Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 29, 2020
You do wonder what’s left to say about the American presidential choice.
It would be hard for this odd, Zoom-like juxtaposition of the two political conventions to be more different in tone, message and image.
It’s as if we will pick which reality to live — or to fight, beat, even shoot those who disagree. Amid all the calls to get mail ballots moving straightaway, it is as if we are already starting to count the votes or move to engage the enemy on the streets.
Even as several states will start early voting, we face the prospect of sitting through three presidential debates. The idea of watching as Donald Trump and Joe Biden appear together seems excruciating. They don’t see the same world, they don’t share understanding about the purpose of government in general and the Oval Office in particular, and they have a fundamentally different outlook over whether a single individual should dictate behaviors to all, and demean anyone who disagrees. And we already know all this.
Worse, as Kenosha and other cities are showing, the divide is erupting into partisan fighting in the streets,even charges of murder after two deaths in Kenosha. The underlying reasons are soon lost; all that remains is the conflict and the desire to step on violent conflict if it also can inflict political damage on the other side.
Not to discount the effects of four-day Democratic and Republican Party infomercials, but what have we learned that has intelligently advanced any thinking about this election? The candidates and their parties have succeeded in creating a mythical contest here between personalities more than platform.
The worlds they reflected were at odds, so the solutions are as far apart as possible, whether the subject is health, safety, jobs, regulation, environment, income or American values.
Indeed, the Republicans made clear that Trump — whatever the Trump gut chooses to do at any moment, without information, science, advice or serious consultation — is its platform. And the Democrats have wrestled Talmudically over the wording of platform planks that will go the way of the trash can if they do not win the Senate.
Personalities on Parade
With Donald Trump pushing himself daily into the news, we know he stands only for self-promotion and a desire for businesses to be left alone, free of regulation or taxes. At best, Trump is a supporter of an America based solely on individual choice about education, housing, mask-wearing or tax-paying — unless the issue at hand touches on abortion or contraception or transgender individualism.
And by now, we’ve been beaten over the head with the Democratic message that there is an alternative view of what government can and should be doing about our health and safety. That alternative starts with a more realistic assessment of racial and income gaps, of inclusion, of seeing government as a source of help rather than authoritarianism and government as a communal activity. In Biden’s world, no one individual can address all.
Maybe all that’s left now is the voting — if Trump’s suppression campaign to discourage mail balloting in a time of pandemic and various Republican state challenges state voter rolls will allow for a full vote.
Yet, somehow we still have three presidential debates looming and the Kamala Harris-Mike Pence slap-down to come, and we have the inevitability of as many would-be shocking news developments as can be squeezed into these remaining 70 days in an attempt to persuade any undecideds out there (Is it truly possible that there are undecided voters at this point?).
What are they going to “debate”? Trump will never acknowledge the problems that
Biden wants to solve, and Biden will never believe that Trump has actually cared about the effects of his policies, orders and statements on actual Americans.
A Choice in Direction
It is obvious that, in terms of policies, Democrats want more services and attention to the whole, and Republicans want less tax and more chance for individuals, supporting a system that favors the rich over middle-class and poor, corporations over environment and regulation, and empathy over insult.
It also is clear that Trump wants a presidency in which he and his administration are beyond the touch of oversight, in which ethics and protocol are optional, in which facts about what his government is or is not doing are totally malleable. Equally, Biden wants to be judged solely on what he is saying today, and not over the various statements and actions of nearly 50 years in public service.
The performances in the collage that was the Republican National Convention this week do not accurately reflect the Trump years. Fact-checkers for major news outlets have been operating on overtime to catch-up with, as one put it, a “fire-house of misleading information.” Trump lies for partisan effect — and his voters seem to like that as some sort of “telling it like it is” rather than believe, say, news accounts.
The Democratic convention would have us believe that the sudden arrival of Biden at the Oval Office will usher in an era of bipartisanship and inclusion even among Trumpists. It is extremely difficult to see this happening on any widespread or effective manner.
If anything, these conventions underscore that the party holding the majority is going to force the other to swallow a lot of governmental stuff that it doesn’t like. Little of the talk at both conventions are avenues to solving our biggest social problems.
Instead, like Vince Lombardi, the parties are shouting that Winning is Everything.