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The Atlantic makes ‘The Case Against Donald Trump’

The editorial concludes: “Two men are running for president. One is a terrible man; the other is a decent man. Vote for the decent man.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden speaking at a drive-in campaign event at Dallas High School in Dallas, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden speaking at a drive-in campaign event at Dallas High School in Dallas, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Atlantic, which is certainly in the running for the title of our nation’s greatest magazine, came into existence in 1857 and in 1860 endorsed Abraham Lincoln for president.

But the Atlantic is not a newspaper, not fundamentally political, and, immediately after endorsing Lincoln, it realized that it was not the kind of publication that would be routinely endorsing political candidates. (In fact, it didn’t issue an endorsement in 1864, when Lincoln was up for re-election.)

The magazine did not issue an endorsement again until 1964, when it didn’t so much endorse Lyndon Johnson as warn that Barry Goldwater should not be elected president. (The country agreed, by a mighty impressive 61-39 percent in the popular vote and an even more emphatic 486-52 in the Electoral College vote.)

The Atlantic reached, and expressed, a similar conclusion in 2016, when it endorsed Hillary Clinton specifying that it considered Donald Trump unfit.

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Now, for the fourth time in its extremely distinguished 163-year history, the editors have decided to urge its readers and the nation to NOT vote for Donald Trump for president. Technically, you could call it an endorsement of Joe Biden. But, the editors make clear “had the Republican Party put forward a credible candidate for president, we would have felt no compulsion to state a preference.”

In other words, the endorsement is not so much for Biden as against Trump. I’ll relay a bit from the endorsement below, but I will first add that I feel the same way. There were others in the Democratic field of 2020 with whom I agreed more on several issues. There’s the matter of Biden’s age. And, of course, since he entered politics in 1969 (!) and the Senate in 1972 (!), Biden has done and said many things with which I disagreed, generally from his left.

The main argument for Biden in 2020 was that he was perhaps the Democrat most likely to defeat Donald Trump and, at the moment, it seems to have been a correct argument. To the degree that it was correct, it was certainly good enough for me and, one gathers, for the editors of the Atlantic.

Donald Trump lies at a truly staggering rate. He cheats in general, and on his taxes and his wives in particular. (Yes, hilariously, he’s promised to release his tax records soon, any minute now, but not before Election Day.)

He exhibits more execrable personal characteristics than can be summarized in this short piece. He’s either a racist or he plays one on TV. He is staggeringly ignorant of a great many things of which no president should be so ignorant, including basic facts of U.S. history, and law, and how a bill becomes law. He has learned, although apparently fairly recently, and mentions it on every occasion as if it were special arcana, that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.

I can’t see into Trump’s soul, but he appears to be amoral.

One term of Donald Trump (who, have I mentioned, actually lost the popular vote in 2016 by more than 2 percentage points and just less than 3 million votes) has put the American experiment in democratic republicanism in grave jeopardy. A second term could finish it off.

Biden is an honest man with a good heart, as far as I can tell. He knows how a bill becomes law and a great many other secrets of the arts of government that Trump is too busy to learn.

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The Atlantic’s endorsement editorial is titled: “The Case Against Donald Trump,” not “Biden for President.” Biden’s name isn’t mentioned until the ninth paragraph of its 10-paragraph editorial. Here’s that paragraph:

Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden, is in many ways a typically imperfect candidate, but if we judge these men on two questions alone—Who is a more trustworthy steward of America’s nuclear arsenal? Which man poses less of a threat to our collective existence? —the answer is spectacularly obvious.

The editorial ends with this summary:

Donald Trump … is a clear and continuing danger to the United States, and it does not seem likely that our country would be able to emerge whole from four more years of his misrule. Two men are running for president. One is a terrible man; the other is a decent man. Vote for the decent man.

The full, very short endorsement is viewable here.