Saturday, October 24, 2020

Race for the White House # 95

10 Days Until Election Day

"A Time For Choosing"
This is something on the minds of the relatively small amount of undecided voters as Campaign 2020 heads to the final sprint. Some are deciding between Donald Trump and Joe Biden while others are deciding to cast a less than enthusiastic vote for one for these candidates, more as a method of opposition to the other, or voting for a non-major candidate, or casting a write in. I have been in that latter category.
It is also the name of a famous speech given by Ronald Reagan in 1964. While the candidate he was advocating for was roundly defeated, Reagan grew in political stature because of this speech and in many ways it ushered in the new conservative movement. I have been keenly aware of this speech since my teenage years and have read the full contents many times. Before that, at the age of 10, I decided I was a Republican, but that was before I knew much about Reagan conservatism and how it suited my worldview. At the time he made the speech, Mr. Reagan had not long ago joined the GOP officially. The former Democrat said "I recently have seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines."
To be clear, I am not about to become a Democrat. I still have tremendous philosophical differences with that party on a wide array of policy issues across the board. Since I cast my first vote in 1996, I have never voted for a Democrat for any partisan office. In fact, the first time I have skipped voting Republican was in 2016 when I wrote in an independent conservative for President. From before the moment Donald Trump came down the escalator, I knew he was wrong for my party and for my country and thus I could never support him. 

Trump became President though, to the surprise of many, including myself. Now, he seeks another four years, during a time of unprecedented problems in America. The virus numbers are once again high and there seem to be little national consensus to take the relatively difficult steps needed to slow it down. Instead, the incumbent President mocks concern over the virus as if Americans are wrong to upset over death and sickness. He complains publicly that the media talks about "Covid, Covid, Covid", far more than they would a fatal plane crash. Well, for one thing, plane crashes are not contagious. If an airplane does crash though, I think we would want to know the reasons why so that it may be less likely to happen again. If someone was responsible in a malfeasance sort of way, they should be held responsible. Once again, the virus itself is not Trump's fault, but he has proven himself to be culpable in the botched response, both officially and personally, and the situation in the U.S. is far worse than it should be.  From Day 1, he has been focused purely on how it might effect the economy, and thus his own popularity and best chance of reelection, than the right to life that should be guaranteed to all Americans.
A lot of things happened politically this past week, but my view is that the political cake is already baked. Either the polls or conventional wisdom are wrong, more wrong than they have ever been, or Trump Fatigue during this particular time in our national history will rule the day. Both Trump and Biden were better in the most recent debate than the first disgraceful one, but that was a low bar of course. It is amazing that Trump backers were so celebratory just because he managed to not act completely like a feral animal. He was still a clown in the debate to be sure. His fans may have appreciated the showing, but I thought Biden got the best of him, although not without some unforced errors on his part towards the end.

Right now, those who want Trump to win think that the suspicious "Hunter Biden Laptop from Hell" story, prominent on right-wing sites, and covered on Fox News, will change the direction of this campaign, I do not sense many Americans are in that bubble though or even care at this point. From what I can gather, the story has some big flaws to it. I might be willing to believe that Hunter Biden, whether in the clutch of drug addiction or not, did some bad things, or attempted to make money off of his father's name. He is not the candidate for President though, and he is not going to be getting Ivanka or Jared's job in the White House either. Joe Biden seems to have a blind spot for his family. If any politician might be justified in throwing their adult child under the bus for political purposes, it could be this case, but I think Americans admire the fact that Biden will stand by his flesh and his blood no matter what.

My first vote, back in 1996 was for Bob Dole, and I was and am proud of it. His campaign did not have a great chance of victory from the start, but he asked America to consider, "what is more important, wealth or honor?"  At 18, the answer seemed as obvious then as it does now. Dole's campaign theme was "A Better Man For a Better America." Under Bill Clinton, lies were common, spin was everywhere, scandals were festering, and we were told that all that should matter was "the economy, stupid" or the status of the stock market. Twenty four years later, those who support Trump (including apparently Dole himself sadly) seem to have reversed these priorities. I choose to remember his words from his nomination acceptance speech,"Only right conduct distinguishes a great nation from one that cannot rise above itself. It has never been otherwise."

Senator Dole would go on to say, "My friends, a presidential campaign is more than a contest of candidates, more than a clash of opposing philosophies.

It is a mirror held up to America. It is a measurement of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. For as much inspiration as we may draw from a glorious past, we recognize American preeminently as a country of tomorrow. For we were placed here for a purpose, by a higher power. There's no doubt about it."

As I have stated here for a weeks now, I had been starting to lean towards what I once thought was not a viable option, and that was actually casting a vote for Joe Biden. My state of Illinois is not competitive so I have always considered that a reason to write someone in. I cannot for a second deny that I have serious doubts about Biden in terms of his leadership abilities and ideology and I will not relent from my opinion that the Obama-Biden years were not good ones for America. Thus, entrusting him, along with realistically his entire political party, with the functions of government is dangerous. But as Reagan said in his "Time for Choosing" speech, quoting way further back from Alexander Hamilton... "a nation that can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master and deserves one."

Those words have been on my mind for a long time. There is danger in my view with either Biden or Trump, which has made these last few years so difficult for a once stalwart party member like myself. However, I do not think Biden will disgrace us. Trump wears disgrace like a second skin. It permeates his very being. Thus, I have been willing to "root" for Biden. Actually voting though is a tougher decision. It has become clear that if Trump loses, as seems likely, he will claim fraud and put the very essence of our democratic process in question. There may very well be some ugly and challenging post-election weeks ahead of us. There is much to the theory that actually voting for Biden is the best option to maximize an anti-Trump voice and have that be just one piece of the entire story when the election is questioned.
My ballot came in the mail last week and I was not anxious to open it. Twenty four years is a long time to go down the drain, but one man and one man alone, was driving me in a different direction. I figured I would watch Thursday night's debate and use the opportunity of Trump saying something outrageous to get me to impulsively do what I had been fighting.

Then, early on during Game 1 of the World Series, I saw this ad on television:
Then, I sought it out on YouTube and watched it about five more times. What can I say? It spoke to me. The choice I had to make was far greater than red vs. blue or liberal vs. conservative. It was one of America itself against the dark vision of a would be quasi-despot who sees nothing beyond his own self-gratification for any given news cycle.
The Biden ad says that the candidate does not think Americans always need to agree but just agree that we all love this country. I sure hope they mean it. I note that that did not seem to be the spirit during the Obama years and those that questioned his actions or judgments roundly had their patriotism and motives questioned and such ugliness only helped contribute to making Donald Trump possible. I choose to hope we have learned that lesson though. 
This ad was very powerful to me, and while I was still vulnerable, I opened up my mail-in ballot and filled in the oval. It was better to act out of hope than despair. If Biden is President (or any Democrat that may follow him), I expect to speak out, as a citizen and as a voter against policies that are bad, ideas that are wrong, or rhetoric that divides us. I will depend on our institutions, public and private to quell what would be wrong, and for our time honored practices of checks and balances and federalism to work as our great Constitution intended.
I do not know what the future will bring. Danger is always a possibility, but there will always be future elections, to right wrongs, and Donald J. Trump, or any wannabe despot that follows, will never be the Master of this nation or its people. So like I did with my first Presidential vote, I chose the Better Man for a Better America. 
We will "go from there."


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