President Trump, apparently realizing that he has little chance to defeat Joe Biden, has decided instead to run against an imaginary candidate who shares a name with his Democratic opponent but few of the same policy proposals. In an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace, Trump asserted that Biden wants to “defund the police.” Wallace stopped him and pointed out that this is not true. Trump, who usually bluffs his way through moments when his lies are called out by throwing out new lies, instead claimed to have a document that would prove it. “Oh, really? It says ‘abolish’ — let’s go, get me the charter, please!” he said, calling for his aides.
They could not, of course, because Trump’s claims are flatly false. Biden did sign a charter with Bernie Sanders in which he endorsed several positions that brought him closer to his left-wing opponent. He did not, however, agree to defund or abolish the police.
The paper does endorse a broad array of police reforms, including use-of-force guidelines, federal oversight, racial-profiling restrictions, and others. There is nothing in it calling for the abolition of police or a reduction in funding for police. It calls for the federal government to “make smart investments to incentivize departments to build effective partnerships with social workers and mental health and substance use counselors to help respond to frontline public health challenges” — i.e., increasing the allotment of funding for the work currently performed by police. Biden did not endorse abolition or defunding of the police because it’s highly unpopular and he isn’t crazy.
At a speech attacking Biden today, Vice-President Mike Pence leaned on the theme that Biden won’t really be president at all. “Joe Biden has referred to himself as a transition candidate, and what many are asking across this country is, a transition to what?” asked Pence. “I thought Joe Biden won the Democratic primary, but looking at that [unity] document, it seems like Bernie won.” When your campaign is reduced to implicitly conceding that it would be great if Biden was president but it isn’t going to happen, you’re in a place of clear desperation.
During the Democratic primary, some progressives argued that there was little value in avoiding unpopular left-wing positions and labels, since Trump was going to call his opponent a radical socialist regardless of who he faced. It’s true that Trump was going to do this, but it’s not true that the tactic would work equally well on any opponent. It’s harder to pin an unpopular position on an opponent who refuses to support it than it is on an opponent who denies it.
Wallace told his audience that Trump “couldn’t find any indication, because there isn’t any, that Joe Biden has sought to defund and abolish the police.” That is a humiliating result for a Fox News interview.