You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation
Human Swine

The Trump Double Standard: He’s the Least Persecuted Pol in America

Can you imagine the media’s reaction if Biden had tweeted an image of Trump hog-tied in the back of a pickup truck?

Donald Trump
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

You may have noticed over the weekend that Donald Trump posted to social media a video of a MAGA pickup truck barreling down what looked to be the Southern State Parkway in Long Island (google Howells Road, exit 41). The truck was tricked out in fascist regalia, but what naturally drew people’s attention was the image on the truck’s tailgate: Joe Biden, lying prostrate, with his arms and legs bound in rope. In other words, the driver is fantasizing about hog-tying and kidnapping the president of the United States.

The Biden campaign issued a denunciation, and Trump spokesman Steven Cheung, always handy with hall-of-mirrors projection, snapped back: “Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him.”

Take note of two points. First, the way Cheung equates “Democrats and crazed lunatics” with Trump; that is, if it’s OK for “crazed lunatics” to post irresponsible things about Trump, then it’s fine for Trump himself—the standard-bearer of the Republican Party to hold the most powerful office in the world—to post irresponsible things about Biden.

This is a long-standing right-wing sleight of hand—to take things said by random angry liberals on social media and prattle on as if “the Democrat Party” said them. When Barack Obama was president, we endured years of Republicans—in Congress and state legislatures, along with numerous state party officials—making watermelon jokes and being slippery about whether Obama was born in America. It happened incessantly. And then, every so often, a few online liberals would get some nasty and perhaps tasteless meme about Mitch McConnell trending, which would give Republicans the excuse to say, “Aha, see? Both sides do it!”

Republicans have gotten away with this for ages. The mainstream media has come to expect and tolerate this state of affairs for two reasons. It’s simple human nature: If a parent has a well-behaved kid and an unruly kid, the parent naturally over time expects more of the former and lowers the bar for the latter. And once something has happened a thousand times, it isn’t really news anymore.

The result has been this: House Republicans utter outlandish lies about Obama or Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or whomever, and it gets reported, but we hardly bat an eye. That’s what we expect of them. Then, once in a while, a Democrat says something that crosses the normal lines of discourse—for example, Rashida Tlaib’s statement when the Democrats retook the House in 2019 that they were going to “impeach the motherfucker” (Trump)—and a massive hubbub ensues, leaving the casual viewer with the impression that both sides are equally guilty of extreme rhetoric, or indeed that the Democrats are worse.

When it comes to Trump—well, he has so thoroughly corrupted our standards of discourse that nothing he says is shocking anymore. So of course he posted a video of a hog-tied Joe Biden. What else is new? The news stories on Sunday reporting the event were brief and kind of ho-hum.

Whereas, if Biden posted a video of a hog-tied Trump … you can just imagine the faux outrage on the right. And high-ranking Democrats, who would be genuinely kind of offended to see their standard-bearer for the presidency behave in such a tawdry way, would indeed rebuke Biden for having done so.

This dynamic plays out well beyond the level of discourse and rhetoric. The double standard infests the legal system as well, and the way Trump is treated there.

A lot of people were tweeting Saturday night and Sunday morning that Attorney General Merrick Garland should bring charges against Trump for posting that video. Doing so potentially violates some kind of law that prohibits inciting violence against the president.

That may well be true, on the merits. But of course, Garland will never bring any such charge. Garland has striven so hard to make his department nonpolitical that he’s actually made it political in a way that’s ended up helping Trump. He moved so slowly to pursue prosecutions of Trump and to name Jack Smith to lead the January 6 insurrection prosecution that he may well have ensured that nothing will happen before the election, and Trump will have the opportunity to win the election and pardon himself.

Trump likes to say he’s the most persecuted politician in American history, but as usual, the opposite is the truth. Against anyone else who did all the things Trump has done, or stands accused of having done, the wheels of justice, legal and political, would have moved more swiftly. He should have been impeached and convicted when he fired James Comey four months into his first year in office because Comey affirmed the FBI was investigating Trump’s 2016 campaign, and Trump admitted on national TV that that was the reason he was firing Comey. The firing was a blatant high crime. I have no doubt Mitch McConnell knows it.

And anyone else who incited an insurrection against the temple of our democracy and wanted his own vice president hanged would have been drummed out of politics the next week. Instead, Kevin McCarthy went down to Mar-a-Lago to lick his boots. And that man might be president again.

This is the advantage to the debaser of debasing standards of behavior. He is eventually held to no standard in the media, which just rolls its collective eyes. I would like to think, though, that voters, or at least enough of them, still have standards. Trump will do things between now and November to make this Biden video look mild, and the voters will finally say enough.