This is the most important election in our lifetimes—and one of the most consequential in The Nation’s 155-year history. Accepting his party’s nomination in 2016, Donald Trump promised to “lead our country back to safety, prosperity, and peace…to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth.” At his inauguration, he returned to that theme, vowing to rebuild “our country, with American hands and American labor.” All lies. He also claimed to be worth billions–and to have paid “millions” in taxes. That turned out to be a lie, too.
Instead of leading us toward prosperity, Trump pushed through a tax bill that gave billions of dollars to his rich supporters (and cabinet members) and cut taxes on corporations by a whopping 40 percent while doling out crumbs to working families. Instead of pursuing peace, Trump scuttled the Iran nuclear deal, reneged on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (negotiated by Ronald Reagan), and is withdrawing the country from the Open Skies agreement. Not to mention his abdication of the Paris climate accord—the predictable consequence of an administration with a contempt for science, an aversion to truth, and a blind faith in the infallible wisdom of markets and corporate elites. Fiddling on Twitter while the West Coast burns, Trump has nothing to offer but four more years of incompetence and indifference. The man who pledged to end “American carnage” has instead revealed himself as a cheerleader for white supremacy, religious bigotry, and nationalist hatred.
And this is without even reckoning with the way the coronavirus pitilessly exposed his terrifying inadequacy as a leader, his literally fatal inability to take advice or rise to an occasion. As the pandemic continues to spread, with our country leading the world in death and suffering, Americans should ask ourselves, “Do I feel safer than I did four years ago?”
Voting Trump out of office will not in itself heal the terrible wounds inflicted on our body politic over the past four years. But it is the absolutely necessary first step. That means voting for Joe Biden—through early voting wherever possible or by absentee or in-person voting when necessary.
We have no illusions about Biden, who—as we reported here last November—removed bankruptcy protections from student loans, helped write the bill that barred states from capping interest rates on interstate banking, and spent a career in the Senate carrying water for Delaware’s credit card industry. The idea that Biden is some kind of sleeper agent for socialism is a cruel joke, as is the claim that he is a closet radical.
The Democratic primaries did include some candidates and ideas that truly are radical. Bernie Sanders—The Nation’s preferred candidate—articulated a vision of Medicare for All and an America where health and education and economic security are human rights. Elizabeth Warren opposed Biden’s favors for the banks and ran on a platform of taking on the monopolist millionaires and robber baron billionaires who have rigged our economy. Yet both of them are voting for Biden.
So are Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, and Jesse Jackson, whose pioneering campaign first demonstrated the potential of a presidential run to change the boundaries of the possible. As Davis said, this election is about “choosing a candidate who can be most effectively pressured into allowing more space for the evolving anti-racist movement.” The Nation has always preferred to put our faith in movements rather than saviors. If the current moment allows for hope—and we believe it does—it comes from those movements and from a government willing to listen rather than lash out.
The recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underlines just how much is at stake. “It doesn’t matter whether you like Biden or not,” Chomsky argued. “Another four years of Trump may literally lead us to the stage where the survival of organized human society is deeply imperiled.” Maybe you think that’s fearmongering. Perhaps you live in a safe state. (New Yorkers are fortunate enough to have the option of voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line—a vote against Trump and against the corporate-dominated Democratic Party.) But Trump needs to be repudiated decisively in the popular vote to undercut any appeal to a Supreme Court already tipped in his favor, and for that, every vote will count.
When he first endorsed Biden in April, Sanders complimented him: “You want to bring people in, even people who disagree with you.” Whatever its other merits, Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate showed a willingness to reach out to one of his most effective critics. It also indicated due respect for the voters of color—African American women in particular—whose role as the keystone of the Democratic coalition had been taken for granted for far too long.
After winning the nomination, Biden implicitly acknowledged that the times demanded bolder solutions than the restoration he promised during the primaries, convening a unity task force that included not just Sanders but also Congressional Black Caucus chair Karen Bass, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal, Sunrise Movement cofounder Varshini Prakash, and Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson. The result is arguably the most progressive Democratic platform in decades, though Biden’s stubborn refusal, despite the raging pandemic, to embrace Medicare for All seems politically perverse as well as shortsighted.
Yet as Sanders told the Democratic convention, “If Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.” Because despite Trump’s best efforts, we have made progress—in our attitudes toward climate change, reproductive rights, racial justice, economic inequality, police brutality, immigration reform, and universal health care.
Getting rid of Trump allows the movements behind those changes to keep pushing forward, rather than spend the next four years in a defensive crouch. It also empowers the growing cadre of genuinely progressive elected officials, especially if Democrats succeed in flipping the Senate. But there are no guarantees. Power concedes nothing without a demand.
This much is certain: Trump is a danger not just to our republic and our democratic institutions but also to our very lives. Let’s vote him out. On November 3, let’s fire Donald Trump.