Freedom Versus Apocalyptic Hellscape

[ Posted Tuesday, April 25th, 2023 – 17:13 UTC ]

President Joe Biden announced his bid for re-election today, releasing a three-minute video in which he explains why he's running. As the ad makes clear, Biden will be running on one basic concept: freedom. He's in favor of it, and in favor of Americans having more of it. The Republican Party countered with a 30-second ad of their own, in which they present an apocalyptic vision of what a second Biden term would be like. No, that is not hyperbole or an exaggeration. The only other possible word to use is "dystopian." They have outdone themselves in the fearmongering department (where they regularly excel). Since the GOP doesn't have a nominee yet, they are restricted only to offering up criticism of Biden (whether real or, in this case, entirely imagined), perhaps hoping that their eventual nominee will offer up some sort of positive vision of their own (which doesn't exactly seem likely, but hey, it could happen, I suppose). Since Biden is almost certainly going to skate to the Democratic nomination unopposed (or "unopposed by any Democrat the voters would actually nominate," to be technically accurate), this means that for at least the rest of this calendar year, it may stay a contest between: "Freedom," and: "Be afraid, be very afraid!"

Let's take a look at the two videos, to see how what could be a central campaign theme is already shaping up.



The president's campaign launch ad has it's own flavor of warning what could happen if the other side wins, to be fair right up front. But it is based in reality -- such as actual images from the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol.

Before I present the transcript of this ad, one editorial note: I did remove a handful of extraneous bits where Biden is shown interacting with supporters, shaking their hands, and just generally schmoozing with them. They tend to interrupt the flow of the transcript (although, in the ad itself, these little vignettes aren't as interruptive as they are when reading the text). Here are all the bits I have taken out:






[BIDEN GIVING A SPEECH:] We the people will not be silenced.



As you can see, these were just included to set a general tone of Biden being chummy with average Americans -- they were not crucial to the narrative at all.

As with much of Biden's 2020 campaign, the overall tone of his announcement ad is uplifting and positive. He does darkly warn of "MAGA extremists" and what they're trying to do to the country, but this is presented as something that the rest of us working together can triumph over. Biden strongly projects his core belief in the basic decency of Americans. Again, this was a big campaign theme for him previously, so it is not surprising to see him return to it.

One interesting note is that Kamala Harris is prominently featured at points during the video. The campaign logo at the end clearly reads: "Biden / Harris." No doubt this was done to squelch any speculation right from the start that Biden might drop Harris to put someone else on the ticket with him.

As mentioned, the ad is a full three minutes long, so the pace is calm and unhurried throughout. With that in mind, here is my own transcript of Joe Biden's 2024 campaign announcement ad:


Personal freedom is fundamental to who we are as Americans.

There's nothing more important. Nothing more sacred.

That's been the work of my first term. To fight for our democracy. This shouldn't be a red or blue issue. To protect our rights. To make sure that everyone in this country is treated equally, and that everyone is given a fair shot at making it.

But you know, around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms. Cutting Social Security that you've paid for your entire life, while cutting taxes for the very wealthy. Dictating what healthcare decisions women can make. Banning books! And telling people who they can love. All while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.

When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America -- and we still are.

The question we're facing is whether, in the years ahead, we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer. I know what I want the answer to be, and I think you do too. This is not a time to be complacent.

That's why I'm running for re-election.

Because I know America.

I know we're good and decent people. I know we're still a country that believes in honesty and respect and treating each other with dignity. That we're a nation where we give hate no safe harbor. We believe that everyone is equal, that everyone should be given a fair shot to succeed in this country.

Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they've had to defend democracy, stand up for our personal freedom, stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights.

And this is our moment.

So if you're with me, go to and sign up.

Let's finish this job. I know we can, because this is the United States of America, and there's nothing -- simply nothing -- we cannot do if we do it together.

As you can see, that's a pretty upbeat ad. "Freedom"... "Let's finish this job." Biden's message is the same basic one he used before: "If we all work together, we can overcome any problems we might face because that is what America has always been best at doing." Hey, it worked in 2020, right?



That subheading not an overstatement or hyperbole either. The Republican Party (via its "GOP" Twitter feed) tweeted this ad out with the text message: "NIGHTMARE: What if Joe Biden, the weakest president we've ever had, is re-elected?"

This ad is historic for a technical reason -- the entire video is fake. All the images you see are not real, they were all created out of whole cloth by an artificial intelligence program. This probably portends the future, since A.I. images have gotten good enough to pass for real -- and with a fake image, there's never the question of having the rights to it or it being somehow later identified as not even being from America (which plenty of Republican politicians have had problems with, in recent years). Who knows how far this trend will go? But it all starts with this ad -- the first national political video with images completely created by a software program.

The voices may be human (one assumes... but even that isn't a given, these days), but they are also all fake. Fake news, in fact. They are all obviously meant to be taken as being what Americans might possibly hear in the future under a second Biden term, read by some faceless cable news announcer on the air. It is all, quite literally, fake news. You know -- the thing Donald Trump is supposed to hate? Contradictions like this never bother Republicans, however.

The images have to be seen to be believed -- such as views of military forces besieging the city of San Francisco. No, really.

The dystopian theme of this ad fits in perfectly with one thing and one thing alone -- the often-baseless fears that rightwing media feeds its credulous audience on a nightly basis. Many of these are the things their fearmongers routinely predict will happen soon -- even if they never actually do. It's enough to scare the viewers into not changing the channel, and it largely bears no relation whatsoever to reality. The format even uses the classic Tucker Carlson-esque "I'm just asking questions" schtick -- "What if... what if... what if...." These are all specifically spelled out onscreen, while the fake-news-announcer audio is being played, although for some reason they decided none of them required an actual question mark. I also refrained from pointing out grammatical errors in the text (with "[sic]"), to avoid distractions.

In any case, here is my transcript of the Republican Party's response ad to Biden's campaign kickoff announcement:

[FAKE NEWS ANNOUNCER VOICE:] This just in: we can now call the 2024 presidential race for Joe Biden.

[ONSCREEN TEXT:] What if the weakest president we've ever had were re-elected


[FAKE NEWS ANNOUNCER VOICE:] This morning an emboldened China invades Taiwan.

[ONSCREEN TEXT:] What if international tensions escalate

[FAKE NEWS ANNOUNCER VOICE:] Financial markets are in free-fall as 500 regional banks have shuttered their doors.

[ONSCREEN TEXT:] What if financial systems crumble

[FAKE NEWS ANNOUNCER VOICE:] Border agents were overrun by a surge of 80,000 illegals yesterday evening.

[ONSCREEN TEXT:] What if our border is gone

[FAKE NEWS ANNOUNCER VOICE:] Officials closed the city of San Francisco this morning, citing the escalating crime and fentanyl crisis.

[ONSCREEN TEXT:] What if crime worsens

[DISEMBODIED VOICE #1:] Who's in charge here?

[DISEMBODIED VOICE #2:] It feels like the train is coming off the tracks.

As you can see, "apocalyptic" isn't much of an overstatement (although "Hellscape" might be, I will admit -- there were no actual images of cities burning to the ground, at least). This is what Republicans want to warn America could very easily come to pass should Joe Biden be re-elected.

It is the darkest of dystopian fantasizing. Can anyone truly picture the U.S. military being called out to close down any American city? For pretty much any reason, ever? And yet, somehow the Democratic governor of California and/or President Joe Biden are going to make that move, because of "escalating crime" and fentanyl. Sure. Could happen. Florida could announce it is seceding from the rest of the country and deploying armed troops on its northern border, too -- which (to me at any rate) seems a whole lot more plausible.

This is what the Republicans are going to use to terrify their base into turning out to vote in 2024. Who wants to see 500 banks fail and China invade Taiwan, after all? But it is so far removed from the reality that most voters live in that it seems dubious at best that any undecided voter would base any decision upon such fantastical doom-and-gloom prophesizing.



Campaigns change over time. Biden's will no doubt change before we get to next November. But Biden has the luxury of beginning his general election campaign now -- roughly a year before the Republicans have decided upon their own nominee. Republicans don't have this freedom (pun intended). They can't put forth a vision for the future based on their own party's agenda because nobody has any idea what that agenda is anymore. Donald Trump changes his ideological positions in a heartbeat, and the rest of the GOP pack has to follow along or risk losing any chance of convincing GOP Trump voters to take a chance on them instead. So the national party can't run on any sort of core Republican vision, because the core Republican vision these days is nothing short of "whatever Trump believes this week."

The contrast between the two ads is beyond stark. Joe Biden is urging us all to work together and build a positive future, where freedom expands and equal rights are guaranteed to all. Republicans darkly warn of the country becoming totally unrecognizable if Biden should prevail.

Wherever the 2024 presidential campaign ends up, that's where it started today -- optimism versus fear. Freedom versus an apocalyptic hellscape.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


20 Comments on “Freedom Versus Apocalyptic Hellscape”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Biden strongly projects his core belief in the basic decency of Americans. Again, this was a big campaign theme for him previously, so it is not surprising to see him return to it.

    This is a vintage Biden characteristic - his inherent belief in the American people and how, when they are faced with difficult decisions, they most often rise to the challenge. It's never a good bet to bet against America and AmeriCANS, to use a term coined by former CNN host Chris Cuomo. Ahem. Credit where credit is due and all that, I guess.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No doubt this was done to squelch any speculation right from the start that Biden might drop Harris to put someone else on the ticket with him.

    Indeed. But, I'll be very surprised if she ever wins election to the office of POTUS.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If Biden and his foreign policy team can forge a way toward peace in Ukraine over the next 6 to 18 months, I would feel a lot better about his chances for re-election. Because that war, if it continues on like it has, is going to exacerbate some very serious and wide-ranging problems for him come November 2024 that are already confounding his presidency.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    do you seriously think any substantial portion of the population will vote against joe biden becase of ukraine?

  5. [5] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Biden skating to the nomination is not 100% certain. He's old enough that obvious health and general frailty problems could knock him out. Same for Trump, even if his legal problems don't block his path to the nomination.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No, not because of Ukraine, per se, but definitely because of the serious problems caused by the war in Ukraine ... problems that are already causing serious challenges for Biden, internationally AND domestically and which will only get worse if an end to the madness there cannot be found.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Joshua, do you think the war in Ukraine can go on indefinitely without any impact on Biden's chances for re-election?

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, that was a fountain of conversation. :)

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Perhaps the renewed US commitment to use its nuclear arsenal to defend South Korea will spark more interest... ;)

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Would the US go nuclear to defend Taiwan, too?

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Of course, it would probably say so - just as soon as it brings Ukraine safely into the fold of NATO. Because, well, there just isn't enough war about.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It has done a pretty good job in Sudan, as well. NOT!

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Let's talk about complete and total disillusionment, shall we?

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It could be worse.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You know, speaking of Hellscapes and such ... heh.

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    If anything, the continuation of the Ukraine conflict actually helps the president's reelection chances. Especially if trump is the opponent, it provides a clear contrast - one candidate trying to protect Ukraine and our interests there, the other trying to exploit Ukraine for personal gain and his buddy Putin.

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    US interests do NOT align with Ukraine's. You are not seeing the challenges this war presents to the US.

  18. [18] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    that's an absolute statement, and it's false. US interests align partially with Ukraine, partially not. any hot military conflict brings a host of challenges, especially one where we're attempting not to involve our own troops. but the fact that it's difficult doesn't necessarily mean it's not worth the cost. like president biden, i believe that our support of ukraine is absolutely worth the cost, and i believe most US voters would agree with me on that point. just because i disagree with you doesn't mean i don't understand you.


  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Yes, I meant that US and Ukrainian interests do not fully align. Sorry for being imprecise. Still wishing there was an edit function around here. :)

    As for the cost of Russia's war in Ukraine for all involved...I believe it won't have been worth it. Not because it was difficult but because it was so unnecessary and because the end game won't, in all likelihood, look much different from the status quo ante.

    And, the US is not giving Ukraine enough support to win, so ...I think what Ukraine calls a win, in public, is not reality-based. In other words, they will not, under any scenario I can imagine, regain all of their territory and may even end up with less than they had when this war began more than a year ago.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, I still blame Biden for most of that.

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