Is the United States Currently Living in a Pre-Trump 2 or Pre-Trumpian

Racist, Xenophobic, Hate-Filled Time Period?

by Elliot Benjamin, Ph.D., Ph.D. November, 2021


In this article the author discusses the question that is framed as the articles’ title: Is the United States currently living in a pre-Trump 2 or pre-Trumpian racist, xenophobic, hate-filled time period? To answer the question, the author first describes why he believes that the consequences of a 2024 President Trump or President Trumpian would be disastrous for the United States, for a number of reasons, inclusive especially of an escalation in racism, xenophobia, hate crimes, and climate destruction, and less directly for the world. Next the author discusses what he views as both the positive and negative actions and policies during the first nearly 10 months of Joe Biden’s presidency, with a focus on Biden’s current low approval ratings and the dangerous consequences of these ratings very possibly leading to an eventual 2024 Trump or Trumpian presidency. This leads into a discussion of the recent passing in the House of Representatives of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the hopeful passing in the next few months of the Build Back Better bill, both of which the author views, along with the recent positive U.S. jobs report and decreasing (though still alarming) coronavirus rates, as possible signs of future improvement in Biden’s approval ratings. However, the author stresses that what is most important in regard to avoiding a 2024 Trump or Trumpian presidency is Congress deciding to carve out voting rights from the filibuster in order to pass federal voting rights legislation to offset a number of states passing voting restriction laws. The author is not optimistic about this happening, but concludes that it is not impossible for this to happen and is not giving up on the possibility of preventing a 2024 President Trump or President Trumpian and preserving democracy in the United States.

Key Words: Trump 2, Trumpian, empathy, humanistic psychology, racist, xenophobic, hate-filled, climate destruction


A few months ago I wrote an article in a similar context to the present article, which was written from a combined progressive politics and humanistic psychology perspective after 8 months of Joe Biden’s United States presidency (Benjamin, 2021a). The concerns I described in that article can be summarized as follows:

“Although I am certainly tremendously relieved that we in the United States currently have Joe Biden as our president and not Donald Trump, I am also greatly concerned that our current time period may actually be the precursor of a Trumpian presidency, meaning a Trump-like presidency, or perhaps even a return of Donald Trump himself as president. . . ‘Trump 2.’. . . . I continue to feel the need to speak out about the dangerous reality that I believe the United States is currently living in. There are so many dangers to this reality, but if the Republicans regain control in 2024 with a Trumpian or Trump 2 presidency, then we need to look no further than the massive rampant destruction from the escalation of global warming and the consequential deadly effects of climate change to envision the horrific devastation that we would be faced with, leading very possibly to the accelerated extinction of our species. . . . But oppressive and deadly high temperatures, wildfires, and hurricanes are not our only dangers. If we do somehow manage within the next few years to finally end the current coronavirus pandemic largely through the heroic efforts of President Biden, I shudder to think of what would happen if and when another pandemic comes to ravage us and we have a President Trump or President Trumpian to deal with it. . . . But these are only the “hard core” disasters; what about the effects of a Trump or Trumpian presidency on the basic qualities of people being decent and caring to one another?. . . . I am afraid that with a 2024 Trumpian or Trump 2 presidency, the kind of extreme polarization that resulted in the deadly capitol insurrection in January, 2021 could become entrenched in a steady day-to-day violence beyond anything we have ever experienced as a country, aside from the Civil War.” (Benjamin, 2021a, pp. 1–2)

The human disasters that I refer to in regard to the assault on “the basic qualities of people being decent and caring to one another” is what motivated me to align myself with a combined progressive politics and humanistic psychology perspective, as I have frequently done in my previous articles promoting the Resisting Trump movement (Benjamin, 2019, 2020a, 2020b, 2021b). Humanistic psychology’s basic premise involves being genuine and empathic (Benjamin, 2011; Rogers, 1961; Schneider et al., 2015), and I believe that this basic premise is desperately needed in the world today. In regard to the destructive effects of the 4 years that the United States has recently lived through under President Trump, the escalation in racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes are blatant examples of the shameful lack of empathy that has grown rampant in the United States. I have previously described this escalation in xenophobia in regard to Asian Americans in particular:

“There is no doubt that prejudice against Asian Americans was there to begin with, but the concern is that the political rhetoric of President Trump has exacerbated this prejudice and has brought it out in the open after being stimulated by the coronavirus. . . . His [President Trump’s]reckless damaging term that made people think of the coronavirus as the ‘Chinese’ virus has likely resulted in the targeting of Asian Americans unfairly and brutally.” (Benjamin, 2021b, pp. 246–247)

In regard to the escalation in hate crimes, here is a disturbing illustration of President Trump’s destructive effects that took place during one of his 2020 campaign rallies to renew his presidency, which ominously foreshadowed the deadly Capitol insurrection that took place a few months later in January, 2021:

“After reading Trump’s polemic for last night at Mt. Rushmore, I can only conclude one thing. Trump is seeking to incite violence against protestors [sic]. He is inflaming far right groups to strike out. We are in very dangerous territory. Facebook is loaded right now with far-right types making actual threats to shoot protestors, and Trump feeds the fire by claiming in his Stephen Miller-written screeds that all protestors exercising their First Amendment rights are violent left-wing mobs — allowing Trump to foment this violence, especially in the run-up to the election,cannot stand.” (Johnson, 2020, p. 2)

And Trump’s incitement of an increase in racism can readily be seen in his disparaging remarks to describe some particular “non-White” countries, as well as four progressive minority United States congresswomen:

“This reckless and damaging use of political rhetoric by President Trump has certainly not been limited to Asian Americans, as is blatantly obvious from his previous use of the term ‘shithole countries’ to refer to Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa. . . and his making a statement that four progressive minority congresswomen who had been outspokenly critical to what they perceived as President Trump’s destructive racist agendas should ‘go back to the countries theycame from.’ ” (Benjamin, 2021b, p. 247)

However, with the November, 2020 election of Joe Biden to replace Donald Trump as United States president, I initially felt a very refreshing sense of optimism that perhaps there is a way out of the catastrophic destruction of our basic human values, as well as our democracy itself, that our country had been immersed in for these 4 years (Benjamin, 2021c, 2021d). And for a number of months it certainly did feel to me like there was a potential to truly turn things around, as I actually felt like the core principles of humanistic psychology, i.e., being genuine and empathic, were being modeled by the president of our country (Benjamin, 2021c, 2021d). But as time progressed, my uplifting optimism became weathered as I witnessed Biden make a number of decisions that I could hardly call “humanistic” (2021a, 2021d). Nevertheless, I never forgot what the alternative to Biden being successful would lead to: I firmly believed, and still believe, that it would lead to a 2024 President Trump 2 or President Trumpian, once again accomplished with enormous assistance from Trump or Trumpian’s effective tactics of cult indoctrination and social media manipulation (Benjamin, 2021e). And since I also believe that this is the worst possible case scenario for the United States as it would escalate the catastrophic destruction of our basic human values and our whole democracy, I never wavered from promoting the success of President Biden as much as I have been able to do. And it is with this goal and mission in mind that I continue to promote the success of President Biden, which I will discuss in more detail below in the context of current events as Biden is now nearing completion of his 10th month as United States president. In this context I believe it is relevant to first review some of Biden’s initial actions that were dramatic illustrations of a humane United States president who was working diligently to offset some of his predecessor’s worst policies that promoted racism, xenophobia, hate crimes, and climate destruction. Unfortunately, this was soon followed by a number of Biden’s subsequent actions that resulted in widespread criticism and humanistic concerns.

President Biden’s Initial Actions To Offset President Trump’s Worst Policies that Promoted Racism, Xenophobia, Hate Crimes, and Climate Destruction; Followed by a Number of His Subsequent Actions that Resulted in Widespread Criticism and Humanistic Concerns

By the time Biden had been president for just over 36 hours, I gave the following joyful description of some of the executive orders that he signed:

“Biden subsequently wasted no time in signing into law a number of executive orders to reverse Trump’s policies that many people believe have been extremely destructive, inclusive of the signing into law of executive orders that involve more humane policies on immigration, rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization, halting the Keystone Pipeline and the building of the border wall, removing travel bans from predominantly Muslim countries, and safeguarding the rights of LGBT Americans.” (Benjamin, 2021a, p. 20)

Although I had some mixed feelings about Biden’s various actions by the time he was President for 6 months, at that time I still felt like the positives in his presidency undoubtedly outweighed the negatives:

“As we navigate through Biden’s first 6 months as President of the United States, while a number of aspects of both his foreign and domestic policies are discouraging for progressives, I think that his rhetoric and policies regarding empathy and combating hate continue to be on proud display for all to see. . . . I am thankful that President Biden has demonstrated that he is on the side of fighting for democracy. . . the first nearly 6 months of Joe Biden’s presidency is a worthy tribute to both his quality of empathy and to the basic premise of genuinely caring about people, which is the hallmark of humanistic psychology.” (Benjamin, 2021a, p. 20)

In particular, Biden enacted some very significant humanistic policies during the first 6 months of his presidency:

“Biden has been president for nearly 6 months, has signed a bill addressing hate crimes against Asian-Americans, has paid tribute to and commemorated the victims of the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre of over 300 Black citizens 100 years ago, has given a significant speech at the 20221 NATO conference, and has turned the corner on the coronavirus pandemic.” (Benjamin, 2021d, p. 1)

Undoubtedly Biden has enacted a wide range of significant beneficial and humanistic actions and policies during the first 9 months of his presidency, with important implications for reducing the increasing trends of racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes that became so prominent during the Trump years. These beneficial and humanistic actions include the following: getting the United States back in the United Nations Human Rights Council, protecting people from foreclosure and eviction, rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, strengthening protections for Dreamers, fighting domestic violent extremism, reuniting families that Trump tore apart, ushering in an enormous coronavirus relief bill, helping victims of domestic abuse, reining in ICE, revoking Trump’s Medicaid work rules, halting the Keystone pipeline, recommitting to NATO, supporting LGBTQ+ Americans in numerous ways, recognizing Indigenous People’s Day and making Juneteenth a holiday, changing the border to be more humane, improving gun control, reducing the number of hungry Americans, protecting women’s health, and sharing vaccines with the world (Benjamin, 2021a; GoodNewsRoundup, 2021a). However, the concerns that Progressives increasingly were feeling about a number of Biden’s “other” actions and policies during the first 6 months of his presidency dramatically increased over the next few months. I described some of these concerns that Progressives had about Biden’s foreign policy actions, which I had as well, as follows:

“I have watched Biden make a number of policy decisions, both domestic and foreign, that have disappointed and alarmed me. In my previous articles I expressed my disappointment over some of Biden’s foreign policy decisions, inclusive of his bombing Iran-backed military targets in Syria and Iraq, and his initial placating of Israel in regard to the intensive violence that took place between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants. More recently, another foreign policy decision that he made which concerns me, which was not publicized much at all, was the hosting in Washington D.C. and red carpet treatment given to the deputy defense minister of Saudi Arabia, who is the brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, after the Biden administration released a report in February that found the Crown Prince ‘directly responsible for approving the murder of journalist Jamai Khashoggi; sanctioned dozens of Saudis tied to human rights abuses; and ended US support for the Saudi war in Yemen’. . . . a foreign policy decision that Biden made which particularly alarms me is his decision to withdraw all military troops from Afghanistan despite widespread political and military advice against doing this, with the consequential deadly violence and take-over of the country by the Taliban that many people warned about. . . . The present reality is that Biden’s popularity has been strikingly decreasing and that a number of Democrats and Independents, in addition to the expected number of Republicans, have severely criticized him over the way that he expedited the withdrawal of our troops in Afghanistan and the resulting deadly and harrowing chaos as the Taliban gained control of the country.” (Benjamin, 2021a, pp. 20–21)

In regard to Progressives’ concerns about some of Biden’s domestic policy actions, which again I had as well, I conveyed relevant remarks by Elie Mystal in The Nation, as follows:

A good summary of Biden’s recent domestic decisions that have been disappointing to Progressives has been described in an article by Elie Mystal in The Nation [Mystal, 2021].

“He could ban excessive-force tactics, like choke holds, from federal law enforcement. He could recall military equipment that has been gifted to local forces. He could stop agencies like the FBI and the ATF from seeking or executing no-knock warrants. He could do something about ICE: abolish it, disarm it, restrain it, punish it for human rights violations — literally any “reform” would be better than what we have now. Biden has released a comprehensive plan to deal with domestic terrorism but nothing to deal with state-sponsored terrorism carried out by American police.” (Benjamin, 2021a, p. 21)

The very disappointing reality that I had to come to terms with was that all the wonderful qualities of Biden’s empathy that I wrote about and promoted and linked to the basic principles of humanistic psychology (Benjamin, 2020c, 2020d) were starting to feel to me like his empathy was narrowly focused just on Americans, as opposed to people in other countries such as Afghanistan [1], Haiti, and Mexico, and to my horror I had to acknowledge that Biden seemed to have an “America First” perspective that unthinkably reminded me of his heartless predecessor (Benjamin, 2021a; Duster & Dupain, 2021; Liptak et al., 2021; Ortiz, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c; Smith, 2021). And this disappointing reality that I had to come to terms with was increasingly being discussed in the media:

“The past week has shaken the faith of old allies and led some to question whether a strain of the ‘America first’ mantra lives on. In a speech this week, a defiant Biden expressed no regret for America’s chaotic and humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was quickly overrun by the Taliban, putting thousands of Afghans who worked for US forces in danger and wiping out human rights gains for millions of women and girls. The president insisted that he was following the will of the American people and could not justify spending more American blood and treasure. His attempt to blame the Afghan national army for lacking the will to fight was described as ‘shameful’ by the British politician Tom Tugendhat, who served as an army officer in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, turning to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden announced that American who had received two vaccine doses would be eligible for a third to combat waning immunity, the highly contagious Delta variant and the threat of widespread vaccine hesitancy. There was another global backlash. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a moratorium on booster jabs until the end of next month, contending that people yet to receive a single dose should take priority. Tom Hart, acting chief executive of the One campaign, told the Associated Press last month: ‘The idea that a healthy, vaccinated person can get a booster shot before a nurse or grandmother in South Africa can get a single jab is outrageous.’ ”

“Biden’s cold-eyed focus on US interests dismayed many who value him for the emotional empathy that his predecessor sorely lacked. But it also came within the context of an economic agenda in which he has pushed back against globalization. . . emphasizing the needs of American workers making products on American soil. He used the word ‘America’ or ‘American’ no fewer than 36 times during remarks earlier this month on strengthening US leadership on clean energy cars and trucks.” (Smith, 2021, pp. 1–2)

“There are recently a number of concerns regarding how much Biden’s celebrated degree of empathy extends to all people, as opposed to being primarily for Americans. . . . descriptions that question Biden’s degree of empathy for the people of Afghanistan. . . . a description of the fury that a number of Gold Star families conveyed after meeting Biden, in regard to what they perceived as Biden’s lack of empathy for their sons and daughters who were killed in the suicide bombing at the Afghanistan airport.” (Benjamin, 2021a, p. 22)

“The Biden administration is now fighting to keep in place. . . the cruel and unsound public health order. . . implemented by the prior administration that’s used the novel coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to quickly deport asylum-seekers in violation of their U.S. and international rights.” (Ortiz, 2021a, p. 2)

“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer forcefully condemned the Biden administration’s mass deportation of Haitian asylum-seekers and migrants, as well as its continued use of the previous administration’s scientifically unsound. . . and unlawful. . . anti-asylum Title 42 policy. The speech, delivered from the Senate chamber on Tuesday, represents one of the most significant criticisms of the administration’s actions yet. . . . ‘Such a decision defies common sense, it also defies common decency,’ Schumer said. . . . Haitian asylum-seekers have been among the at least 700,000 people deported. . . by the Biden administration under the anti-asylum Title 42 policy, revealed last October to have been implemented under political pressure by the previous administration. . . . Schumer also condemned racist abuse committed by border agents. . . . Schumer concluded in his remarks: ‘Again, the policies that are being enacted now — and the horrible treatment of these innocent people who have come to the border — must stop immediately.’ ” (Ortiz, 2021b, pp. 2–4)

“The Biden administration was planning to revive the previous administration’s cruel. . . policy, also known as Remain in Mexico. . . . Remain in Mexico was implemented by the prior administration with one goal in mind, and that was to hurt asylum-seekers. It carried out that vision with horrifying efficiency. . . . ‘The horrors of MPP [Migrant Protection Protocols] are well-documented,; lawmakers led by El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez told. . . the administration in September. ‘During its implementation from January 2019 to early 2021, non-profit groups tracked over 1,500 public reports of rape, kidnapping, torture, trafficking, and other crimes carried out against asylum seekers and migrants sent back to Mexico under the policy.’ They said it’s ‘abundantly clear that the United States cannot safely reinstate MPP and that any attempt to return people seeking safety to harm in Mexico will violate U.S. and international legal obligations to refugees.’ ” (Ortiz, 2021c, pp. 2–3)

Yes it was both sad and alarming to me how much “lack of empathy” appeared to be taking place in regard to Biden’s concern for people in countries other than the United States. However, in all fairness to Biden, it is important to also acknowledge his recent overtures to immigrants and people in countries other than the United States, inclusive of waiving the application fees for thousands of evacuated Afghans (Alvarez, 2021), planning to give compensation to families separated at the border under Trump’s immigration policy, which Biden referred to as “outrageous behavior” (Hoffman & Cole), and purchasing over a billion doses of vaccines for developing countries (Powell, 2021). So the picture is undoubtedly complicated in regard to evaluating Biden’s America First mentality and determining how much empathy he has for people in countries other than the United States. My perspective is that both are true: i.e., yes Biden does have an America First mentality which is some ways is actually similar to that of Trump, but he also has a humane degree of empathy that extends to people all over the world, and in this way he is on a completely different planet from Trump.

But what concerns me even more than the admittedly disturbing crack in Biden’s purported extremely high degree of empathy that I have previously promoted (Benjamin, 2021c, 2021d), is his current downward spiraling approval ratings. Aside from his Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, Biden’s current downward spiraling approval ratings is very much related to factors that he is being held responsible for that I do not believe is his fault, such as the recent Delta coronavirus surge, the weakening of the economy, the rise in gasoline prices, the problems with the supply chain, and the agonizing struggles between the Progressive and Moderate Democratic factions in Congress to pass Biden’s two infrastructure bills, with the continuation of this struggle to pass the second (Build Back Better) infrastructure bill (see below) (Boston Herald Staff, 2021; Cilliza, 2021; Page & Rouan, 2021). And of course there are the numerous voting rights restrictions that a number of states have already passed and many other states are in the process of trying to pass, with the ghost of the filibuster very likely assuring that no federal voting rights legislation to offset this will make its way through Congress (Benjamin, 2021a, McCarter, 2021a). It is certainly understandable that I am concerned that the United States may currently be living in a pre-Trump 2 or pre-Trumpian time period:

“These voting restrictions may likely give the Republicans what they want, which is to ensure that both the House and Senate have Republican majorities in 2022, and may consequently stop Biden from accomplishing anything significant for the American people, which would significantly strengthen the beneficial effects for Republicans of all their voting restrictions when it comes to the United States 2024 presidential election. I am afraid that the result of all this may very well be once again a President Trump or else a ‘President Trumpian.;. . . . It now appears almost certain that Trump will be the Republican candidate in 2024. . . and a recent poll even concluded that Trump would beat Biden in a close match if they run against each other.” (Benjamin, 2021a, pp. 19, 22)

But I am certainly not ready to give up the fight, as the stakes of losing the fight is the nightmare scenario that I believe would truly usher in the escalating destruction of democracy in the United States. Furthermore, given the climate debacle that the whole world is currently living in and what a Trump 2 or Trumpian 2024 United States presidency would do to escalate climate destruction, such as the United States again leaving the Paris Climate Accord, drilling for oil all over the world, eliminating environmental safeguards, etc., I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that the destruction of democracy in the United States would very likely extend to escalating the destruction of our whole planet. However, Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates have been popular, and hopefully if Biden is able to gain more control of the coronavirus then this will help to improve his approval ratings (Eleveld, 2021a, 2021b; GoodNewsRoundup, 2021b; Linskey et al., 2021). But what I want to focus on next is something else that I believe could have significant beneficial consequences in regard to possibly changing the trajectory of Biden’s approval ratings, and at least allow for the possibility of avoiding President Trump 2 or President Trumpian in 2024. What I am referring to is the accomplishment of the arduous task of Biden and the Democrats passing two infrastructure bills, inclusive of a massive investment in the climate.

President Biden’s Potential Success Is Directly Related to the Passing of Two Infrastructure Bills

The continuously chaotic and exasperating process of the Democrats in Congress trying to pass both of Biden’s infrastructure bills the past few months has been deeply concerning to me. While the Democratic Progressive and Moderates have been battling things out, I have seen Biden’s approval ratings becoming lower and lower, currently extending to even lower approval ratings for Vice President Kamala Harris, and a prediction that if the presidential election were to be held today, Donald Trump would beat Joe Biden by 2 percentage points (Boston Herald Staff, 2021; Cillizza, 2021; Page & Rouan, 2021). The battle between the Democratic Progressives and Moderates reached the point where both President Biden and House Speaker Pelosi did all in their power to try to persuade the House Democrats to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure “roads and bridges” bill and the “human” infrastructure Build Back Better bill before Biden took off for his big multi-country climate conference in Glasgow (Foran et al, 2021). Whereas Pelosi enacted her forceful approach of insisting that this was something that needed to get done immediately and that it was reasonable and workable to accomplish, Biden was much more humble, as in the morning of his trip to Europe and the climate conference he met with House Democrats and openly admitted to his Democratic colleagues that both the 2022 midterm elections and his presidency were in serious danger, and that he needed them to pass both these infrastructure bills before his climate conference began (Foran et al, 2021; Solender & Mucha, 2021). But neither of these tactics worked, as Biden left on his trip and nothing was passed while he attended the climate conference, in spite of how urgent Biden said it was to pass these bills that contained desperately needed provisions and money to battle the climate debacle, in order to demonstrate that the United States was setting a good example that would influence other countries taking the necessary actions to begin offsetting the escalating climate disaster (Foran et al, 2021; Solender & Mucha, 2021).

The situation was extremely complicated and difficult for me to know what the right course of action to take was, but I was certainly sympathetic to the plight of the Progressives, who had no confidence that all the very much needed human components in the Build Back Better bill, inclusive of containing significantly more climate actions and funds than is in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, would have been retained to any degree of effectiveness once Senate Moderates Manchin and Sinema brought it to their chopping platforms (Chamberlain, 2021). Therefore the Progressives were insistent that both these bills needed to be tied together and voted on together, in spite of the fact that the Senate had passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill a few months ago with a significant majority that protected the bill from the filibuster (Snell, 2021). And it is interesting to me that the term “bipartisan” for the Building Back Better bill as well as for the federal voting rights bills, in regard to safeguarding these bills from the filibuster, now meant bipartisan between Democratic Moderates and Progressives — no Republicans coming into the picture. More specifically, it meant finding a way to form a workable compromise between Democratic Moderates like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, and Democratic Progressives like Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal. And I think that in many ways Progressives rose to the occasion as they agreed to actually cut their Building Back Better bill budget in half, from 3.5 trillion to 1.75 trillion, to try to satisfy Manchin saying that he would not go over 1.5 trillion and Sinema saying that the budget needed to be smaller (Chamberlain, 2021). Furthermore, they went through the painful and exasperating process of creatively finding alternatives to get around Manchin’s objection to including billions of dollars for clean electricity in the bill, as well as Sinema’s objection of significantly increasing taxes on big corporations, while the Progressives somehow managed to retain essential climate battling components of the bill and are still largely paying for the bill through fairly obtaining sufficient tax revenues from our wealthiest Americans (Eleveld, 2021c). And though things are currently still in process, it now looks like both Manchin and Sinema may eventually budge enough to meet the Progressives in a new compromised but still highly effective version of the bill, though one that will need to be modified further in the Senate to satisfy Manchin and Sinema. However, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, after an arduous and tremendously complicated process, has now finally been approved by both the Senate and the House (Behrmann & Garrison, 2021; Grayer et al, 2021; Jay, 2021; Johnson, 2021; Liptak, 2021; Liptak & Klein, 2021; Liptak & Sullivan, 2021b; Raju et al., 2021; Treene & Solender, 2021)[2].

However, it is important to keep in mind that this progress was motivated to take place though a severe loss to the Republicans in the Virginia state elections, with the infrastructure stalemate impasse between Democrats and Progressives being viewed as one of the key factors that led to this loss (Grisales, 2021; Holland & Kahn, 2021; Sullivan, 2021; Wilson, 2021).3 Although I am certainly glad and relieved that the bipartisan infrastructure bill was finally passed, it is disappointing to me that this is what it took to motivate Democratic Moderates and Progressives to stretch themselves to come to an agreement to pass the bill (with the help of 13 Republicans (Grayer et al, 2021)). as perhaps if this agreement had been reached before the Virginia state elections then the elections might have turned out differently and perhaps Biden’s approval ratings may have started to change course.

But the question now is: Assuming we do eventually pass the Build Back Better bill in both the House and the Senate, how much will the passing of these two bills help Biden improve upon his approval ratings? One very positive aspect of the successful passing of these bills is that it serves as an objective confirmation that Biden has been able to successfully practice what he has been preaching, in regard to bringing diverse political factions together to form a workable compromise through a skilled, patient, and constructively proactive approach, reducing the horrific political polarization that has brutalized the country as a result of the 4 years of President Trump (Liptak & Klein, 2021). However, once again it is important to remember that in regard to the Build Back Better bill, “bipartisan” now means “Democratic bipartisan,” as passing this bill can only “potentially” work because the Democrats control the House and Senate, though in very tight margins and the tightest possible margin in the Senate, with a 50/50 Senate composition between Democrats and Republicans and the tie-breaking Democratic vote being in the hands of Vice President Kamala Harris. The Build Back Better infrastructure bill can get passed through the budget reconciliation process that is not dependent on surviving the filibuster, but it does mean that absolutely every one of the 50 Democrats must be aboard, which is why all the agonizing conflicts and compromises have taken place about this the past few months, and why Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have had such out-sized influences on the whole process.

It is noteworthy that the way that the bipartisan infrastructure bill finally got passed in the House was truly “bipartisan” as six Progressives did not vote for the bill due to it not being linked with the Build Back Better bill, but 13 Republicans voted for the bill, which was more than enough to withstand the No votes from the six Progressives and pass the bill (Grayer et al, 2021). However, it is quite possible that after the Virginia state elections, which in addition to the victory of the Republican candidate for governor, included Republicans victories for lieutenant governor and attorney general as well as taking over the majority in the House of Delegates (Barakat, 2021; Flynn, 2021), the passing of these infrastructure bills may very well not be enough to overcome Biden’s low popularity ratings (Boston Herald Staff, 2021; Cizzilla, 2021; Page & Rouan, 2021). But at any rate, passing the Build Back Better bill now that the bipartisan infrastructure bill has finally been passed would be a good thing — a very good thing, in terms of the good things in the bills inclusive especially of the bills’ climate actions, along with the prospect of improving the public image and approval ratings that Biden may obtain from this. But is it enough to have a reasonable potential do the job? That is, is it enough to give Biden and the Democrats a fighting chance of preventing a Trump 2 or Trumpian 2024 presidency?

Escalated Political Violence, the Destruction of Democracy in the United States, and the Urgency of Carving Out Voting Rights from the Filibuster

Democrats are currently debating who was at fault for the stonewalling of the infrastructure bills and the consequential loss to Republicans in Virginia (Bolton, 2021; Grisales, 2021; McCarter, 2021c); Sullivan, 2021.3 There are good arguments to put the blame on Moderates as well as Progressives, and I can see both sides of the argument (Bolton, 2021; Grisales, 2021; McCarter, 2021c; Sullivan, 2021 [3]. Moderates like Joe Manchin say that it is the Progressives’ fault for not being willing to pass the bipartisan “roads and bridges” bill on its own merit, separate from the “human” Build Back Better bill (Bolton, 2021). I think there is merit in this argument, but I also think there is merit in the Progressives’ argument that they had no assurance that any kind of reasonable effective Build Back Better bill inclusive of substantial climate action would be retained if Moderates were not pressured to link both bills together (McCarter, 2021c). And thinking in the long term, meaning trying to avoid the worst case climate disaster scenarios, I believe that all things considered, the Progressives’ argument is the argument that makes the most sense to me. But of course this was a gamble, and the results of the gamble were catastrophic in regard to the Virginia state elections. And as I have described above, I think that the Progressives should have compromised enough to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill “before” the Virginia state elections rather than “after” these elections. But even if the Build Back Better bill soon get passed, with a good deal of additional climate funding in the bill to add to the climate funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was recently passed, the damage may have already been done. That is, the damage already caused by the stalemate between the Democratic Moderates and Progressives, together with all the disappointments in Biden’s presidency to many Americans, could very well not make a dent in helping the Democrats retain the House and Senate majorities in the 2022 Midterm elections, which consequently would seriously hamper Biden’s presidency much more than it has thus far been hampered, even with the Democratic Moderate and Progressive stalemate.

However, I think that if it were not for the agonizing results of the Virginia state elections for Democrats, Progressives may very well not have budged enough to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, so perhaps the Virginia election loss was necessary for Democrats to make gains in the long run and have at least a chance of avoiding what I perceive as the 2024 Trump 2 or Trumpian disaster. But to have a chance of avoiding this disaster, I think that it is absolutely necessary to very actively pursue the arduous task of passing the Build Back Better bill now that the bipartisan infrastructure bill has finally been passed, and that the urgency of doing this after the Virginia state elections is now especially apparent. Yes the Virginia state elections is a major setback to Democrats and a serious indication that a 2024 President Trump 2 or President Trumpian is a very real danger, but I believe that the Progressives had initially made a reasonable argument and followed a reasonable path, although I also think they should have compromised sooner than they did,[4] and my hope is that in the long run both the path that they initially charted and their eventual (though late) compromise will pay off to avoid 2024 President Trump 2 or President Trumpian.

And this brings me back once again to the urgency of carving out voting rights from the filibuster. Fifty Senate Democratic votes are needed to make voting rights an exception to the filibuster, and once again the problem with doing this is Centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (McCarter, 2021a). However, while Biden had initially been reluctant to promote this kind of change in the filibuster (Benjamin, 2021a), he may soon be working assertively and industriously for the cause (after the Build Back Better bill gets (hopefully) passed now that the bipartisan infrastructure bill has finally been passed) as he now realizes that it is absolutely necessary to do so in order to have any possibility of avoiding disastrous 2022 midterm results and consequently disastrous 2024 presidential results (Liptak & Sullivan, 2021b; McCarter, 2021b; poopdogcomedy, 2021). I have had a good deal of disappointment concerning Joe Biden’s performance as President the past few months, as I have described above. However, it was gratifying for me to see how effectively Biden was able to expedite the passing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, as I think this was Biden at his best — being assertive and listening empathically in just the right amounts, and it reminded me of why I previously associated Biden’s qualities of empathy to the core principles of humanistic psychology (Benjamin, 2021a, 2021c, 2021d).

Furthermore, all of my disappointment regarding Biden’s performance as President the past few months is irrelevant when it comes to what I believe is the most crucial task facing political Progressives like myself — once again this most crucial task is to prevent a 2024 President Trump 2 or President Trumpian. And especially after the Virginia state elections it is crystal clear to me that this crucial task is intricately tied to the filibuster. For voting rights may very well be the one and only thing that can effectively fight against the radical extremism overtaking the country, inclusive of racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes, as well as conspiracy theory, science denial, and political violence. That is, there needs to be a sufficient number of votes to outvote the above destroyers of democracy, and unless we have federal laws that can offset all the voting restrictions in many states that have been passed, or are in the process of being passed, democracy in the United States may soon be something in the past. This perspective has been powerfully portrayed by former Republican scholar Robert Kagan, who began his article by powerfully conveying the very possible escalation of political violence and destruction of democracy in the United States if Donald Trump is reelected as President in 2024:

“The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. . . . First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade invisibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls; he is building a massive war chest; and at this moment the Democratic ticket looks vulnerable. Barring health problems, he is running. Second, Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way. . . . Meanwhile, the amateurish ‘stop the steal’ efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. . . . The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020.” (Kagan, 2021, pp. 1–2)

Kagan’s very disturbing message is directly related to the kind of Trump cult indoctrination that I have previously described (Benjamin, 2021e):

“Today’s arguments over the filibuster will seem quaint in three years if the American political system enters a crisis for which the Constitution offers no remedy. . . . The passions that animate the Trump movement are as old as the republic and have found a home in both parties at one time or another. Suspicion of and hostility toward the federal government; racial hatred and fear; a concern that modern, secular society undermines religion and traditional morality; economic anxiety in an age of rapid technological change; class tensions, with subtle condescension on one side and resentment on the other. . . . What makes the Trump movement historically unique is not its passions and paranoias. It is the fact that for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements. . . . His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity. . . . The Trump movement might not have begun as an insurrection, but it became one after its leader claimed he had been cheated out of reelection. . . . People do things as part of a mass movement that they would not do as individuals, especially if they are convinced that others are out to destroy their way of life. It would be foolish to imagine that the violence of Jan. 6 was an aberration that will not be repeated. . . . Already, there have been threats to bomb poling sites, kidnap officials attach state capitols. ‘You and your family will be killed very slowly,’ the wife of Georgia’s top election official was texted earlier this year. . . . if the results come in showing another Democratic victory, Trump’ supporters will know what to do. . . . Trump’s grip on this supporters left no room for an alternative power center in the party.” (Kagan, 2021, pp. 2–7)

And for Kagan, he does not see any possibility of tinkering with the filibuster to change the dire future prospects that he has illustrated:

“The world will look very different in 14 months if, as seems likely, the Republican zombie party wins control of the House. At that point, with the political winds clearly blowing in his favor, Trump is all but certain to announce his candidacy, and social media constraints on his speech are likely to be lifted, since Facebook and Twitter would have a hard time justifying censoring his campaign. With his megaphone back, Trump would once again dominate news coverage, as outlets prove unable to resist covering him around the clock if only for financial reasons. But this time, Trump would have advantages that he lacked in 2016 and 2020, including more loyal officials in state and local governments; the Republicans in Congress; and the backing of GOP donors, think tanks and journals of opinion. And he will have the Trump movement, including many who are armed and ready to be activated, again. Who is going to stop him then?. . . . A Trump victory is likely to mean at least the temporary suspension of American democracy as we have known it. . . . In a little more than a year, it may become impossible to pass legislation to protect the electoral process in 2024. Now it is impossible only because anti-Trump Republicans, and even some Democrats, refuse to tinker with the filibuster.” (Kagan, 2021, pp. 10–11)

Yes the situation depicted by Kagan is one of extreme alarm, and one that I think needs to be taken very seriously. I don’t know the answer to the question of how feasible it is for the United States to prevent a 2024 Trump 2 or Trumpian presidency. But it is my fervent hope that Progressives and Democrats of all persuasions, as well as moderate Republicans, find a way of constructively working together to prevent this catastrophic event from happening.


Robert Kagan may very well be right in his depiction of the escalated violence and destruction of democracy that would take place if we have Trump as United States president again in 2024, and a 2024 Trump or Trumpian presidency appears to be increasingly more possible after the recent Virginia state elections. Kagan may also may very well be right that the filibuster is here to stay, essentially through the unwillingness of Centrist Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to tinker with it. However, I am trying my best to retain some degree of optimism. and I believe that Biden will keep his word and do his utmost to at least try to carve out voting rights from the filibuster if and when the Build Back Better bill, following in the footsteps of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, has successfully made its way through Congress — hopefully soon! It is also encouraging, in regard to the potential for Biden to improve upon his approval ratings, to see the recent positive United States jobs report as well as the United States’ decreasing (though still alarming) coronavirus rates (Holcombe, 2021; Ramos & Chiwaya, 2021; Stone, 2021; Tappe, 2021), along with Biden’s major accomplishment of passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill and hopefully within the next few months also the Build Back Better bill [5]. And thus to answer the question that I have posed in this article: Yes the United States may currently be living in a Pre-Trump 2 or Pre-Trumpian racist, xenophobic, hate-filled time period. But then again, I believe it is possible to offset this horrific future scenario from happening, in spite of the disappointing recent Virginia state elections. To do so, I believe that two crucial steps are as follows: first to pass the Build Back Better bill; and second, which I believe will be significantly more difficult than passing the Build Back Better bill and far less likely to be successful, to carve out voting rights from the filibuster. But “far less likely” does not mean “impossible” and therefore I am still not giving up on the possibly of preventing 2024 President Trump or President Trumpian and preserving democracy in the United States.


1) See the references in Benjamin (2021a) for a number of other perspectives on Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, most of which convey alarm and concern.

2) At the time of this writing Joe Biden has been President for nearly 10 months, and although the bipartisan infrastructure has been passed in both the House and Senate and will soon be signed into law by President Biden, the Build Back Better bill is still in the process of being negotiated in the House. If and when it is passed in the House (it is expected to be passed in the House by the end of November, 2021) then it is uncertain how long the Senate process would take to approve the bill with modifications, and then it would need to get re-approved in its modified form in the House.

3) For different perspectives that focus on the importance of promoting the Build Back Better bill and the obstruction of Senate Democratic Moderates Manchin and Sinema as key factors in the loss to the Republicans in the Virginia state elections, see McCarter, 2021c and Rule of Claw, 2021.

4) It should be noted that as a response to the Virginia elections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided to change course and hold a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill separately, no longer linking it to the Build Back Better bill (Johnson, 2021; Wise, 2021). The vote was successful and the bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed, but now the drama and complications continue in both the House and Senate to pass the Build Back Better bill.

5) Without a doubt, many of the climate actions and funding in the Build Back Better bill, as well as a number of Biden’s presidential actions in regard to helping the climate (GoodNewsRoundup, 2021a) are exceedingly noteworthy and extremely significant for trying to dampen the acceleration of climate destruction. However, there have also been disappointments and surprises (at least to me) in some of Biden’s climate actions and non-actions, inclusive of a surge of new oil drilling approvals (The Associated Press, 2021), the moving forward with a huge Alaska oil drilling project (Friedman, 2021), Biden’s unwillingness to stop the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota (Bort, 2021), and the non-inclusion of the United States in a list of 30 countries who pledged to phase out gasoline car sales and invest in electric vehicles (Plumer & Tabuchi, 2021).


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