Trump, of course, disagrees with both of these mistakes. But because he is genuinely dangerous and extraordinarily polarizing, he makes it much harder for establishment institutions, as well as moderate voices on the left, to hold their ground against these fallacies.
The president has, again and again, incited racial tensions in the hopes of making partisan gains. If he wins reelection, the idea that racism not only shaped the country’s past but continues to define its essence in the present will become much more difficult to refute. If, however, a clear majority of Americans turn on Trump, rejecting his racist remarks, those of us who still retain faith in America’s perfectibility and seek to preserve its core institutions can more easily win the argument.
Similarly, a Biden victory would make it easier, not harder, to push back against antifa types who think engaging in violent tactics to resist the Trump administration is justifiable. So long as citizens can contest political injustice at the ballot box, there can be no excuse for burning down government buildings. But Trump’s penchant for cruelty is the best possible recruitment tool for those who want to fight fire with even more fire. When the sense of terror that Trump has understandably instilled in many citizens begins to ebb, so too will the misguided hesitance of many Americans to criticize violent extremists pretending to fight for a noble cause.
When Trump was first elected, some progressives feared that he would normalize expressions of hatred and prejudice. America would experience a “preference cascade” in which ordinary people change their opinions to align with the prevailing social cues. The country would tack far to the right.
Adam Serwer: Trump is struggling to run against a white guy
Far from moving to the right on key social and cultural issues such as immigration, race relations, and same-sex marriage, however, Americans—especially white Americans—have moved to the left. The proportions of voters who believe that immigrants are good for the country, that members of ethnic minorities suffer from significant discrimination, and that everyone should enjoy the right to marry have all gone up. Scholars have found that this counterreaction to Trump is no outlier: More often than not, public opinion moves against the president.
Those who worry about illiberalism on the left should take this pattern to heart. According to commentators such as Shapiro, progressives already hold power in universities and the mainstream media, in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. If they also capture Congress and the White House, they would gain virtually unified control of American politics and culture. But fears of a Biden presidency leading to a woke takeover misunderstand the way public opinion moves in America. Because Trump’s ample failings have given the most misguided claims of the far left a superficial veneer of plausibility, Trump himself has been the far left’s biggest ally. And if the Biden administration does overreach on key cultural issues, that will likely set the stage for a course correction—a cascade back to moderation.
If you want to combat illiberalism, casting a vote for Donald Trump is the worst possible thing you can do.