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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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The 2024 U.S. Election Debate Debacle

An Integrative Democratic Perspective

Elliot Benjamin

But the question is: does he have the stamina and wherewithal to do this kind of thing every day for the next 4 months?

Like many U.S. Democrats, I was saddened and disheartened watching Joe Biden debate Donald Trump last week. I felt extremely heavy and discouraged both during and after the debate, as I knew that this was going to make it much more likely that Donald Trump would become the next president of the United States. The absurdity of the situation is mind boggling: 88 criminal charges, a convicted felon, destruction of democracy with the Project 2025 blueprint, and so much more that it has become exhausting even thinking about. But it doesn't matter how absurd the situation is: Donald Trump has been consistently leading in the polls, inclusive of the crucial swing states, and Biden's extremely poor debate performance last week looks like it may have driven the nail in the coffin. But is there any sign of some kind of optimism that one can still cling to? I honestly don't know. But Frank Visser has asked me to consider voicing my thoughts about all this in an Integral World essay and I decided to take him up on his offer, so let's see what emerges here. As in a number of my previous Integral World essays, I am coming from what I refer to as an integrative perspective, meaning putting together various perspectives, some of which may be contradictory to one another [1], but in this essay my integrative perspective is most definitely in the Democratic context.

Biden or Harris or ?

First off, we are currently in the midst of being continuously barraged with the conflicting opinions of whether or not President Biden should remain the 2024 U.S. presidential candidate. Apparently Vice President Kamala Harris has risen in her popularity and in some polls she is even predicted to do better against Trump than Biden would do, though she is still predicted to lose to Trump [2]. A number of polls conclude that she is the potential Biden replacement candidate who stands the best chance of beating Trump [3]. However, other polls have concluded that Biden has a significantly greater chance of beating Trump than Harris does [4]. This is all certainly very perplexing, but for me the urgent question is: can Biden perhaps regain his momentum and increase the odds of him possibly beating Trump? Or a related question: was Biden's poor debate performance an atypical event related to his being extremely tired from all his traveling and having a cold, as he and/or his staff have conveyed? [5] Or rather, was it a dire sign of Biden's old age of approaching 82 and losing the strength of his cognitive faculties, as the majority of the country, inclusive of a growing number of elected congressional Democrats, are voicing concerns about? [6]. And what is it that I myself think about this?

Well being in the mid-70s myself, I can fully empathize with Biden's enormous challenge of trying as hard as he can to convey strength and vitality to the American public while his body continues to age and weaken. I must admit that I share the concerns of the majority of Americans that Biden's age may be catching up with him [6]. But at the same time, I would not rule out the possibility that Biden could still pull it off—i.e., maintain sufficient cognitive functioning to become an effective United States president for a second term. And the fact that Kamala Harris is now being viewed more favorably [2] indicates to me that she may be able to ease the concerns of a number of people about Biden, in the event that she needs to take over as President due to Biden being unable to finish a second term. There is still nearly 30% of Americans who are undecided about the election [7], and there is still the factor of Biden being able to appeal to the centrist middle-of-the-roaders more than Harris would, as she is considered to be more progressive than Biden [4]. But then again, we have some polls telling us that Harris is doing significantly better than Biden with Independents [2]. Undoubtedly this is related to Biden's poor debate performance last week, but the perplexing question is: is this going to change before the election? For me, at this point in time I am inclined to agree with noted historian Allan Lichtman, who has correctly predicted nine of the last 10 presidents inclusive of Trump in 2016, and who believes that the Democrats' best shot at beating Trump is still with Biden, and if Biden decides to take himself out of the running, then their next best shot is with Harris [8].

The Destruction of U.S. Democracy with a Second Trump Presidency

It was very gratifying to me to see Biden come alive and be forceful and effective in his post-debate speech in North Carolina the day after the debate, and especially his being somewhat self-honest telling people that he is not a young man, doesn't walk as easily as he used to, doesn't debate as well as he used to, etc. [9]. Then he gave a powerful finish, saying that he knows how to be honest and would do all that he can to maintain American democracy [9]. But the question is: does he have the stamina and wherewithal to do this kind of thing every day for the next 4 months? The stakes are now unbelievably high, with the Supreme Court giving Trump the immunity that he wanted [10]. Trump's sentencing for being a convicted felon that was scheduled for next week has already gotten postponed until September, based upon this Supreme Court decision [11]. Even if there are no more sentencing delays, which I would not bet on, I do not think that any kind of punishment, such as jail or home confinement, would even happen before the election. And if Trump wins the election, I expect that he will use the horrific Republican Project 2025 manifesto to get rid of anything that causes him difficulty, meaning the remainder of his criminal charges, his sentencing, etc. [12]

I have written numerous articles about the dangers to United States democracy if Trump becomes President again, many of which are available on this Integral World site [1]. I shudder to think that all I have written about this may now become our reality. But I also know that I must find a way to psychologically deal with this horrible reality that looks more and more like it is going to happen. I have written about how I can constructively deal with this reality, and given talks at conferences that have included this scenario [13]. The bottom line is that I need to not get depressed, and to continue to appreciate the value that I have in my own life. If the United States becomes essentially an authoritarian country led by an ignorant callous dictator, so be it. I'll still do my math, play the piano, write my essays, mentor my Ph.D psychology students, and engage in my harmonious day-to-day life with my wife and our dog and cat. People have lived and are living in far worse conditions, and I will not let this get the best of me.

Is There Anything Positive That Can Come From a Second Trump Presidency?

This section of my essay is admittedly quite the stretch for me, but let me try to open my mind. Although I do not want to reopen the can of worms, I am thinking about Ukraine/Russia. I have written a number of Integral World essays about the Russia/Ukraine war [1], [14] in which I have tried my best to offer a balanced perspective with a focus on ending the war through negotiating for peace. But the bottom line is that any kind of negotiations for peace would necessitate Ukraine being willing to give up some of their land to Russia, and this has been a major barrier to ending the war. After 2 years of war and a multitude of deaths on both sides, I feel more strongly than ever that negotiating for peace needs to happen [14]. This has become even more urgent with the recent pact between Russia and North Korea, which I believe increases the possibility of the end-of-world scenario of nuclear war [15]. But Biden is not pursuing the prospect of these kind of negotiations for peace; rather he is escalating his military support for Ukraine, having recently approved giving Ukraine bombs that can be dropped inside Russian territory [16]. I understand the intent of trying to stop Russia from having more capability of bombing Ukraine, but something needs to give here if we are going to prevent an even greater catastrophe. And this is where I must honestly wonder if Trump would be able to finally end this war, through making military support of Ukraine dependent on them constructively entering into negotiations for peace with Russia, meaning a willingness on their part of accepting that they need to give up some of their land to Russia. This is exactly what two of Trump's advisors have suggested to him to talk about during his debate with Biden last week [17]. Trump chose to not mention this, as I suspect he did not want to look weak or lose support of people who agree with increasing military support of Ukraine against Russia. But I must also say that I think it is likely that Trump would eventually do something like this, and I must also say that I would be in agreement with Trump if he were to do so.

Having said this, I know fully well that there is going to be a number of Integral World readers who will attack me as being pro-Putin, pro-Russia, etc. All I can say in my defense is that I am certainly not pro-Putin or pro-Russia, but I am pro-stopping the possibility of nuclear war and I am pro-ending the Ukraine/Russian war, and I see no other way to achieve this. Biden said in the debate that if we were to do something like this then Russia would go on to attack other countries, etc. But a counter-argument is that Russia would be satisfied with just getting at least some of the land they want in Ukraine and not attack other countries for more land, given the dire consequences to them of doing so. But I already have said more in this essay than I intended to about this, so I will let others continue to debate this question.

Getting back to the question of is there anything positive that can come from a second Trump presidency, it is important to also look at what Trump might do with the Israel/Gaza war. I have also conveyed my thoughts about this war in a number of Integral World essays [1], [18] and I once again have navigated for negotiating for peace, with curtailing giving bombs to Israel that they use to kill Palestinian civilians, many of whom are children. I think Biden has been way too supportive of Israel with very limited conditions, but at least he has made some concessions and enforced some limitations on how Israel is using the bombs that we supply to them [19]. And what has Trump said about this war? He has not said anything very concrete, only that Israel needs to “finish what they started” [20]. This means to me that Trump would likely support Israel even more than Biden has, without any limitations whatsoever, resulting in much greater tragic loss of life for Palestinians. And this is where I end with trying to see anything constructive about a second Trump presidency. I don't even want to get started with what Trump would do in regard to drilling for oil, curtailing restrictions on industry contaminating our air and water, offsetting any progress that Biden has made on battling climate destruction. And a good read of the 900+ page Project 2025 document is enough to evoke utter horror in anyone who values democracy in the United States [12].

Conclusion

As I have been wrestling in this essay with what I think about Biden stepping down as the United States 2024 Democratic presidential candidate, I was greatly impressed with his forceful and energetic Wisconsin speech one week after his abysmal debate [21]. I had already concluded in this essay that Biden staying in the race was the best possibility of defeating Trump, but his Wisconsin speech reinforced for me that Biden still has the ability to rebound and be an effective second term president. However, his televised interview with George Stephanopoulos a day later was disappointing to me. I felt that Stephanopoulos obviously wanted Biden to step down and aggressively put Biden on the defensive. Biden certainly did not come off anywhere as badly as he did during the debate, but I don't think it did anything to improve the situation for him. It greatly concerns me how the Democrats are splitting apart over Biden's age with more Democratic leaders calling for Biden to step down [22], and this may make it much more likely that Trump wins the election. It is my hope that the Democrats soon accept that Biden is the candidate and unite behind him, doing all that they can to enable Biden to beat Trump in November.

Notes and References

1) See my Integral World essays at www.integralworld.net

2) See Akayla Gardner, Jennifer Jacobs, & Amanda L. Gordon (2024), Kamala Harris Is Having a Surprise Resurgence as Biden's Campaign Unravels, www.bloomberg.com; Jim Geraghty (2024), Opinion: Kamala Harris Is No Riskier for Democrats than Joe Biden, www.washingtonpost.com; Ivan Pereira (2024), and Shermichael Singleton & Maria Cardona (2024), Poll: Harris Stronger than Biden with Women & Independents, www.cnn.com.

3) See for example Ivan Pereira (2024), If Biden Drops Out, who Could Replace Him? Harris Does Better Against Trump in Polls, abcnews.go.com

4) See Ewan Palmer (2024), Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' Chances of Beating Trump in Key Swing States, www.newsweek.com; Ewan Palmer (2024), Donald Trump Destroys Kamala Harris in New Poll, www.newsweek.com; and for a good description of the pros and cons of Kamala Harris replacing Biden, see Sara Dorn (2024), Kamala Harris Emerges as Top Biden Replacyment--Here's How Her Record Could Hurt and Help Her Against Trump, www.forbes.com.

5) See Steve Holland (2024), Biden Says He “Nearly Fell Asleep” During Debate After World Travel, www.reuters.com.

6) See Andrew Solender (2024), Pressure Builds on Capitol Hill for Biden to “Step Aside", www.reuters.com; and Kira Mautone, Joseph A. Wulfsohn, Ashley Carnahan, Ramiro Varga, & Hannah Ray Laambert (2024), American Reflect on Whether President Biden Should Step Down After Debate Performance: “Pass the Torch", www.foxnews.com.

7) See Straight Arrow News (2024), Nearly 30% of Americans Still Undecided After CNN Debate, www.guampdn.com.

8) See Charles M. Blow (2024), Forcing Biden Out Would Have Only One Beneficiary: Trump, www.newsnationnow.com; Rich Johnson (2024), If Biden Isn't Nominee, Dems Can win If They Do This: Historian, www.newsnationnow.com; and Paul Massari (2024), Why Joe Biden Should Stay in the Race, gsas.harvard.edu.

9) See Michael McElroy (2024), Biden Gives a Forceful Speech in Raleigh the Day After a rough Debate, cardinalpine.com.

10) The Scripps News Staff (2024), Supreme Court Sends Trump Case Back to Lower Court, Giving Former President Limited Immunity, www.scrippsnews.com.

11) See Jake Offenhartz & Jennifer Peltz (2024), Judge Delays Trump's Hush Money Sentencing Until At Lest September After High Court Immunity Ruling, apnews.com.

12) It is possible that the gloating about the horrific democracy destroying Project 2025 may actually end up working against Trump. In this context see Amanda Marcotte (2024), Project 2025 Was Supposed To Boost Donald Trump's Campaign—But It May Be Backfiring Instead, www.salon.com.

13) See Elliot Benjamin (2023), Creative Maladjustment, Progressive Politics, and Humanistic Psychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology doi.org; my most recent conference talk was at a humanistic psychology conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan in March, 2024, entitled Humanistic Psychology, Political Activism, and Respite/Renewal.

14) See the agenda of the Peace in Ukraine organization, www.peaceinukraine.org, which is consistent with my own views as I have expressed in my Integral World essays [1]. My Integral World Russia/Ukraine essays can be viewed in particular at Thoughts about the Ukraine Crisis, An overview of essays, www.integralworld.net

15) See The Associated Press (2024), With Its New Pact with North Korea, Russia Raises the Stakes with the West Over Ukraine, abcnews.go.com.

16) See Erin Banco, Alexander Ward, & Lara Seligman (2024), Biden Secretly Gave Ukraine Permission to Strike Inside Russia with US Weapons, www.politico.com.

17) See Gram Slattery & Simon Lewis (2024), Exclusive: Trump Handed Plan to Halt US Military Aid to Kyiv Unless It Talks Peace with Moscow, www.reuters.com.

18) My Integral World Israel/Gaza essays can be viewed in particular at Thoughts About the Gaza Crisis, An Overview of Essays, www.integralworld.net

19) See Kevin Liptak (2024), Biden Says He Will Stop Sending bombs and Artillery Shells to Israel If It Lauches Major Invasion of Rafah, www.cnn.com.

20) See Kate Sullivan (2024), Trump Says Israel Needs to “finish What They Started” and Said War with Hamas is “Taking a Long Time.”, www.cnn.com

21) See the full video of Biden's Wisconsin speech at C-Span (2024), www.c-span.org

22) See Betsy Klein & Michael Williams (2024), 6 Takeaways from President Joe Biden's High-Stakes ABC Interview, www.cnn.com.






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