Because of the lock the two parties hold on the presidential race, the only two viable choices are Joe Biden and Donald Trump. While Trump’s supporters are using many strategies to attack Biden (many of which are inconsistent with each other) one approach seems to involve trying to create a false equivalence between the two men.
Trump’s tacticians probably think they can win over or keep some voters by trying to present Biden as being as bad or worse than Trump. Their main goal, though, is probably to demotivate moderate and left voters who would never vote for Trump (again) but might be persuaded to not vote. While they would see a vote for Trump as best, negating a vote for Biden is also good.
Since Trump is either a racist or an opportunist (which might be morally worse) there has been an effort to cast Biden as a racist. This charge does have some merit. In the 1970s Joe Biden actively opposed school busing. Biden teamed up with Jesse Helms in 1975 and joined the segregationists in opposing busing. In 1977 he said, “Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point. We have got to make some move on this.” Joe also supported (and apparently still supports) the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. This act is often seen as racist by people on the left. In 2020 Biden told voters that ‘you ain’t black’ if they are still deciding between him and Trump.
This does show that Joe has said racist things and supported racist policies, so he could be accused of being a racist. While it might seem odd for Trump supporters to focus on Joe’s alleged racism, it is a clever tactic. It allows Trump supporters who might have some moral qualms about Trump’s racism to feel better about their support: if Joe is also a racist, it is okay to back the racist Trump. It can also be used to demotivate lefty voters—if Joe is a racist like Trump, then a good leftist must not vote for Biden. But this would be an irrational response and is likely to involve falling for a false equivalence.
While I obviously recognize that Joe has said racist things and backed racist policies, the comparison between Trump and Biden needs to consider the number of incidents and the degree of racism. Even if one confines their concern to Trump’s time in office, he has produced a vast body of racist statements and supported a large number of racist policies. If one includes the time before he was president, Trump has a well-established track record of racism. As such, even if one believes that Biden is a racist and that racism is bad, Trump is exponentially worse. So, the rational way for an anti-racist to vote would be for Biden—since there are only two choices. Ironically, Trump supporters who want to attack Biden for being a racist need to at least pretend that racism is bad and to recognize what counts as racist. Roughly put, if they want to claim that Biden is a racist, they must also accept the conclusion that Trump is a racist. And that Trump is worse. Otherwise they are being inconsistent.
Since Trump has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct, his supporters point out that Joe Biden is notorious for inappropriate touching and was accused by Tara Reade of sexual assault. It would be dishonest to deny these claims since they are well documented.
While Trump’s tacticians have attacked Biden on this matter, Trump seems to have sided with Biden. Despite the undercutting of their attack, they have persisted because the tactic has advantages. Trump supporters who might have some moral qualms about Trump’s alleged sexual assaults can feel better about their support: if Joe is also groping women, it is okay to back Trump. It can also be used to demotivate lefty voters—if Joe is assaulting women like Trump, then a good leftist must not vote for Biden. But this would involve falling for a false equivalence.
I do think Biden should keep his hands under better control, Trump’s misdeeds exceed Bidens in number and degree. While Tara Reade did accuse Biden of assault, there is currently a lack of evidence supporting her claim as well as good reasons to doubt her assertion. In contrast, at least 25 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Trump has also been accused of rape. One can also consider the words and character of the two men. Trump is, of course, on tape talking about grabbing women by their pussies. His sexism is also well known.
So, even if one believes that Biden is a sexist and that sexism is bad, Trump is exponentially worse. So, the rational way for an anti-sexist to vote would be for Biden—since there are only two choices. Ironically, Trump supporters who want to attack Biden on this matter need to at least pretend that sexism is bad and to recognize what counts as sexism. Roughly put, if they want to claim that Biden is a sexist and is too prone to groping, they must also accept the conclusion that Trump is far worse.
The process of analyzing the false equivalencies could continue, but these should suffice to show how the tactic is used and how to counter the fallacy. This is not to deny that Joe has flaws; it is to deny that Trump and Biden are equally bad: Trump is far worse. So, if the racism and sexism of a candidate influences how you vote, you should vote for Biden.
It might be objected that the right choice is to vote for neither—either not vote at all or vote for someone else. To use an analogy, one could see the candidates as two milkshakes with rat feces in them. While the Trump shake is more feces than shake, the Biden shake still has turds in it—why drink either? The answer is unfortunate but obvious: one of those shakes is going down your throat in 2o21. At least voting gives you some role in deciding which shake you will be drinking.