala Harris will make a strong general election candidate. I do however know a political death spiral when I see one. Talking about this stuff is not playing into Trump’s hands. We need to quit thinking everything is about messaging, not when the video evidence of Biden’s decline is as strong as it is. You can’t insult the intelligence of the people voting based on this, even if they have no intelligence to speak of at all.

I make no speculations as to Biden’s health. He’s just an old guy and being old and declining in your 80s is something that happens, whether he has a condition or not. You can blame the media all you want, but your job is to convince voters that Biden can do the job and if they aren’t convinced, all your correct points that Trump can’t do the job either is irrelevant. They are aging differently and for whatever reason, people like the old raging racist misogynist scumbag hater more than the old decent human being with good policies. If you can figure that out, you have figured out American politics and you can save us. I can’t figure it out except to have my opinion of humanity sink even lower.

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