In case you hadn't noticed that the Denver Gazette entered the Mile High media market last month, the online daily owned by Phil Anschutz, Colorado's richest man, just delivered a real attention-grabber: a flummoxing endorsement of a second term for President Donald Trump.
That's Donald Trump, whom many historians and pundits have labeled the worst president the United States has ever seen, and that’s even before the steadying effect of hindsight. Of course this endorsement's arguments are poor; there's very little in the way of good argument to be had for this man. The result is just empty shells of both exaggerative and reductive rhetoric, inexplicably toadying up to an administration that is by all measures failing. It’s one thing to have an opinion about the upcoming national election; it’s wholly another to engage in disingenuous debate and dangerous conflation of two presidential candidates who could hardly be more different.
Here are several reasons why Coloradans should refuse, in turn, to endorse the Denver Gazette for responsible, thoughtful and trustworthy opinion:
Winston Churchill? Winston Churchill?!?
In one of the most gob-smacking parts of the Gazette’s insipid endorsement of Trump, it parenthetically compares Trump to none other than Winston Churchill. “Oh, we get it,” the Gazette condescends, “Trump’s personality and character traits nauseate a significant segment of voters from the far left, through the middle and to the far right. Colorado’s mostly white-collar population finds no charm in Trump’s brazen, crude and unconventional demeanor (see Winston Churchill).” So the point here is that Trump offends — to the point of physical illness — just about everyone, no matter their political affiliation? And that Colorado — you know, the readership the Denver Gazette supposedly serves and reflects (although to be fair, this editorial was also in the Colorado Springs Gazette, the elder sibling of Denver's version, based in a far more conservative city) — particularly can't stomach him? And all this in some way makes the openly authoritarian-loving Trump comparable to World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who’s best known for fighting the spread of fascism? The reference is…inadvisable. Unfathomable. Offensive? If nothing else, Churchill is oft-quoted because he was an insightful and brilliant leader in a time of great global danger. Trump alienates our allies, sucks up to dictators, and tweets “covfefe.”
But let’s get back to the very first line — the first word! — of the endorsement. “Policy,” the Gazette’s editorial begins. “On that basis alone, undecided Coloradans should cast their vote for President Donald Trump.” But it then fails to define what that "policy" might be, much as Trump himself has. The word has no power, despite what Trump and his people have been trying to get away with for over four years now; it’s the details that matter. The Trump GOP has no platform — quite literally, and, it must be said, shockingly. This seems like an era in which we’re having to say a lot of things out loud that shouldn’t need to be said at all, because they’re stupid-simple. But here we go: Saying the word “policy” is not the same as actually expressing policy. Also, don’t inject bleach, Neo-Nazis are not “very fine people,” and leaders of nations should not refer to other nations as "shitholes." These are opinions that would get a thirteen-year-old banned from middle-school student council. They shouldn't be uttered anywhere near the White House.
A Surprising Character Argument for Trump
The editorial makes the claim that “never has a presidential candidate’s persona been less relevant,” and that Joe Biden “offers no improvement in terms of personality or character.” Perhaps it’s a Trumpian feather in the Gazette’s cap that it's taking a page from the Trump playbook and attacking his opponent with the very point where its own guy is weakest…but that just makes for an obvious and pathetic argument. Conflating Biden’s past physical overfamiliarity with women with Trump’s well-established record of sexual predation makes no sense. The former is concerning, and something for which Biden was rightly called out. But to compare that to at least 26 serious allegations of rape? Ridiculous. And this doesn't even factor in Trump’s close and still-unexplained relationship to Jeffrey Epstein, or Trump gleefully bragging about committing sexual assault on tape, or the porn star whom he bedded and then bribed into silence, or Trump walking into the Miss Teen USA dressing room, or Trump calling his own daughter “hot.” The list of Trump’s sexual misconducts — to use a mild term, and that’s putting it mildly — is sadly too lengthy to enumerate here.
The Hunter Biden Ploy...Still
Hey, what about Benghazi? Or her emails? Or the immigrant caravan coming up from the south, promising to invade our borders with rapists and murderers and (one might assume, also some good people)? Hunter Biden is just another dishonest distraction from a president (and an eager pants-sniffing far-right media) that’s built the last four-plus years on dishonest distraction. For the record: Despite the Gazette claiming that the Hunter Biden case is “increasing” and getting “stronger by the day,” it is not. On the contrary, it’s been widely discredited, even to the point of being linked to a Russian disinformation campaign. And really, the Trump family is the last bunch you’d think would want to raise a ruckus about nepotism, foreign influence and inappropriate business dealings. Hey, pot? It’s kettle.
Trump’s popularity has always relied on some serious cognitive dissonance, but the Gazette’s endorsement embraces it like a dog humping your leg. It cherry-picks Joe Biden’s most inadvisable comments, some of which are missing context and others that are admittedly just flat-out terrible, even back when they were said, but especially by today's standards. But again, to conflate these with the outright racism spoken, supported and encouraged by Trump is ludicrous. Trump has consistently refused to effectively excoriate fringe racist organizations like the KKK. “Stand back and stand by” was what he told the Proud Boys in the first debate, and members of that group made it a slogan that they wear on their shirts. When it comes to racism, Trump doesn’t use a dog whistle. Trump uses an air horn mounted to a coal-burning monster truck with a raised middle finger superimposed on a Confederate flag painted on the hood.
Back to Policy
Once the Gazette’s endorsement pretends that it’s made its case in regard to the unimportance of character in this election, it pretends to compare policy — there's that word again — from each candidate on specific issues. But the comparison falls sadly short of effective, since it tends to either dumb-down the Biden platform to make Trump’s seem less empty than it is, or else throws up its hands and compares specific strategies to hollow hopes, as if the two spoke to each other in any meaningful way. It foments fear instead of making its case on several fronts. Examples:
- Forecasting a theoretical “devastated economy” under Biden despite Moody’s Analytics (and outlets like Forbes) predicting quite the opposite
- Offering up a purposefully misleading quote on Biden raising taxes, suggesting that the majority of Coloradans will see an increase. According to a 2018 study published in the Denver Post, only those in the top 1 percent of Colorado residents made over $500,000; even allowing for a glut of taxpayers who make from 400-500K per annum, it’s clear that the vast majority of both Coloradans and Americans in general would not see an income tax increase under Joe Biden.
- Claiming that Biden would reverse course on much of the Trump-era deregulation? Well, that part is actually true. What’s not true is the actual effect of that regulation, which would not be poor job numbers for minorities (or anyone), as the Gazette editorial claims. Job numbers are projected to be significantly healthier under a Biden administration than a second Trump term, and a return to regulatory normalcy would prove immensely beneficial to clean air, clean water, environmental issues and the fight against man-made climate change.
- Screaming that “they’re coming for your guns!” Not just a crappy argument after eight years of an Obama-Biden administration that did nothing of the sort, but also the worst sort of fear-mongering in an America where bulletproof backpacks for elementary school kids are an actual thing. Sure, it might be tougher to buy a new AR-15 and have the capability of taking out dozens of people — even kids — in seconds. That's sort of the point.
- Leaving COVID-19 for the last. The pandemic — which Trump first denied, then played down, then promised was about to end, then ignored, then contracted, then claimed immunity from, and finally denied again — is by all accounts the number-one issue on the minds of American voters. Colorado voters are no different, particularly as we’re currently spiking in worrisome fashion. Why the Gazette chose to leave this for last — and to barely address it even then — is somewhat of an admission that when it comes to the Trump administration’s work keeping America safe from the virus, there is no defense.
- Omitting some clear Trump administration objectives: What about the separation of families and kids in cages, Gazette editors? What about the elimination of health insurance for at least 600,000 Coloradans, if Trump's lawyers succeed in striking down the Affordable Care Act? What about pre-existing conditions, the fate of Dreamers, Medicare, Social Security, the federal deficit, the rampant bad-faith stacking of the courts by a GOP Congress over the last decade, the outright theft of a Supreme Court seat, the countless lies to the American public, the lack of attention to the job of the president, the usury of the presidency for personal and financial gain, and the complete destruction of political norms and traditions that's become the hallmark of this administration and its cronies? The full and awful list goes on and on, and while it'll be bedtime reading for the heartless likes of Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon and most of the propagandist crew at Fox News, it'll burn a hole in the stomachs of historians and thinking Americans for generations to come.
“Shock the world and turn Colorado purple again.”
The endorsement ends with this call to action — which, who knows, may happen at some point. For example, when there might again be reasonable and philosophical differences between two qualified and responsible political party candidates. But not this election cycle, and not with Trump, who is less the “unconventional president” that the editorial wants to portray, and more the serious threat to American democracy and dignity it wants not to admit.
This all adds up to a shameful moment for the Denver Gazette. In the words of its own endorsed candidate: Fake News. Sad.
This piece was updated to note that the editorial was also published in the Colorado Springs Gazette.