Authoritarianism Accounts for President Biden’s Low Poll Numbers
by Elizabeth Clark, Chair, Democracy & Human Rights Task Force
When President Biden is criticized and questioned on why he doesn’t take stronger measures to fight gun violence by, for example, banning assault weapons, he brings up the fact that he doesn’t have the votes in the Senate. The next election will have to bring in the extra votes that he would need for the United States to pass a law banning assault weapons and high magazine ammunition. Probably very many of the voters that he is talking to have a very rudimentary knowledge of how the institutions of American democracy function, certainly the niceties of when you can bypass the 60-vote filibuster and pass a measure in the US Senate by a majority vote.
US citizens probably expect that Biden has the power that former President Trump clearly believes the President should have: power that is not to be hampered by any democratic institution, but to be empowered to take action as an authoritarian leader. If you want America to be an authoritarian country then you clearly see no reason why President Biden can’t just dictate an assault rifle ban. Authoritarianism expresses power much as people think military force expresses power. Therefore, by definition, to a Trumpist mentality, concludes that Biden is being weak in combating gun violence because he is talking about constraints of our constitutional system. The public probably thinks that it is up to the President to recognize these “constraints,” which are probably felt to be not imposed by the Constitution, but the play of partisan political power, a conceptualization that also denigrates President Biden.