The discovery of secret documents in Joe Biden’s private offices and residence is a ball he’ll draw to 2024.
We don’t yet know all the details of the case, but we do know enough to understand two things. First, it is infinitely less serious than the Mar-a-Lago Documents affair. Then Biden will suffer politically, even if the legal consequences will probably be nil.
For now, the case has two useful lessons. One deals with the dangers of anti-Trumpism and the other leads me to present to my readers two major neologisms of American politics that, unfortunately, are untranslatable.
Dangers of Anti-Trumpism
Joe Biden won 2020 by promising to be the anti-Trump. Biden exposed pathological lies, open corruption and Trump’s opaque and chaotic administration, promising truth, honesty, transparency and accountability.
The problem is that while Biden’s performance is vastly better than Trump’s on all of these counts, it’s not flawless. Biden is a long way from Trump’s 30,000 false claims, but his score isn’t zero. Hunter Biden’s troubles pale in comparison to Jared Kushner’s Saudi shenanigans and the Trump corporation’s proven criminal record, but they’re embarrassing.
In the document cases, Trump has tried to hide his actions, even under threat of a warning letter, but Biden is still blamed because his attorneys waited a few weeks before going public with the case. Eventually, Biden will be accused of not handling his documents in an impeccably responsible manner, even if Trump handled them in a downright criminal manner.
Biden will pay dearly and for a long time for his inability to achieve perfection, even among his own supporters, even as Trump opposition sets records the other way.
Whataboutism and Bothsiderism
In the polarized environment of American politics, the relatively minor wrongdoing blamed on the opposing party can be used to downplay the much more serious, possibly even criminal, wrongdoing on the part of one’s own party.
At this level, the two parties are far from equal. Consider former Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who was forced to resign by his own party over a bad joke of a sexual nature, while Republicans are wiping the towel on Trump’s multiple sexual misconduct.
If Donald Trump is prosecuted for stealing classified documents and refusing to cooperate with justice, his defense attorneys will not hesitate to retort, “What about Biden? »
We know the music. In 2016, Republicans successfully downplayed Trump’s mountain of lies and wrongdoing by pounding on Hillary Clinton’s emails. Today they are minimizing their newcomer George Santos’ mountain of lies by amplifying the Democrats’ imperfections.
Bothsidesism, the tendency to create and support these kinds of false equivalences, is reinforced by the media’s tendency to give equal weight to the wounds of both parties, regardless of differences in the nature and severity of the wounds involved.
Even as Joe Biden climbs the cliff in public opinion, by November 2024 he will have to grapple with whataboutism and bothsidesism, wounds that have become inevitable in American political and media environments.