46 Reasons to Elect Biden the 46th President
Drafted in October 2020
Posted after electoral recounts confirm a clear Biden win
Intro: our bipartisan electoral system demands that we vote against the worse candidate by electing the less bad candidate. The choice is that simple if also emotionally costly: this kind of conversation estranges friends, squashes innovative third-party candidates, and requires each voter to weigh the balance of compromised candidates and accept them as is, not our values as imagined. While not easy, make no mistake: each of us must carefully decide for ourselves which is the worst candidate and then elect the other guy. Carefully balancing, taking a public position, and explaining one’s reasoning (as I attempt to do in this modest post), in other words, is not what liberals or conservatives do — it is what all American voters must do.
And so, the question: which candidate — Trump or Biden — will do more damage over the next four years?
My working answer: here are 46 reasons to elect Biden over Trump in no particular order… namely, every election is about us, who we will become, our nation’s moral core, our orientation toward others, our responses to criticism, our national reconciliation, our ability to tell the truth, our responsibility for ourselves and others, our national secular religion, our patriotism, the support of our own appointees, our own party, our national popularity, our children, our partisan courts, our hot-button issues, and our first and second amendments. In short, as always, this election is about so much more than two people. Neither will reveal the seventh seal of the apocalypse — instead, we should all focus on how much work lies ahead regardless. This election choice — Donald J. Trump (DJT) vs. Biden — is our collective problem as Americans. The choice belongs to every eligible voter (as well as, frustratingly, the many disenfranchised or at-risk voters without means to matter electorally). No adult can dodge this choice. There is too much at stake to stick our heads in the sand.
Here’s reality right now as I see it: the current Republican administration, which inherited the longest economic expansion in US history, has overseen the most severe contraction of the American economy, the greatest increase in our unemployment on record, the most coronavirus deaths and cases in the history of our country and the history of any country in the world. Never before, except 1918, has American experienced more excess deaths than in the last six months. Our national debt, even before the pandemic, has continued to climb higher; DJT’s policies have profited large corporations (and notably not small businesses, and certainly not the poor and needy) to the tune of trillions of dollars; and economic suffering and social unrest have rarely been greater in American history, save the Civil War. Since the murder of George Floyd, our country has never seen or sustained such as massive public protest for racial justice under the law, police reform, and racial justice. DJT did not create all these problems — but he inherited much that was good and responded to much that was bad. All elected leaders must therefore be judged according to how they respond to reality. According to these basic empirical standards — public health, social peace, economic growth, employment, mortality — America is undeniably weaker than it was four years ago. We are by no means facing the apocalypse, and no candidate will ensure its full arrival but do not misunderstand: there is much at stake in this choice (and the down ballot under them). Things could still get much, much worse as well as much better. (2020 has been nothing if not a psychological lesson that, just when things can’t seem to get any worse, they can and may.) Accounting for most objective standards, the US is falling behind in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Leadership matters. America is nowhere near first — and that DJT insists that we are first, because of him, is only fulfilled in our new standing as new height in national embarrassment on a global scale.
2. Biden, and contrast, is simply not the current president; if you’re not pleased with these turbulent waters, changing the captain of the ship may help; if that is all our bipartisan system will give us, then voting for Biden is the choice that will remove the man who has poorly overseen the current rough chapter of American history.
3. Leaders should invite us to reflect upon ourselves and our own system. It is a troubling fact that our political campaign system self-selects for and promotes the egotistical. (The US election cycle could never elect an actual Cincinnatus, the Roman leader so competent he also never sought office; instead, we fall repeatedly for the oldest trick in the book by electing self-declared political outsiders who promises to go drain the swamp in Washington but who then profit off and accelerate its graft.) It is thus the signal responsibility of the American public is to select the best leader to survive our campaign system who is also the least egotistical and most self-checking. In 2016 the margin of 3 million votes against DJT was not enough to overcome electoral college interference; and, as a result, DJT now presides as the symptom and now amplifier of our own systemic and acute moral failure to elect less egotistical leaders. The problem is not DJT — so much that we elected him for who he is.
4. Biden has, upon reflection, also been in the game too long, but, by contrast, is by no objective measure a clinical narcissist comparable to the one leading the current Republican administration.
Now, why would a self-reflective populace that elects a self-checking candidate do better than those that do not? Easy: self-checking candidates and governments are one vital step in how voters can battle corruption — the profiting off of trust and power — and the slow erosion of democratic norms. DJT has consistently attacked inspector generals and special prosecutors, politicized nonpartisan justice and scientific officials, and other government watchdogs. Proclaiming himself the candidate most likely to drain the swamp, he has spread it ruthlessly, according to nonpartisan CBO reports. DJT also ruthlessly attacks the free press with words (and then deploys federal police who have literally done so with bayonets hundreds of times at protests). He normalizes cynicism against the very industry who check sources and report facts; he equates falsely fringe opinion pieces and fact-based news. When asked whether QAnon was right — was Trump in fact at the center of an effort to battle child cannibals and pedophiles? — he responded by saying “it was the first he had heard of it, but what if it were true?” And then crediting the folklorists with the phrase, “they like me very much.” His pulpit mimics second-rate dictators who declare that make-believe and wishful thinking matter more than reality and, in the process, he turns on its head the phrase “fake news” (which was originally used against his press secretaries) and, with a sneer, pries the American public with doubt — doubt about reality and about our ability to assess it. In turn, some of his supporters have unwittingly become amplifiers of a cynical worldview unmoored from fact (check to see if your meme thread has been fact-checked). Sure, it is healthy to check and verify the non-mainstream news, but anyone who tells you just cannot trust any news is lost in their own full-on funhouse of postmodern mirrors. Biden, by contrast, has nothing resembling DJT’s record of supporting corruption and fighting the free press.
5. Leaders should model the best of our country’s moral character to ourselves and the world: DJT pairs a bottom reservoir of TV-ready ego and stunningly little moral character to back it. Even his most obvious virtues — caring for and promoting his own family — extends the limits of morality and becomes, for example, his saying he would date his daughter. His clinical narcissism likely makes it hard to love women except those who most resemble him.) The evidence of his character in action can be found in the record of public lies, affairs, bankruptcies, criminal inditement, impeachment — a record without precedent, and that covers only what is publicly known.
6. Biden, by contrast, is a very different picture: an institutionally conservative and socially centrist-liberal career servant, known for being an empathetic public servant, a Catholic single father who raised and tragically lost his children, and a slightly dotty gaff machine. Where DJT overwhelms us with his demands for attention and adulation, Biden is underwhelming. Whatever else he may be, Biden also has a moral core. DJT has none, except perhaps self-love.
7. Leaders should be fundamentally oriented toward serving the needs of others — and government leaders should be sealed to serving the public interest; as such, they should lead with humane empathy and a capacity to put themselves in the shoes of others. At best DJT displays the reverse: a capacity to put others into his own shoes and this clinical narcissist sociopathy narrow his worldview frightfully to the point that he openly mocks disabled reporters or criticizes John McCain for being captured. At worst his policies openly target the least of these and actively harm the neediest among us: he has accelerated Obama’s inhuman immigration policies, kept 70,000 migrant children in custody, in cages, and deliberately, knowingly separated parents from children, called Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “rapists,” and his newly emboldened ICE agents have forced Muslim detainees to eat pork. He has quadrupled the number of drone bombs dropped on the Middle East, an amplification of previous administrations’ gutless militancy abroad. He has also cut 700,000 poor families from food stamps (claiming almost non-existent fraud as the excuse), leaving already struggling and now possibly unemployed women and school-deprived children to go to bed hungry at home and abroad. Now, with an election in a pandemic drawing close, he is claiming another case of non-existent fraud and trying to suppress our means to vote safely by mail: except, of course, for in Florida where mail-in voting might help his election chances. And he’s done all this — and much more — while convincing plenty of honest, hard-working American base that his represents the pro-religion, pro-family, first amendment party. Tell that to the tens of thousands of religious unfree and the children in cages.
8. Biden, by contrast, just does not talk like this and would aim to reverse at least the most inhumane edges of DJT’s policies; and he, unlike DJT, will be more responsive to attempts to hold him accountable for humane immigration reform. So, vote for Biden and then hold him accountable.
9. Leaders should bear and learn from criticism productively: I am not aware of a major example of DJT actively seeking out criticism, accepting it, and learning from it. Certainly not in public. Actors that cannot self-correct will not survive; DJT evidently cannot self-correct. He has mocked disabled reporters, called self-declared Nazis “fine people,” scammed students with a predatory university, teargassed protestors so he could get a photo-op in front of a Church, and has never once apologized for or even acknowledged these as any wrong. (A study suggested that most ideologues and tyrants, upon their deathbeds, never repented believing to the bitter end that their means were justified by their “true” ends.) DJT has called African countries — the global region of rapid development where the Chinese state and American companies (and churches, including my own) have been strategically investing for decades — “s***hole countries,” many of which I personally know to be glorious places. Go ahead and repeat all that to my African brothers and sisters at church; I’ll wait.
10. Biden, by contrast, knows how to take the occasional beating — he learns from them. He knows he is not the smartest in the room and has a record of apologizing, changing from his mistakes, and surrounding himself with his (many) betters. If DJT believes no one is better than him, Biden appears to know full well that many are just that.
11. Leaders should seek to unite, not divide, the country: DJT pits “us” vs. “them” continuously; his first public talk featured what appeared at first Hollywood-level hype of “American carnage,” a promise that, instead of resisting, he has almost fulfilled promising to turn US military guns on the longest-lasting American protest yet, and at the RNC he hung all the blame around Biden’s neck (impossibly, since Biden is a senator and Vice President) for “losing America’s greatness.” The word “America” in his RNC talk often represents his supporters only. The “greatness” in his slogan to make America great again appears mostly a reflection of his own view of himself. As a result, he leads only a minority of American supporters willing to reflect his vision of himself as if, by virtue of embracing his capacious ego, they too inflate into the self-justified majority. This, alas, is not how “silent majorities” are build, and his is hardly silent nor the majority. His supporters seem often willing to support his divisiveness, even to their own disadvantage, no matter what he says.
12. Biden’s record, by contrast, aspires to both work for and speak to an America united not by him but by our common lot and determination to do better in life. Biden’s record responds to our common lot — that reality has a public interest — while DJT’s record principally reacts to the whims of his own solitary ego. Biden just has more moral fortitude and a better grip on reality than DJT.
13. Leaders should tell the truth; they should seek to command and promote a worldview that is based on reality. No other US President has been on record telling as many lies, exaggerations, and misleading statements. His most recent RNC talk earned at least 25 Pinocchios. DJT’s principal claims to success are as a self-made billionaire — even though he inherited over $400 million from his father and had he invested it in a passive index fund, he would likely have more money now than is hidden amid the many bankruptcies in his tax records. DJT promised to not tweet once President and then has done the opposite, paining followers worldwide by parroting Fox television news talking points — not unlike his peer group, countless aging grandfathers on couches across the country. He promised not to benefit financially from the Presidency (a favorite talking point among his supporters) but has done just the opposite, amplifying, not draining, swampy graft, and corruption. Calling out and criticizing him has minimal effect unless it comes from his own people: in other words, DJT is importantly not shameless even as his behavior is patently shameful — and, like every other adult, he bears the full normal responsibility of that. I genuinely do not understand what his defenders mean by the word “honest” in the common claim that “he’s not perfect but he’s honest and he tries.”
14. Biden, mostly by contrast, functions as a normal politician; when called out on his lies and misstatements, he can often be effectively shamed and occasionally compelled to change course. Checking DJT’s errors is a painful exercise in psychopathy; electing and then checking Biden returns us to politics as usual.
15. Leaders should accept and willingly bear responsibility while DJT shifts blame continuously onto others. Three examples: 1. That America has suffered and continues to respond proportionally worse than most other developed countries to the coronavirus, according to DJT, is best explained away by calling it the China virus; well, that may be its origins, but what we do in a pandemic is Trump’s legacy, not China’s. 2. That our economy was good for the stock market rich before the pandemic and has contracted faster and more severely than at any time in the last century, according to DJT, is explained away simply by pushing the false choice between lives and economy; instead of saving both essential workers and flattening the curve, his delayed policies have sped the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans as well as the damage we are doing to our own livelihood. 3. That our country is also rocked by the repeated police shooting of black people, flaring up the almost unprecedented racial public search for equality and justice under the law, according to DJT, is explained away by blaming all the trouble — the police shooting of black men to the police arrest of peaceful protestors — on a razor-thin minority of violent protestors, the “fake news” media, and Antifa (a group, by the way, that has caused no fatalities to date and that shares a commitment with the characters played by Ronald Reagan, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Tintin). He divides where he should heal; instead of responding to the legitimate grief and largest peaceful protest by summoning the higher spirits of reconciliation and restoration, he has reacted with military violence, unmarked federal policemen, and a clenched fish. Have you ever heard him apologize and take responsibility for a problem that is not his? I hear DJT mostly do the opposite: claim responsibility for successes, especially those which are not his to claim. The result is not just that voters have to choose between two different approaches to reality; no, now voters have to choose between conveniently ideologically polarized different realities. Let us all come back to this common reality check: Americans are constitutionally allowed to peacefully protest and assemble in the streets; the local police should routinely and calmly arrest those who are not peaceful; Trump’s federal police should not exist constitutionally.
16. Biden, by contrast, understands full well, in policy and public talks, that we are in this together: our public health, our economy, and our search for racial justice will require a united front of the effort to flatten the curve, stem the economic hemorrhaging, and seek conciliatory and restorative justice. He won’t get that united front, of course, but he appears at least prone to seek unifying responsibility, not divisive blame-shifting. The undoing of the American experiment may very well continue, but at least, with Biden, the dude at the top won’t be speeding its fray.
17. Nightmare sidebar: perversely, white police shooting black people actually benefit DJT politically. In my waking nightmare this month, I foresee a world in which white police officers continue to weekly shoot black men across the country. And, in response to these unspeakable yet stoppable tragedies, DJT will, instead of slowing the killings and defending the victims, blame the resulting unrest and protests on black thug criminals, Democrat city mayors, swarms of “God-hating Americans,” and, thus by the magic of association, Biden. Watch and see — DJT will continue to profit politically off of fanning the flames of division. By the way, if you salute those who wear police badges as heroes, as he did in the RNC, Biden supporters stand with you; but if you think the police or military are our greatest heroes who deserve public fanfare and salutes, you — and the police-genuflecting DJT — are just wrong: the police already have the power, they exercise uneven privilege under oath, qualified immunity, and duty to the law. If anything, the police should receive not empty hero praise but substantial reform that restructures police forces to focus their work while funding other community services to heal the attenuated relations in our communities. Our greatest heroes — folks like the oppressed and the poor, stay-at-home mothers, single parents, healthcare workers, janitors, teachers, and countless other essential workers — are those whose efforts keep us all alive and yet go unmarked (parenting does not count toward the GDP), underfunded, and humbled without honor or the privilege of power. There is no party that sings their praises, even if Biden’s party tries.
18. Leaders should represent, in some symbolic way, the transcendent values of religion (liberalism — think freedoms, not democrats — has been America’s most hallowed secular religion since its founding). DJT, by contrast, excommunicates himself from our secular faith with his sinful personal behavior and illiberal policies, even by secular standards: for example, the same thrice-married philanderer who falsely blamed the Central Park Five black teens for sexual assault has himself been accused of sexual assault by at least twenty five women, many of them employees of a company he owned. He has slept with women even as our First Lady was pregnant, has associated with Jeffrey Epstein, and has misdescribed the Pauline epistle as “two Corinthians.” He has boasted about where he wants to grab women — and then blame-shifted to say he was sorry “if anyone was offended.” (I do not let my children do this; we should not permit it in our highest office.) More broadly on questions of ethics, he has sown doubt against black public leaders using false birth claims, lied continuously about the illegal votes supporting Clinton winning the popular vote, has broken emolument clauses by accepting gifts from visiting dignitaries, did not put his business interests in a blind trust on time (as required by government ethics), retains visibility of his previous private interests as sitting President, lied about the size of his inauguration crowd, spilled state secrets while bragging to foreign officials; and this list only gets us through his first year of office — 2017. None of this list touches on the profound matters of policy — the defunding and hamstringing of the EPA; his unwillingness to de-politicize climate change and manage it, as do most world leaders, as a collective existential risk; healthcare cuts to preexisting conditions that transfers money to the already wealthy; ending of DACA which punishes children for choices they did not make; the abandonment of the Kurds, the world’s largest stateless nation; and much else. I challenge anyone to find their religion or their secular ethical core inscribed in any of these behaviors or policies.
19. Biden too can and has been criticized for many things over forty-five years of public service: DJT and Biden are both gaffe machines prone to connect with a crowd and go off-script. By contrast, the list of Biden sins principally features centrist-compromised policies and much less on personal misbehavior: by that standard, Biden’s centrism gives the conservative less to complain about in his first fifty years than in DJT’s first year in office. For example, in 1993, the same year Tara Reade accused him of sexual assault in 2020, Biden voted to keep gays out of the military; in 1996 he voted to keep same-sex marriages on unequal footing; he voted strongly in favor of the Afghan War in 2001; he has repeatedly supported mainstream policies with racist implications (like race-integration busing). In terms of personal ethics, he has plagiarized sections from others’ talks and he has been accused of inappropriate physical touching by multiple women. In each case, his misbehavior appears to be that of a centrist, even traditionalist white male; Biden, by this measure, is much closer to Reagan or Bush than to Sanders or Warren. He has messed up less in fifty years of office than in DJT’s first year in the office above; and this says nothing about his virtues, such as having more pro-women, foreign relations experience personally than in all of DJT’s team. DJT is among the richest to swoop into serving in government, while Biden is the second poorest and among the longest-serving members of Congress. DJT was born on third base and remains there; Biden hails from Irish working-class auto salesmen stock.
20. Sidebar commentary: our American public is currently bent upside down on religion and secular politics. The vast majority of DJT supporters (never mind everyone else) are far more moral — and empirically more religious — by every standard than the man they religiously support. (I would, as a matter of probability, vote for almost any DJT supporter before I would vote for him.) Biden, by contrast, while no saint, at least has a clear visible moral center, even a religious sense of orientation toward others. This is backward from what it could one day be: as my Dad taught me, the right is at its best when secular, the left is at its best when religious. Right now, the right is rhetorically religious, and the left is rhetorically secular. The religious right devotion to DJT pedestals a man without his supporters’ values and the secular left offers uneasy and forced support of Biden, whose own religious values do not match with the left’s espoused values. Nowhere in scripture does it say that “God so loved America” just as a theology of America first is a kind of priestcraft; indeed, if our land is to be blessed or chosen to fulfill a divinely meaningful purpose, the only sustainable world theology that America can embrace — and not rip its self apart and harm others — is that America is called to do more service, more sacrifice, and more work for the benefit of others. (The closest the US has come to that is through postwar consensus that traded US military might for economic overextension.) On the left now, we see sober social justice folks battling fiery zealots on the right; instead, perhaps we should wish for fiery social justice sermons joining stone-cold sober social and economic analysis from all quarters. We need a religious left and a secular right and have instead a baggy left unsure of its values and a religious right led by a secular hypocrite. (Who today can speak as once did Frederick Douglas?)
21. Leaders should model patriotism through substance and the quiet spirit, not just images and genuflections. After attending a military high school and during the Vietnam War, DJT received four student deferments, a medical deferment, and finally 4F status for bone spurs. This, the military ducking from our current Command-in-Chief! While patriots might listen to their words and actions, DJT often listens to himself in the control room after a talk with the sound off — he concerns himself with the visual image, backlit by flags and fireworks absent the self-checking substance and spirit of American patriotism. He uses our greatest national monuments — fireworks around the Washington monument, the flag backdrop of the White House and Mount Rushmore — to visually cover and make palatable his content burdened by blame for others, convenient divisiveness, and populist nationalism. A good rule might be this: anyone who suggests they are great enough in life to suggest that their face added to Mount Rushmore is wrong — simply by saying such a thing, they are not good enough. (On second thought, I might accept DJT’s suggestion only if he would take the consequences of his egoism seriously: if he wants to be on Mt. Rushmore, then he must first personally negotiate with the indigenous peoples until they agree to let him personally hang down the mountainside, with chisel in hand, to carve his own visage into the rock. Let every man who believes he alone can save us save in stone first his own ego’s immortality. The photos alone and the Twitter silence would be worth it.)
22. By contrast, neither Biden nor any of his supporters will ever suggest Biden’s face be carved into Mt. Rushmore. America is perhaps mature enough to no longer pretend it needs a savior, a hero, and a team of one. Perhaps a competent-enough, if dotty civil servant will have to do for now.
23. Patriotic leaders speak in actions much louder than words, but they also speak in careful words. In the RNC talk, in the Mt. Rushmore talk, in the “American carnage” talk, and in countless other public talks, DJT takes the word patriotism — which, by definition, call us to orient ourselves toward the country’s others — and corrupts its meaning into ethnonationalism — or the call to elevate those like you above all others unlike yourself. Put in other words, DJT and Biden believe in different “America first” ideologies: apparently DJT believes that he must put himself — and with himself all those who associate as himself — first in America; by contrast, perhaps Biden seeks to put the diversity that all America share in common first. Will our differences divide or bind us together? Our response is the baseline test of our patriotism. This also helps explain why DJT slowed his pandemic response team once he realized those bearing the most damage are black, brown, and poor people.
24. Re-electable leaders should enjoy at least the support of their own party leaders: rarely does the incumbent face significant opposition from his own party. Over 100 former aides of Bush and Cain have endorsed Biden. The anti-DJT Lincoln Project has organized among the conservatives to fight against him, with founding members related to members of his own White House staff; their media tactics against him are as ruthless as the right’s attacks against candidates left of center. Countless major Republicans that supported him in 2016 now oppose DJT: former President George W. Bush; the former Secretaries of Homeland Security John Kelly, Michael Chertoff, and Tom Ridge; former Secretaries of Defense Jim Mattis, William Cohen, Robert Gates, and Chuck Hagel; former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Rex Tillerson; characters as wildly different as Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney, Bill Kristol and John Bolton opposes him. Wikipedia has a list of hundreds more. (The only reasonable way to cleanly dismiss the opposition from his own top supporters is to cozy up with the astronomically improbable QAnon-style folklore bets. If this is still you, please familiarize yourself with the principle of parsimony; and if parsimony doesn’t cure you, I know some folks who would really want to invite you to their poker night.)
25. Leaders, especially those who proclaim themselves good negotiators, should enjoy the support of their global allies: instead, the world leaders that appear closest to himself are the (pathetically weak energy) strongmen in Russia, India, North Korea, and Hungary. He fails the barroom test for national leaders: I’m aware of no foreign woman national leaders (those best managing the pandemic, by the way) that has gone on record as trusting DJT. Global public confidence in the US president, according to Pew research, has dropped from 74% for the last administration to 23% for the current administration, a decline that diminished trade, tourism, diplomacy, and our general role in world wellbeing before the pandemic hit. In terms of historical allies, DJT appears predictably drawn to figures that most resemble himself — and, perversely, one of DJT’s favorite Presidents is Andrew Jackson, the combative ethnic cleanser and enslaver. Um, just no. Not in America. He seems to remember, amid almost unprecedented racial unrest and public support that black lives matter, that Lincoln was a Republican while conveniently forgetting the political efforts and collective sacrifices it took for Lincoln and others to actively liberate black lives, then and now. Trump’s supporters feature a religious fervor for a deeply irreligious man and folklorists convinced by their own increasingly incredible claims. Both bad bets from well-intended people. In business and in government, he has forty years of associated himself not with one or both parties (as Biden does), but with the mafia and international criminals. “A man is judged by the company he keeps, and a company is judged by the men it keeps,” said the minister Boetcker, adding “and the people of Democratic nations are judged by the type and caliber of officers they elect.” By this, we shall know our leaders.
26. Leaders should seek the best sources of intelligence: yet, somehow, the man in our highest office prefers watching hours (reportedly sometimes as much as eight hours a day) of television news to reading intelligence briefings. Remember your media literacy unit in college? TV news has to fill a 24–7 news cycle and is thus garbage compared to paid mainstream written news. (TV has endless time to fill; by contrast, edited fact-checked news reporting tends to be scarce, focused, and high value.) And, besides, no president should not be getting news from either the television or the mainstream news: they should be carefully parsing and cross-examining, as countless presidents have before, the briefings from the most substantial intelligence community in the world. My personal friends currently in or near the White House intelligence circles say that DJT does not know what to do with the intelligence reports they prepare for him. He is profoundly uncurious about what he does not know. His team, in order to hold his attention, have reportedly reduced the pages of text brightly colored graphs, and when charts do not hold his limited attention, they added his name to the graphs. A recent DHS official reported that DJT interrupted a security briefing to promote the pillow guy. For another example, four years and a pandemic to otherwise focus his mind have done nothing to focus DJT’s positions on complexities of health care reform: they are still gibberish. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reported that his denial of climate change in 2017 amounted to “a break from centuries of Enlightenment and rationality. The president presented his political statement as a nationalist manifesto of the most imbecilic variety. It couldn’t have been any worse. His speech was packed with make-believe numbers from controversial or disproven studies. It was hypocritical and dishonest.” Her Ph.D. is in quantum chemistry; DJT paid someone to take his tests to get into college.
27. Neither Biden nor DJT is the smartest knife in the drawer. Biden is an underwhelming bumbler. But, by contrast, Biden clearly knows he is not the smartest person in the room — and, after decades on the intelligence and foreign affairs committees, he has a record of making sure that remains so. It’s not that either candidate would keep us equally safe; and it’s not that neither candidate would keep us equally safe. Take it from the overwhelming shift of national security advisers and intelligence leaders who now endorse Biden, not DJT. That said, if Biden is elected, we can all our economy and the world a huge favor by checking his administration from ever waging yet another unnecessary war abroad. (War Powers, if enforced, would likely do just that; mandating that congresspersons’ children serve on the frontlines of any military exercise would guarantee it for sure.)
28. Leaders should enjoy the support of those they appoint. The people who most support DJT are those who have the least interaction fact-to-face with him. He rallies support at the distance of rallies, the magic of post-production, and the ratios of Twitter. But those who know DJT in person — and especially those whom DJT appoints — often turn into his fiercest critics: most of the grownups in the room just cannot stand him after a while. Secretary of State Tillerson and Chief of Staff John Kelly have called him a “moron” and an “idiot.” His own Defense Secretary Matthis said DJT has the understanding of a “fifth or sixth-grader.” As the parent of such a wise and prudent child the same age, I hesitate to note that Steve Bannon too likened DJT to “an 11-year-old child.” Republican Senator Bob Corker likened the White House to “an adult day care center.” And mind you, these assessments are coming from his own appointees and his side of the aisle. It is normal to take heat from the other side and from the press, but to take the most debilitating criticism from those you appoint is not a good sign. In short, DJT has pathos to spare, an ethos centered only on himself, and just vanishing little in terms of logos: another four years of this relative idiot captain will mean a less predictable, more dysfunctional, more clumsy, and less sustainable America. (I did not say apocalypse and neither should you.) One can never hope to have a clear policy or complex positions from DJT; they are above his paygrade. Perhaps DJT and Putin share something far more obvious than all the fear-mongers on both right and left love to point out: both are two colossally, stunningly, overwhelmingly boring world figures. Their content is almost never interesting. Yes, Biden too may age out mentally. (Trump and Biden are about even bets on actual declines.) But if Biden slips, he, unlike DJT, will have the advantage of bringing onto his team smart non-loyalists. Unlike DJT’s etymologically echo-chamber idiocy, Biden’s relative idiocy is more likely to benefit from the usual scrum of normal government checks and balances.
29. Leaders should surround themselves with a Lincolnesque “team of rivals,” or diverse experts and career servants capable of intelligently challenging and improving the leaders’ worldviews: DJT has done the opposite. His is “not an A Team or B Team,” one former administration official put it, “it is who is left that will say ‘yes.’” His many-decade career as a real estate developer has been spent associating with seedy businessmen, the empathy-stunted billionaire classes, and the occasional career criminal, in all a somewhat seedy network that he has brought with him and installed into the upper echelons of government. Even his own checkered real estate business history, if viewed only as a success, still only contributes to hotels and casinos which add little of lasting values to the economy: casinos, Robin Hood houses in reverse, shift money from often poor, desperate, and addicted people to casino owners. No value is created. His history of failed ventures in beef steaks, vodka, and a booking site adds little to his own business record as a leech and parasite on others’ productivity. Many of his former contractors and bankers refuse to do business with him again. By these standards, the man with the most access to top-secret briefings would struggle in the most basic security clearance interview. By contrast, Biden has a long record of working across the aisle and listening; compared to the unpredictability of DJT’s instinctive team of one, Biden is easily the most institutionally conservative candidate of the two.
30. Leaders of the country should put the interests of the country above self and party: for DJT, the party is a means to his own praise and enrichment. His most obvious talents — spelled out in “Art of the Deal” and on his everyday childish, thoughtless use of Twitter — lie in the art of intimidation, middle school insults, and tactics that demean and divide. He indulges and promotes conspiracy theories, such as ginning up rank birther doubts against minority candidates Obama and Harris and making dog whistles to the folklorists (QAnon, Brothers Grimm will be asking for an interview soon). DJT continues to flout basic norms of public leadership, refusing to release his tax records. Doing so is a good faith commitment not to cheat the public or profit from power. The CBO has issued a report showing that graft and corruption are up, not down.
31. Democratically legitimate leaders should also be popular with voters, yet DJT is historically among the most unpopular of US presidents while in office; in 2016 he lost the popular vote by three million and his public approval ratings have been one of the lowest in US history; and yet, because of the rural conservative biases of the electoral college, there is absolutely no guarantee that he won’t win the election again. Perhaps only a smashingly decisive defeat of DJT and his enablers on the down-ballot will both swap out the captain of the ship as well as, more importantly, reset and reorient the GOP along more admirable, high-road pathways.
32. Re-electable leaders must be able to distinguish between issues that require prudent nonpartisan risk management (public health and climate change) and the colosseum where political points reign supreme. DJT has treated the first as if it were the second: he has handcuffed the EPA, withdrawn countless environmental safeguards, has cut the CDC in 2018 and 2019, withdrawn funding from the WHO, fired the team in charge of national pandemic response before the pandemic and, then once the pandemic hit, delayed taking coordinated federal action by months (including ventilators and PPE, which he did supply), distorted the search for vaccines by promoting unconfirmed medicines, suggested we look into drinking cleaning chemicals as a disinfectant, claimed he has saved millions with his China ban (even though it let 10,000s of exceptions in), has used his pulpit to weakened trust in nonpartisan public health and science experts (Fauci cannot throw a ball he does not want us to catch anything — rimshot!), and modeled imprudence by not wearing a mask for the first four months of a pandemic. After such a decidedly mixed record, he then has the gall to publicly claim as his own personal successes all the collective efforts of nurses, doctors, healthcare workers, emergency responders, scientists, and researchers. Most damagingly, DJT has presided over the greatest singular loss of life in such a short period of American history: American has lost more people to excess deaths in the last six months than any other period, save 1918. During such a time of severe loss and grief, what moral leadership have we seen from our President? In addition to prudent risk management, we might wish for a moral leader capable of summoning the better angels of our nation, clarifying complex public health risks in a non-politicizing way, and, above all, modeling the mourning with those that mourn that all of us need to be doing. Yet, never — not once — has the President of the United States, the man meant to symbolically represent our country, publicly rubbed together much more than two perfunctory words of sympathy, grief, or mourning with the millions and millions that mourn for the well over a hundred thousand excess dead. I’ll wait for the video. Instead, the man, who presides over what would stretch 300 miles of dead Americans if our dead were lined head to toe, mumbles on about cherry-picked trendlines and acceptable losses. Not surprising and not OK.
33. By contrast, Biden appears known for at least having a heart. As just a weak index, the phrases “DJT grieves” or “DJT expresses grief” gather just less than seven hundred Google hits (mostly about windmill birds, his brother, and Herman Cain); the same phrase for Obama gathers ten times that — or about seven thousand hits — whereas Biden brings in about 5,500 results.
34. Leaders should have and seek the approval of children, who deserve credit for their instinctual moral barometers (if you object to this claim, please do not also claim you represent the pro-family party that seeks to protect children): 17% of American children reported that, while they still think the President is an important job, DJT is “doing a very good job.” Only 17% did.
35. By contrast, 72% of children felt the previous administration was “doing a very good job.”
36. Leaders should honor others’ sacrifices — and not just through lip-service, but through support and life-changing policy support. DJT, in his most recent RNC talk, honored the police and the nurses of America. That is awesome and fully commendable. Now, what has he done to support the police or the nurses in America, besides sending federal troops to beat up protestors against local police departments’ wishes and delaying the national coordination of PPE and ventilators by a month? Biden, by contrast, appears willing to mandate federal mask measures to flatten the curve and (again, to the frustration of police reformers and backed by a prosecutor for a VP) increase funding, not defund, police departments. Trump’s police reform amounts to just plastering the Punisher logo some police like (something the Punisher, the comic book character, already criticized in 2019); Biden’s police reform suggests piecemeal efforts toward more sustainable policing. Neither candidate is anywhere near radical police reform.
37. Leaders of the entire country do not pack the courts in only one direction politically; nor should Americans vote for reasons that put party above country (and its last nonpartisan check). Yet, DJT has and will continue to stack the courts with lifelong conservative appointees. If this is your reasoning for supporting DJT, your reasoning is of course politically unimpeachable; however, you are also politicizing the very branch of government constitutionally intended to remain nonpartisan. A politically undivided judiciary is the first, last, and rare bulwark against a government already too divided against itself: the courts give real meaning to the (often otherwise racist) phrase law & order since the law can and must check what no partisan mind would bother to do. The candidate worth supporting is, in both theory and practice, the one who appoints exquisitely qualified judicial appointees known for their nonpartisan record of fair-mindedness and judicial excellence — and possibly a candidate who would even push for judicial reform to ensure nonpartisan appointees. In other words, if you vote for DJT because he packs the courts, your reasoning is both politically airtight and constitutionally inexcusable; your vote will win a battle and lose the marathon for the health of the American polity. I’m not saying judges should not have ideological biases; I am saying they should not be promoted to lifelong seats principally for that reason. Take your vitamins, America; stop the Banana Republic pendulum of appointing partisan judges. Stop voting for DJT for that reason. A vote for Trump for the courts alone would be like burning down the barn instead of adding a fire break. (Update in November: Barrett will likely be in power until I am about 80 and my children in primary school.)
38. Biden will likely not take his vitamins if elected. He is likely to appoint judges with liberal ideological biases — but he will likely only get to appoint one judge to the Supreme Court, not two as did DJT. Just as a matter of pragmatic balance, Biden appointing his one pledge for a black woman appointee to the current court will, if she brings liberal ideological bias, only retain, not shift, the court to a balance of four liberals (Ginsburg/new, Sotomayor, Kagan, Breyer) and five conservatives (Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh). In other words, if Biden does what DJT did, he will only succeed in maintaining, not shifting as DJT did, the current imbalance. A vote for Biden just maintains the court status quo. His vote is for the status quo in the most status quo of all government branches. If you vote for Trump for court reasons, please never mention a Constitutional amendment again until you’ve first squared yourself with Article III. To vote against judicial independence for short-term political gain is corruption not of our leaders, but of us as voters.
39. Leaders should not be elected for one hot-button issue, since choosing between candidates requires healthy compromise and value balancing while choosing between issues requires none. Still, for all my single-issue, hot-button voter friends out there, DJT seems to be your guy, but only at first glance. His rhetoric publicly supports strong anti-abortion values. By supporting him, we can feel the smug reassurance that we, in principle and in public, are not supporting the killing of innocent babies. Yet — and this is a vital yet — policy consequences do not equal values, and you are not getting what your values promise you. If you truly feel that your pro-life values are so strong that they single-handedly overshadow any other doubts or hesitations you may have about a candidate, then surely — indeed, the following must be the case given the strength of your convictions on this one issue — you must also be willing to make sure that your pro-life values are cashing out in the cold, hard facts of real life: you must only be satisfied when more mothers and children are safe thanks to your policy. Upon reflection on the record, you will realize that almost no politician, including DJT or his ideological opposite, has been able to make sweeping federal reform on abortion policy. In other words, you must acknowledge that your single-issue votes do not actually pay concrete dividends that often. Upon looking into the record of abortion policies, you may also discover the disturbing trend that anti-abortion policies do not deter abortions so much as they drive young needy mothers who either need and demand abortions underground. You also realize that the actual number of late-term abortions that make up the monstrous hypotheticals that power your single-issue voters are already surprisingly rare. Strong pro-life supporters are, surely, the first in line to make sure their policies and politicians are actually supporting the worth of souls and the right to life of unborn babies, their mothers, and their families through not just birth, but infancy, universal childcare, quality public education, and postsecondary training: surely, these too support the worth of souls across the entire arc of a truly strong pro-life position? For example, surely, it would give pause to a strong pro-life supporter to learn that DJT has never denied supporting abortions for the untold women he has slept with. Surely, the strongly religious recognize that, if their church (as mine is) both ask them to be civically engaged and is politically neutral, then if any one issue strongarms all votes for you, you do not yet enjoy the political agency — the dictates of your own conscience — that your very beliefs guarantee you? Surely, it would give pause to the strong pro-life supporter that DJT has flip-flopped on the issue of abortion over his career (not so much with apparent learning as with convenience) and that he has never issued a federal mandate on the subject and instead has left the question of abortion to the scrum of the states. Surely, we all can see that the thing Trump does not represent is respect for women, and who else would not extend to women the dictates of their own conscience? Surely, after four years, the pro-life valuer should see that nothing federal has changed on the national scene, except the proliferation of worrisome anti-mother local and state policies proposed amid scare tactics emboldened by DJT’s heightened rhetoric? Surely, we can take a measure of calm that, in such monstrous problems as this, this issue makes up a tiny fraction of the worth of each candidate’s values, and, more importantly, that neither candidate will likely make any but a tiny fraction of a change on the issue. With this reminder firmly in place — if you care only about anti-abortion values, neither candidate is for you — then, at last, we all may join together — with decency, humility, and a profound sense of our own inadequacies to determine in one ideological rule the complex weight of all agency and all lives — in attending not to the ideological values but in pursuing together practical pro-life policies that support the profound worth, tragedy, and health of all souls, especially needy mothers and children, from willful conception to willing grave.
40. Biden’s actions match Trump’s, although, instead of claiming the opposite, Biden has at least promised not to push the monstrous ethics problem in any direction on the federal stage; and the appointment of a Supreme Court judge to replace Ginsburg would only secure the current tenuous near balance. In other words, voting for the moderate status-quo Democrat Catholic this round might just be the pro-life voter’s way of ensuring that the ideologically severity or unpredictability of DJT and other similar pro-life candidates does not actually compromise the largely pro-life status quo our nation now has. (Oh, and on the theme of pro-life meaning practical realities, not ideological values, please if anyone thinks either of these candidates has anything to do with socialism, grab a dictionary: until a candidate is collectivizing farms and seizing the means of production for the state, all our major party candidates remain choice between social democrats, centrists, or conservatives.)
41. Leaders should not be elected because of their ability or inability to sell guns. But, fear not, my strong second amendment friends, if your votes are principally shaped by the second amendment, take perverse comfort: no matter who our country elects, we only manage to sell more and more guns. (Your wish is guaranteed no matter which candidate and down-ballot win!) When liberals take office, gun advocates rush the bank to stock up before the imagined threat of severe gun control ever arrives. When conservatives take office, gun advocates rejoice by buying more guns. Meanwhile, there appears to be neither the political will nor the policy solutions to sensible gun reform, and so we permit our country to militarize our police, our families, and our neighborhoods against one another. Never mind that the gun enthusiasts, instead of fighting against the state turning its guns on the people, are rushing, as in the tragedy in Kenosha, to the preemptive defense of the police. My most fervent gun-nut friends likely already interpret “the people” in the second amendment as meaning not what it says — all American people — but some overlapping concentric circle subset of our white, Christian, and rural population and themselves. Unfortunately, somewhere amid the fears about black urban thugs moving into white suburbia, government takeovers that we don’t bother to show up for, and our deeply unconservative rush to stockpile guns, we run roughshod over legitimate and sustainable conservative values associated with guns, such as environmental conservationism and prudent wildlife and natural resource management. It is unlikely that the reorganization of the NRA, or even its gun safety local chapters, will do much to slow this perversion of the second amendment: no matter who you vote for so far, gun manufacturers in America win and the shootings continue.
42. To wit, neither Biden nor DJT are offering serious gun reform policies. What should you do if your single-issue vote turns out to be a non-issue? Since it’s a non-issue, and you’ve got yours stockpiled already, consider not voting?
43. Leaders should not be elected because, somehow, one of them will better defend the first amendment more than the other guy. Defenses of the First Amendment (all caps) often actually hurt the health of the first amendment (lower caps) in practice. In theory, there should be no reason in theory to talk about the first amendment in political discourse since amendments are always already constitutionally protected by the courts. Still, Presidents should perhaps not be judged for whether they talk loudly about defending the first amendment so much as how they differently model that amendment’s uses and abuses. In the end, good speech is worth more than free speech, even if both are necessary. So, if we’re going to talk about what defending the first amendment actually looks like in practice, remember its several parts: free speech, free press, free assembly, free protest, and free religion. At least the first four have come under the current Republican administration’s abuse in the last six months in particular: we have seen the longest and largest free public assembly for the redress of grievances under the law (sparked by the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Abery, Jacob Blake, and others since). This pinnacle example of the months-long exercise of free assembly by tens of millions of Americans has been met by thousands of cases of local and especially federal police escalating street violence by beating and arresting (no longer freely assembled) protestors. This crowning example of a current event demanding the full-court coverage of the free press has been met by hundreds of cases of the police attacking, injuring, and driving out the (no longer free) press — all while a reality TV star known for his “you’re fired” catchphrase blame the “fake news” media for making him look so bad. (Again, if you think it is more likely that one narcissist is right and the vast majority of thousands of independent journalists promoted for disagreeing with each other but that also principally agree that DJT is bad news — that they are all wrong, well, then my poker friends invite you to their table. The reverse is, ceteris paribus, is just a tad more probable, no?) At the same time that this unrest has unfolded on our streets, our public has connected even more intensely through social media, where we have witnessed DJT buddy up to social media giants to protect the free speech of Nazis, white ethnonationalists, and (sometimes Russian-boosted) trolls from facing content moderation. The actual child pedophiles on the internet are cheering Trump supporters’ criticism of content moderation: the paradox of liberalism is on display here — we cannot tolerate all intolerance and we must stop bad men from doing the worst things. (Worse still, for the actual systematic abuse of children we need look no further than the family separation immigration policies on our southern borders: a design with malice meant to hurt the things we all cherish most: our families, the purpose of our lives.) And yet, those proclaiming first amendment defense speed the opposite. In principle, again, nothing about our actual free press rights has changed: those who can afford lawyers can still litigate their disputes in court, but DJT has overseen and aided the clearest mass violation of first amendment rights on American soil in my lifetime.
44. Biden, by contrast, has not. During the protests in Ferguson, Obama called for racial justice, denouement, and non-violent reconciliation; there is little reason to imagine the Biden-Harris administration, balancing both its debt to the Black communities in America as well as a very mixed record on criminal justice reform, would differ greatly from Obama.
45. Trump (74) and Biden (77) are roughly likely to age out cognitively in the next four years. Even though the actuarial tables suggest neither will devolve seriously, it is worth bearing in mind that…
46. Biden’s VP, Kamala Harris, is self-evidently way smarter and more willing to standing both for and alongside the majority of America’s population — women — than is Mike Pence. And that means something. I would be proud to look up, together with my children, to a black woman in the White House as ferociously bright as her.
So there you have it: my forty-six working reasons to make Biden the forty-sixth president.
As the intro suggested, while my analysis has had to focus on the weighing of one candidate against another, it is worth remembering that the election is about much more than just a Biden vs. Trump. More vital still is the down-ballot, where real, complex, non-party line decisions must be made by Americans in every county. If you align with one party usually, you do not vote party line: think and weigh locally, but do relentlessly vote out the enablers of DJT corruption and damage. Remember that a Biden administration with no Senate to back them will be hampered in its ability to even correct much of the damage of the last four years. In the end, no matter who we and our electoral college elect, we will have much work to do. If this all sounds exhausting, and it might just be better just to sit on the sidelines. (What, as the story goes, is the cost of just adding one scoop of water to the town’s collective milk storage?) Perhaps the most enduring reason to vote — and also to talk openly about our reasons about why and how we vote, as I’ve tried to do here — transcend even the philosophically vague notions of our moral values, our trust, our sense of truth and reality, and all the other principles in italics above. For many, I believe, one vote matters far more than in the weak arithmetic sense of one vote, one voice: each vote also matters as a ritual practice where each of us signals to ourselves that we exist and engage in a reality larger than ourselves. Perhaps that is the most lasting count in the voting tally is our own to ourselves: by voting, we remind ourselves that the hard work of caring enough about a colossally complex reality to be willing to reduce that reality to a single vote against the worst of two candidates is bound to be hard, often disappointing work, but it is also worth it.
Vote Biden — or, and I say this at the usual necessary cost, at least vote.