How America Got Into This Omnishambles


Yascha Mounk at Persuasion: America is in deep, deep trouble.

Before Thursday’s debate, the leading contender to win the upcoming presidential election was already Donald Trump, a man whose first stint in the White House provided all the necessary evidence that he is spectacularly ill-suited for the job. During that term in office, Trump ruled rashly and selfishly. He lavished praise on his appointees before firing scores of them for incompetence or insubordination. He picked constant fights with the independent institutions that preserve the separation of powers. And when he lost a hard-fought race, he refused to concede defeat, inspiring a mob to assault Congress, and breaking the key norm that has sustained the American Republic for the past centuries.

After Thursday’s debate, it has become painfully obvious that the only man who stands between Trump and the White House is no longer mentally fit for the job. Joe Biden has for decades served the United States with honor and devotion. Though he was (to put it politely) never known as a brilliant thinker or a creative strategist, his moderate political instincts and his personal decency provided the contrast to Trump the country needed in 2020. But there were questions about his mental acuity even then, and they have become impossible to quell since. Anyone who is willing to trust their own eyes must, after this debate performance, know that Biden is no longer capable of carrying out the duties of his hugely consequential office in an effective manner.

A presidential incumbent whose mental and physical state is visibly deteriorating before the eyes of the world would, even at the best of times, put the Democratic Party in a tough position. But the current emergency looks even more hopeless for two reasons. First, Kamala Harris, Biden’s vice president and his presumptive replacement as the Democratic Party’s nominee if he should bow out, is just as unpopular as her boss. This is no coincidence. Harris has no political core, having swung without rhyme or reason between the persona of a tough centrist prosecutor and that of a leftist agitator raring to take on the white supremacist power structure. Talented politicians anticipate the changing winds of public opinion without betraying their core values; Kamala Harris posticipates1 the winds of change in a way that suggests she would be willing to go wherever it happens to blow. This has left her not only unpopular with the average voter but also—a more impressive feat—mistrusted by all the major factions within the Democratic Party.

More here.