Relative to Trump, Biden has a reality problem. Biden’s supporters generally have a realistic view of him, seeing Joe as a well-meaning, decent old man who is probably not up to enduring another four years as President. In contrast, the Trump existing in the minds of his base barely resembles the real Trump, except (ironically) in terms of his worst traits and deeds. Biden also does not have the propaganda machinery of Fox News and its more extreme fellows, and his supporters include people who listen to NPR and check facts. As such a propaganda campaign of disinformation is not an option for poor Joe.

While I am wary of conspiracy theories, if we look at Hilary Clinton’s 2016 run and what Biden is doing now, it would not be unreasonable to think that the ruling elites of the Democratic party are intentionally throwing elections. One could also infer that the party is suffering from an ego problem in that some candidates are unwilling or unable to honestly assess their chances. In any case, the Democrats continue to disappoint, the Republicans seem intent on turning America into a white Christian nationalist authoritarian oligarchy griftocracy, and no third party is up to the task of challenging them. Given my values, which I am happy to debate, Biden is still by far the better choice. While I do think that even a fully senile Biden would be better than Trump, my main reason for supporting Biden is, well, everything else that goes with the presidency. While Biden and the Democrats do ably serve the ruling elites, they also endeavor to make things less bad for everyone else and value competence to some degree. Trump, if he follows the Project 2025 plan, will be creating that white Christian nationalist authoritarian oligarchy griftocracy. This will be bad for everyone, including white Christians, who are not economic elites who have the resources to endure the harm this project will inflict. So how can Biden win?

Interestingly, the Supreme Court just gave Biden the tool he needs to easily win, if he were only the sort of person Trump and Fox News claim he is. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted, the ruling on presidential immunity would have the following effect: “Orders the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune,” she wrote. “Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.” While I am not a constitutional scholar, based on the text of the ruling and dissent, Joe could take a wide range of official actions to neutralize Trump and perhaps much of MAGA and ensure he remains in office. Ironically, Trump and his MAGA Supreme Court judges know this is a safe move: unlike Trump, Biden will not do any of these things, even to preserve the United States from the destruction that Trump will bring. But he could and there are presumably those who would argue that he should, for example, send the Joe Commandoes to neutralize Trump and, while they are at it, other key MAGA figures, such as six supreme court justices. But, once again, they know that while Trump will run wild with this ruling, Biden will not—which is yet another reason why Biden should be president rather than Trump. But are there ways for Biden to beat Trump? One option is to use a third-party candidate to pull votes from Trump.

While third-party candidates have proven useful in winning elections, there are moral questions about intentionally using this tactic. One concern is the matter of deceit. Suppose that shadowy Democratic party operatives were to support, for example, RFK in ways that would draw votes away from Trump. This raises stock moral concerns about deception and manipulation. Because of my ethics, I could not endorse this tactic. Fortunately, I can openly encourage people who would otherwise vote for Trump to vote for RFK and do so in an ethical manner by being completely honest. I also openly encourage those Democratic operatives to use this tactic.

Perhaps the only time the MAGA base openly disagreed with Trump and booed him was when he admitted to getting a COVID-19 booster. This indicates that for at least some of the base, their anti-vax ideology is stronger than their MAGA commitment. This presents an opportunity to peel some voters away from Trump.

Trump was initially baffled by the anti-vax sentiments, as were some other Republicans (such as Ron DeSantis), and while they have been happy to change their rhetoric to appeal to these voters, they are not true believers. After all, they all got vaxxed because they knew it would protect them from a dangerous disease. More importantly, one significant achievement of the Trump administration was Operation Warp Speed which resulted in effective vaccines being developed at, well, warp speed. While I generally loath Trump, he and his administration deserve praise for this as despite their other failures, these vaccines saved lives and prevented serious illnesses. So, thank you President Trump for those vaccines. Ironically, this accomplishment can be weaponized against him.

Two of Trump’s many weaknesses are that he loves praise and loves to take credit, as such the success of Operation Warp Speed is something he would very much love to claim. But he also realizes that this objectively good success is seen very differently by his anti-vax base. As such, he has largely stopped talking about it. This, of course, is a situation that can be exploited in a way that allows complete honesty.

Biden and Democrats should praise Trump for the success of Warp Speed and emphasize how he and other Republicans served as role models by taking the COVID-19 vaccines. Unedited, honest clips of him praising the project and recommending the vaccine should be used. But how will this help peel off votes? Fortunately, or unfortunately, RFK is a solid anti-vax candidate who appeals to his fellow conspiracy theorists. That he has admitted to having a worm in his brain presumably only boosts his potential appeal to some elements of the MAGA base. While this is morally dubious at best, Democrats could assist RFK by promoting his anti-vax credentials and contrasting them with Trump’s. To avoid being evil, they would need to steer clear of promoting anti-vax disinformation. This is certainly a viable option since the goal is to get existing anti-vaxxers who would otherwise vote for Trump (but never Biden) to switch to RFK and not to create more anti-vaxxers.  But at this point I think people are probably set in their views on vaccines. There is, of course, a risk of pulling liberal anti-vaxxers away from Biden to RFK and this should be considered before this tactic is used. Fortunately for the Democrats, it is the Republicans who have largely embraced an anti-vax approach within their broader commitment to disinformation and misinformation. As such, this tactic would hurt Trump more than Biden.

While it might be wondered if the effort would be worth it, since this tactic is unlikely to peel off many MAGA voters. However, while Clinton and Biden trounced Trump by millions of votes, the electoral college is such that pulling a few votes away from Trump in key locations could make a difference. Assuming, of course, that votes will even matter in MAGA controlled zones.

In politics, it is said that perception is reality. But many philosophers will tell you that what we think is reality is just perception. Very concisely, the notion is that we never directly experience reality, only the ideas in our mind. As such, we do not really perceive people, including Trump and Biden. We just have ideas of them that probably do not match reality. But, laying aside skepticism, we can have ideas that are more or less accurate. Before continuing, I will note that I am a registered Democrat (Florida has closed primaries) and I voted for Joe Biden last election. I’ll be voting for him again. As a philosopher, I’m obligated to present these biases so you can use them to rationally assess my credibility.

Having followed Trump and Biden over the years, I have noticed that Biden supporters tend to have a mostly accurate view of him while Trump supporters tend to be wrong in their beliefs about Trump and Biden, or at least profess to believe false things.

While there are no doubt exceptions, people who voted for Biden seem to have a reasonably realistic view of him. He is an old man, has been in politics a long time, takes moderate positions on almost everything, and is willing to do a few things to make life marginally better for many Americans. He is also consistent in maintaining the foundations of the status quo, such as allowing the fossil fuel industry to do most of what it wants to do. I think that this realism is an important factor in explaining why support for Biden tends to be lukewarm and the most compelling reason to vote for him is that he is not Trump. People are supporting the real Biden, and there isn’t much there to really inspire voters.

While there are exceptions, people who voted for Biden seem to have a mostly accurate view of Trump. He is an old man, there are many issues involving taxes, finances, and mistreatment of women in his past, he tried to stay in power after losing the election, he lies, he is willing to exploit racism and xenophobia, he is primarily interested in enriching himself and his family, and he is now a convicted felon.  These are all compelling reasons to not vote for him. Thus, it is no surprise that most votes for Biden were votes against Trump; people picked the lesser evil.

In contrast, Trump supporters seem to be wrong in their beliefs about Trump and Biden. Their professed conception of Biden seems to match that made up by Fox News and more extreme right-wing outlets. Biden is seen as senile, a socialist or even a communist. He wants to take away our hamburgers, stoves, and cars. He is also seen, by some, as wanting to make children gay or trans. And so on. I am, of course, unsure how many people really believe this and to what extent, if any, they have critically assessed these claims. But this conception of a senile, incompetent mastermind who is making America into a socialist state does give people a good “reason” to vote against this imaginary Joe Biden. This also helps explain the enthusiasm of the opposition: Biden’s supporters see him as a tired old moderate politician, his foes see him as a tired old devil energized to destroy America. This helps to explain the enthusiasm gap.

Some Trump supporters do know what Trump is and before they chose to become his henchmen many of them savagely attacked him. Just look at what his fellow Republicans said about him before he became President. They had an accurate view of Trump and are presumably lying now. The Christian nationalists and racists who hope to benefit from his second term probably grasp what he is (a useful tool), although they usually do not say so openly. For example, Mike Johnson has professed to be so anti-porn that he and his son monitor each other via an app to ensure they are not sneaking a peak at Pornhub. Yet Johnson was at Trump’s trial, supporting a man who committed adultery with a porn star and has lied about it. I don’t think that Johnson is stupid; he knows that Trump is a tool to get what he wants, and so he must bear false witness in praising him.

But I think that many of Trump’s followers are sincere when they claim he is a good Christian, that he is smart, that he is strong, that he cares about them, that the negative claims about Trump are untrue or exaggerated, that he is honest and so on. For the most part, their beliefs are the opposite of reality. Which is fascinating.

The comedian Jordan Klepper has done an excellent job, in a kind way, of getting some Trump supporters into a state of cognitive dissonance involving the facts and their professed beliefs. I don’t think that these people are stupid or foolish. After all, Trump is much better at putting on a show than Biden and Trump has a vast army of people, ranging from Fox News to YouTube grifters, presenting him as a great hero (and Biden as a senile, yet incredibly dangerous, devil). While Biden does have supporters, they are both less enthusiastic and less willing to lie. This helps explain why Trump is doing shockingly well in the polls—his supporters are supporting a Trump that does not exist and opposing a Biden that also does not exist. Biden supporters are, for the most part, reluctantly supporting a mostly accurate conception of Biden and more enthusiastically opposing a mostly realistic view of Trump. In short, Trump is winning the perception war while losing repeatedly in reality. But there is a good chance he will get a second term.

Trump’s defenders might claim that my critical view of Trump is a manifestation of Trump Derangement Syndrome. There is, of course, no way to effectively counter this rhetorical move with logic. If I offer supporting evidence for my claims, such as that presented in court during Trump’s trial, it will be dismissed as lies and as all part of a witch hunt against Trump. If I argue that my view is based on a calm and rational assessment of Trump and Biden, this will presumably be dismissed, perhaps based on the claim that my derangement is so deep that I am unaware of it. That is, they will need to reject evidence, advance conspiracy theories, and question my sanity to address my claims. To be fair to them, this could be their honest conception of me. And from my perspective, they would have broken free of reality. That is a basic problem with the intentional destruction of the idea of an objective reality; there is little common grounded reality to stand on and talk.