Alexander: Hello and welcome to the first Presidential debate of 2024. Based on the remarkable popularity of the previous debates I moderated (2016, 2020, 2023), I’ve been asked to come here again and help the American people learn more about the our two candidates - President Joseph Biden, and former president Donald J. Trump. This debate will be broadcast live to select viewers, and I’ll also post a transcript on my blog.

Let’s start with a question for President Biden. Mr. President, the biggest political story of the past four years was Dobbs. v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned Roe v. Wade and gave final decision-making power on abortion back to the states. How would a second Biden administration treat this issue? Do you think states should be setting policy on abortion?

Biden: I’m not even sure states exist.

Alexander: You’re . . . not sure states exist?

Biden: The Pledge of Allegiance says that America is “one nation, indivisible.” Taken seriously, we have pledged to regard America as not being composed of parts. It is, like God, a perfectly simple entity, not requiring further explanation. How, then, could it have states? I realize this position may seem strange. But I pledged to believe it, and I am a man of my word1.

Alexander: I see. Mr. Trump, your response?

Trump: I think you can rescue the idea of states, if you think of them not as real in themselves, but as different aspects of the American atom. When we consider America in the context of its vastness and its freedom, we call it “Texas”. When we consider America in the context of its innovation and cultural influence, we call it “California”. When we consider America in the context of its barrenness and oil-producing-capacity, we call it “North Dakota”. And so on. America does not have states in the sense that Queensland is a state of Australia, it has states in the sense that ice or steam is a state of water. This isn’t to say that America ever changes between these states, because change is a property of compound entities. But it may appear to outside outside observers in one or another of these ways at different times.

Alexander: President Biden, your position?

Biden: Yes, I think it is permissible to believe in states in the way that Mr. Trump thinks of them. There’s no difference between us on this issue.

Alexander: All right, thank you. I wasn’t really intending to get sidetracked by this. I mostly wanted to know your policy on abortion.

Biden: I’m pro-choice. That’s all there is to it. I think women have a fundamental right to decide what happens to their own body, and I think life begins at birth. And not one of these hokey Caesarian “births” either - a normal, natural childbirth.

Alexander: Can you clarify that last part?

Biden: Have you read Shakespeare? Being “from your mother’s womb untimely ripp’d” doesn’t count as being born. I think the pro-life side is covertly trying to restrict abortion rights by expanding the definition of “born” until basically any method of separating a fetus from its mother would count.

Alexander: So if someone does get delivered by Caesarian section, what happens?

Biden: Legally they’re still part of their mother.

Alexander: And the mother can terminate them at any time?

Biden: Uh-huh.

Trump: Wait, what if they’re an evangelical Christian who’s born again?

Biden: Well, they can’t be born again. That would be their first birth.

Trump: But if they had that experience - if the Spirit came down and gave them the baptism of fire - would that count as a birth, end their status as a fetus, and prevent their mother from terminating them?

Biden: I suppose it would.

Trump: Great. Then there’s no difference between me and the President on this matter. Let’s keep going.

Alexander: Wow, I’m having a tough time finding any real points of disagreement tonight. Let’s stay on cultural issues, where I know the two of you have clashed before. President Biden, a lot of conservatives are worried that your administration promotes “wokeness” and “cancel culture”. What do you have to say to them?

Biden: Scott, I think about these things through the lens of Sir James Frazier’s seminal work on anthropology, The Golden Bough. Frazier writes that all rituals descend from the same ur-ritual: sacrificing the king to restore the fertility of the soil. As time went on, instead of sacrificing the literal king, societies changed this ritual into more and more figurative forms. In one common instantiation, typified by the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a commoner was chosen as the “mock king” or “king of fools”. He would be feted for a time, given the finest goods and the most delicate foods, and then sacrificed to the gods in place of the true king. I think of cancel culture as an outgrowth of this phenomenon. We take undeserving commoners and promote them to celebrities. For a time they bask in limitless wealth and the adoration of all. Then we destroy them. This may seem harsh to the uninitiated. But without it, the corn would fail in Iowa, the grapes would wilt on the vine in California, and the apple trees of New England would wither and die. Our celebrities know by what bargain they have gained their ephemeral reign. Let none mourn the inevitable consequences.

Alexander: Mr. Trump, your response? What’s your position on wokeness and cancel culture?

Trump: I’m against wokeness. I believe in Western values. I believe in the heritage of Greece and Rome - but Rome more than Greece, because it was further west. But most of all, I believe in the values of the Aztecs, because they were most western of all. I believe that in 959 AD Tezcatlipoca, the Smoking Mirror, insulted Chalchiuhtlicue, goddess of water, who cried blood for the next fifty-two years. Her tears extinguished the sun and killed everyone on Earth. In his mercy, Quetzalcoatl the Winged Serpent descended to the Underworld, where he stole the bones of the last men, and dipped them in his blood to create a new human race, and Huitzilopochtli, the Left-Handed Hummingbird, ascended into heaven to became the new sun. But his sisters the moon and stars grew jealous of his light, and they launched attacks upon him nightly. Only the nourishing blood of men gives Huitzilopochtli the strength to resist their assaults and shine anew each morn. Should the fountain of sacrifice ever go dry, the sun will go black, and the stars will fall upon the world and consume it. Callouts on social media are a form of flower war, and its losers are therefore set aside for sacrifice. In this, I agree with Joe Biden. But we cannot merely consign fallen celebrities to shame and penury. We must give them to the Sun. We must place them atop the mounds of Cahokia, atop the Luxor in Las Vegas, yea, even atop the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid in Memphis, and plunge obsidian daggers into their still-beating hearts, that the dawn may come anew.

Biden: I agree that sacrificing celebrities to the Sun God is a reasonable fertility ritual. I don’t think my administration would do anything differently from Donald’s here either.

Alexander: Hmmm, this is tough. Let’s keep going on the cultural topics. Mr. Biden, some people say our country is overrun with misinformation and conspiracy theories. Do you think these are dangerous, and what do you plan to do about them?

Biden: Yes, I find conspiracy theories noxious. Every time I mention I’m from Delaware, people give me the side-eye. They say awful things like “Isn’t it weird that every major corporation is based in the same state? Isn’t it weird that the President also comes from this state? Isn’t it weird that it was supposedly the first state in the union, the nucleus around which all the rest of America coalesced? Isn’t it weird that it has all these firsts and mosts and bests, but nobody knows anyone who lives there? Isn’t it weird that nobody’s ever been there, even though it’s supposed to be right smack between NYC and DC?” I think questions like these should be banned. I think the people who ask them should be put in jail.

Alexander: Thank you President Biden, that’s consistent with the strong stance against misinformation that you’ve taken in the past. But Mr. Trump, you’ve been accused of being one of the chief spreaders of misinformation, both personally and through your website Truth Social. What do you have to say for yourself?

Trump: GK Chesterton said that fairy tales were more than true, not because they tell us that dragons are real, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. In the same way, I think misinformation is more than true - not because it tells us there are pedophiles in pizza parlors, but because it tells us that pizza parlor pedophiles can be discovered and dragged into the light.

The COVID vaccine might not literally contain a microchip that lets Bill Gates control your mind. But we really do grant unaccountable tech billionaires root access to our culture. And seemingly pro-social requests really can be a vector for establishing control. I, Donald Trump, might not literally lead a euconspiracy of patriotic Americans who are about to blow the lid off the corrupt Biden administration and liberal establishment. But it really is true that even in the darkest night, when all seems lost, there are seeds of hope visible to those who search for them, and that even the most invincible-seeming tyranny can fall in an instant if enough people push at it.

So who cares about the literal truths? The average American lives in a dull apartment building in a decaying city, his subsistence dependent on the whims of macroeconomic forces he cannot comprehend, let alone control. You want to tell him to spend his tiny sliver of time on Earth thinking about interest rates and carbon credits? We need to re-mythologize the world! We need to re-weave the rainbow, re-haunt the air, re-gnome the mine! If the scientists have robbed us of trolls under bridges, we will replace them with Satanic cults in state capitols. If they take our soma, we will invent adrenochrome.

If I’m elected president, I plan to double down on this. I will spread rumors of griffons in the Rocky Mountains, allude to unspeakable things beneath the deserts of Nevada, and question whether the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a mystical portal to dream-realms beyond the setting sun. Not because any of these things are true. But because they are more than true. They’re what makes this country great.

Alexander: Griffons seem innocuous enough, but what about misinformation that’s dangerous to our democracy? Like, some people call you an election denier —

Trump:** oh, that’s absolutely true. You can read my social media posts for the full story, but I think there are just too many loose ends. Like, 2020 was the year we were all under COVID lockdown. How could we have had an election? People would have had to go out to caucuses, to polling places. It just doesn’t make sense.

People say “But Donald, I remember voting for you!” Yeah, you voted for me in 2016. Or “No, I remember voting for Joe Biden”. But Joe was on the ballot as Barack Obama’s vice-president in 2012. Or “I remember voting for Bernie Sanders in the primary, I was devastated when he lost.” That was 2016 too! If there was really an election in 2020, why can’t people remember anything about it that isn’t just a rehash of a previous election cycle?

Biden: Isn’t there an election every four years? There was one in 2016. There’s one now. Why wouldn’t there have been one in 2020?

Trump: The Gregorian year of 365 days doesn’t exactly match the Earth’s orbit around the sun. To keep the electoral calendar synced with the astronomical calendar, the rule goes that there’s an election once every four years, except once every one hundred years when there isn’t, except once every four hundred years when there is. The last year with no election was 18202, we held one 1920 because of the four hundred year cycle, and then 2020 was another no-election year.

Alexander: If there wasn’t an election, how is Joe Biden president now?

Trump: That’s the conspiracy. He said there was an election and that he won, and the media went along with it. People had vague memories of voting in past elections, so they confabulated a memory of a 2020 election that never happened.

Alexander: President Biden, what do you have to say to the idea that your memories of the 2020 election are confabulated?

Biden: I guess I wouldn’t have any way of knowing if that was true or not.

Alexander: Then I guess this is another unproductive line of conversation. We’ll have to keep looking for some other cultural topic where the two of you disagree. How about this - Mr. Trump, you’ve given some conflicting messages on LGBT+ rights. Will you promise to support Obergefell v. Hodges , which enshrines a constitutional right to same-sex marriage?

Trump: Sorry, I can’t support it. I believe all men are brothers. But that means all gay sex is incest. And incest is wrong.

Alexander: What about lesbians?

Trump: They can only marry if they have no brothers. If they do have brothers, then the two lesbians’ brothers are themselves brothers. And the sister of your brother’s brother is your sister. So that would make the two lesbians sisters.

Biden: But even if they didn’t have brothers, wouldn’t they still have fathers? And then the fathers would be brothers, which would make the two lesbians cousins, right? Isn’t that still incest?

Trump: I believe there are no fathers in America.

Biden: No fathers?

Trump: The Constitution bans any American from holding a noble title. And what title could be nobler than that of “father”?

Biden: Then who contributes the Y-chromosomes to male children?

Trump: Don’t get me wrong, I agree that men contribute half of the genetic material to an embryo. I just don’t think they should be considered a formal relative of the child. That’s why abortion is a woman’s choice. Because the man doesn’t count as a legal relative.

Alexander: Mr. Trump, I guess I’m getting increasingly confused about your position on abortion. Are you saying that fathers shouldn’t have any rights in abortion decisions?

Trump: I think that, insofar as fathers exist, their rights in abortion decisions should be left up to the states, insofar as states exist.

Biden: That seems suitably cautious. I agree with Mr. Trump.

Alexander: Aaargh, fine. Let’s get something really controversial. The two of you have consistently been at odds on immigration. President Biden, Mr. Trump accuses you of presiding over a “border crisis”, where hundreds of thousand of foreigners have entered the country illegally. Is he right or wrong?

Biden: “Foreigner” is the wrong word to use here. I believe that during the theophany at Philadelphia, the souls of all future Americans were present, and agreed to the Constitution along with the delegates. But some of these souls were erroneously born into foreign bodies, and as part of the Messianic process we must gather them back into America.

Trump: But how would you separate these souls from purely economic migrants?

Biden: I believe that only those with a spark of American-ness in their soul will survive the journey. I believe the Rio Grande is a spiritual as well as a physical river, like the Jordan or the Rubicon. I believe that if one sets out to swim across the Rio Grande, truly accepting death in one’s heart as a potential outcome, then when one reaches the northern shore one is cleansed of all one’s foreignness, an American by baptism.

Trump: I don’t buy it. I still think the only solution to immigration is a big, beautiful wall.

Alexander: Yes, tell us about your wall plans.

Trump: It will be one hundred forty-four cubits high, made of jasper, with fifty gates, and names written thereon which are the names of the fifty states. And the wall will have thirteen foundations, and on them the names of the thirteen colonies The foundations of the wall will be garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation will be jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst; the thirteenth, an adamant. And the fifty gates will be fifty pearls; each of the gates shall be of one pearl.

Biden: Hmmmm - my biggest concern about this is - with a wall that big, I’m not even sure that you, or I, or other American citizens could get over it. And that’s unfair. If we’re going to do this, we need to start from square one. Everyone starts outside the wall. Then the first three hundred million people to make it past get to repopulate the country. That’s the fair way to do things.

Trump: Yes, that’s already what I meant. There’s no difference between us on this issue.

Alexander: Mmmhhhm. Well, we’re almost out of time and I still haven’t been able to find any substantial disagreement. Let’s just wrap this up early. President Biden, you get the first closing statement.

Biden: My fellow Americans, I am humbled to standing here before you today as your President. No, more than humbled. Flabbergasted. Do you realize how bizarre it is, that, out of eight billion humans, I’m the leader of the most powerful country in the world? It doesn’t make sense. It makes sense to you, because someone has to be President. But it doesn’t make sense to me, because the sheer coincidence that the person I happen to be is also the person who is President - that has one in eight billion odds. I don’t know exactly what’s going on here. Sometimes I think it’s some sort of weird dream I’m having, and I’ll wake up and be a sanitation engineer in Pittsburgh or something. But this seems more vivid and more continuous than a dream. I think the more likely explanation is that some future posthuman is running a historical simulation of the 2024 US election, and that only I and maybe my opponent are fully-conscious humans with real internal experiences. For years I’ve tried to escape this conclusion, but it looms before me, as compelling as it’s ever been.

If, sitting at home in this moment, you are fully conscious, then you know a true fact that you can never communicate to me. No matter how loudly you insist on your own interiority, I would just hear it as an NPC programmed to say those words. But imagine if you could convince me! Imagine how wonderful it would be! This great country - all entirely real! The redwoods of California - real! The mighty Mississippi - real! The skyscrapers of Manhattan - real! All you three hundred million Americans, in your countless races and religions and separate lives - real, every one of you! I think my heart would break with joy.

If this is true, I will never know. But I would like to think I don’t have to. If our country is a phantasm, I love it still. Once I dreamt about a woman as beautiful as the sun, and when I woke, I found I loved her still. Even to this day I pine for her still. Can I not love America too, even if it is also a dream? If you are all cogs in the historical simulation of some posthuman artillect, can I not love the America that must once have been, even as our hearts stir still when we remember Greece or Rome?

So this is my campaign promise: I will fight for every one of you just as hard as if you were actual people. And when the final votes come in this November, as the world disintegrates all around us - like stagehands, dragging the scenery away at the end of a Broadway pageant, the last letters to escape my lips before I dissolve into code and air will be “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Alexander: Donald Trump, your closing?

Trump: Well, it looks like we finally found a real disagreement. Joe Biden doesn’t believe in this country. He doesn’t believe it exists. Well, I think he’s wrong on anthropics, and wrong for America.

If you accept the self-indication assumption, ie that you’re more likely to exist in worlds that have more people, then that exactly counterbalances his concern. Consider two worlds, one of which contains a billion people and one of which contains only Biden. It’s true that Biden is approximately a billion times more likely to be President in the second world. But he’s a billion times more likely to exist at all in the first world. The two billion-to-one odds ratios cancel out, leaving each world equally likely. Therefore, Biden should be agnostic over various different sizes of America.

But I’m not currently President, and neither is the average American. We don’t have to explain away our presidency. That means that, conditional on us observing that we’re American, worlds with more Americans are more likely. The world with three hundred million Americans isn’t just equally likely, but far more likely than the solipsistic world where we exist alone3.

But this same line of argument suggests that Americas even bigger than ours are more likely still. Under some assumptions, they are so extraordinarily likely that they overwhelm the evidence we have for a three-hundred-million person America, forcing us to posit some conspiracy to conceal the true size of our country, or some sort of topological twist in the North American continent hiding its true extent.

My fellow Americans, I believe in America. I believe in it so hard that I think there must be more to America than the fifty states we see. I think the argument I just laid out suggests there may be hundreds, maybe even thousands of states. And that’s why I’m running for President here tonight.

I want to fight for all Americans. Not just rich people, or white people, or people who are causally connected to the visible universe. I will be the president of all the trillions of pan-dimensional hyper-Americans who anthropic arguments assure us must exist. I will work to find them, bring them back into the fold, and make our country greater and freer than it has ever been before.

So let freedom ring from the marble pillars of New Cornwall to the baobabs of Van Buren!

Let freedom ring from the vortices of Magec to the shores of Lake Doremos4!

Let freedom ring from the fungus-forests of Elevennessee to the minarets of Washington DCXVII!

And when all of these places have been restored to the same 4-manifold, and the United States has achieved its manifest destiny of stretching from Nonbeing even unto Eternity, then, and only then, will we be able to say we have Made America Great Again. Thank you, God bless, and good night.

  1. This is self-plagiarism; I originally published a version of this argument on my Tumblr.

  2. Look it up!

  3. See further discussion here.

  4. Cf.