Endorsement: Biden for president, the only hope to ease our divisions
Have you, like us, grown weary, beaten down by the nation's ever escalating polarization?
Whereas America's political life ideally ought to center around a vigorous debate of ideas and policy, instead it has turned into a debilitating addiction to personal attacks, devouring us all in relentless and numbing distrust.
The United States is one of the most blessed countries on earth.
And yet, we claw at each others' throats.
In one of his famous letters to wife Abigail, founding father John Adams once confided, "The whole drama of the world is such tragedy that I am weary of the spectacle."
Yes, weary of the spectacle. Adams could only imagine our time, but somehow his wistful complaint captures our present exhaustion exquisitely.
Protesters fill the streets. Cable news feeds itself with endless hunts for partisan blood. The president regularly indulges in tweetstorms of insults, conspiracy theories and self-congratulation. Congressional hearings shriek with naked partisan aggression. Social media runs rampant with cynicism and exaggeration, unsupported opinion and disdain posing as truth and patriotism. Friendships die over political feuds. Misinformation rules with abandon.
It is draining. Aren't you tired too? Aren't we all spent?
We assume the worst in each other.
It has gotten so bad that some fear Americans may lose confidence in the integrity of the elections.
That's how bad it's gotten. And that's bad. That's bad for democracy and that's bad for the country.
Let us repeat for emphasis: Beyond any single issue, that is bad for the country.
* * *
Joe Biden has called this election "a battle for the soul of the nation."
We like the sound of that. We believe it is.
Donald J. Trump isn't the cause of all of our nation's divide. He didn't create it all. Myriad factors are at play. We were divided before Trump arrived.
But President Trump has failed to provide the leadership to try to heal that discord. Instead, he has brazenly attempted to exploit it. He has made, and continues to make, it worse, a lot worse.
The role of Trump's scorched-earth style in this should be obvious, even to those who embrace his policies.
We desperately need a respite. But we don't kid ourselves. America will not be relieved of its exhaustion simply. Harmony won't magically appear in a smoky light brightening from behind a rising organza curtain.
Still. Ask yourself: Which candidate is more apt to help us heal? Donald Trump or Joe Biden?
That, it seems to us, is the overriding question in this election. It must happen. A nation divided against itself cannot stand. The only option we as Americans have if we are to avoid self-destruction is to bridge this divide.
With ballot in hand, come to grips with this question: Which candidate offers a chance to help bring us together?
"Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division," former Vice President Biden said when accepting the Democratic nomination in August, "Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst."
This, we must say, is America's best hope.
Elsewhere on this page, we ask you to share your opinion on the presidential race, and on dailyherald.com, we invite you to offer your comments at the end of this editorial. We hope to use it also as a springboard for discussion on the Daily Herald Facebook page (@DailyHeraldFans).
As for our opinion, yes, we've grown weary. That weariness must be put to rest.
We endorse Joe Biden.
* * *
Four years ago, we declined to endorse Trump for president because we perceived him to be unfit for office.
Suburban voters agreed in overwhelming numbers, with Hillary Clinton outdistancing Trump by well more than a half million votes in suburban Cook and the collar counties.
The majority of American voters agreed as well.
Nonetheless, Trump was elected and once he was, we hoped our assessment had been wrong or if not, that the weight of the presidency would elevate the man. We offered our support for his success in leading the country, as we would for anyone who assumed the presidency.
But four years later, it is starkly clear that our assessment had unfortunately been accurate.
It is such a shame, for the country and for our future.
The evidence for that assessment lies all around, but let's start with the country's mounting COVID-19 death toll.
The pandemic is not Trump's fault. But his woeful response to it is unforgivable. Tens of thousands of people died because of that failure.
The simple undeniable fact is: The United States makes up 4.25% of the world's population but its COVID-19 death toll accounts for more than 20% of the world's fatalities. Our per capita mortality rate exceeds most other countries. This, despite all of America's wealth and health care advantages.
The president should have rallied us together in this moment of peril. As a country, we should be responding to this the way Americans always have responded to its great threats -- unified, and looking out for each other. There ought to be a collaborative national strategy to combat the pandemic; instead, President Trump abdicated his responsibility and scattered it to the 50 states to respond individually with a variety of approaches.
Worse still, rather than rallying us to the cause, Trump sowed division. He underplayed the magnitude of the threat and then politicized it. Such an obvious and simple safeguard as wearing a mask became, incredibly, a bizarre and partisan symbol of liberty.
And today, even after he's been infected and enabled an outbreak to race through the White House, he continues to politicize the pandemic.
It is a failure of epic proportions, a doleful legacy that will haunt Trump's name in history for generations.
The evidence of four years shows Trump sadly to be the narcisstic demagogue we feared he was.
We are being led, tragically, by a cynical man.
The evidence of four years shows that he cannot be believed. He misstates small things, like the size of his inaugural crowd. He misstates large things, like the threat of the coronavirus or whether the Mueller report "totally exonerated" him or if scientists know whether climate change is real.
And now he circulates fabrications about exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims of fraud with mail-in ballots at a time when states, led by Republicans as well as Democrats, are trying to keep voters safe from the coronavirus.
How can he lead or unify the country if no word out of his mouth is one the people can trust?
President Trump has introduced some meaningful change. The revised trade agreement with Canada and Mexico is an improvement over the previous one. The recognition of Israel by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates represents a remarkable breakthrough. Significant criminal justice reform passed with his support. Until the pandemic, not only had the economy maintained the growth spawned during the Barack Obama administration, it greatly accelerated.
But Trump also endangered the planet by pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords. He has weakened NATO, America's most important strategic alliance. He took Vladimir Putin's word over that of his own administration about Russian interference in our elections -- and did nothing to stop it from continuing. He callously looked the other way when U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, a freedom-fighting journalist, was murdered inside a Saudi consulate. He unconscionably abandoned the Kurds in Syria. He thought a sophomoric marketing video would tempt North Korea's Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear program. He has given dog-whistle comfort to white supremacists and tried to spawn racial tension in the suburbs.
He says he is for law and order and yet he ignores the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Hatch Act, urges supporters to beat up hecklers at his rallies, pays off a porn star, undermines the FBI, ridicules judges, trades military aid for political favors and celebrates a criminal break-in of the Democratic National Committee's email server. Law and order? He doesn't even obey the agreed-upon rules of a presidential debate.
Trump promised to drain the swamp, but one close associate after another has been subject to criminal prosecution: Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, as of this writing.
He was justifiably impeached for holding up military support to Ukraine in an attempted quid pro quo to smear a political opponent. And after the Senate failed to convict, he purged many of the witnesses who had had the courage to testify to what he had done.
He promotes the idea of a mythical Deep State with political machinations, but to believe it exists, you'd have to believe that it includes a legion of his own appointees who have turned into harsh critics of his temperament and leadership.
An abbreviated list includes: former national security adviser John Bolton, former Chief of Staff John Kelly, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, former National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, former Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, former special assistant Cliff Sims, former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, former Air Force General Paul Selva.
Every White House has a certain amount of palace intrigue. But no White House has had so many prominent leaders end up repudiating its president. It is unprecedented.
Worst of all, he has undermined the American people's confidence in the institutions that safeguard the republic. One after another, as he has perceived them to be threats to his rule, Trump has sought to discredit the FBI, the intelligence services, the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, science, the news media, the courts, inspectors general, whistleblowers, anyone and anything that would oppose him. And now, he sows doubts about our very elections. This is the practice of an autocrat.
Yes, we are weary.
* * *
Joe Biden is not a perfect man, nor would he be a perfect president.
He's given to gaffes. His 47-year political career includes a few marked errors in judgment. His folksiness can sometimes be grating. And his age -- although he's less than four years older than Trump -- is a legitimate concern.
But above all, he is a man of decency with working-class roots. His life story is one of overcoming personal challenge and heartbreaking human tragedy.
In Senator Kamala Harris, he chose an able running mate ready to work on behalf of the Biden agenda and with the credentials worthy of her proximity, if elected, a heart beat away.
Biden's empathy is real and he understands that part of leadership is listening to muted voices. And that part of it is calming fears.
In the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, there wasn't much to cheer, but we were moved by one brief moment. Amid the nervous doubts about whether disputes over election results might lead to a constitutional crisis, Biden looked into the camera and in the reassuring tone of a parent, said in effect: Don't worry, just vote. That, we thought with a sense of relief, was presidential.
He has a long record of experience and accomplishment in foreign affairs and domestic policy.
As vice president and an active teammate with President Obama, Biden played a key role in saving the country from a depression by helping to engineer a remarkable economic recovery from the financial crisis that greeted the administration as it took office.
This does not get enough attention: The country's economy was near collapse, and Biden helped save it.
To those who admire President Trump's economic chops, it's good to remember that Biden has shown some economic chops too.
A former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he would reestablish America's role as a global leader, strengthen NATO, recommit to the Paris Climate Accords.
He would make gender equity a priority and has promised to include several women in his cabinet.
He would seek to strengthen the nation's health care without bankrupting the country in the process.
He would embark on a pragmatic initiative to come to grips with the climate crisis that threatens our future and the well-being of our children and grandchildren. And he would create millions of green jobs in the process.
He would respond to the calls for social justice and police reform by bringing all parties together to work toward solutions.
And Biden would create a coherent national policy we should have had nine months ago to address the pandemic, relying on scientific guidance and data.
Getting control of the virus, he says, is key to stabilizing the economy.
"We aren't just going to rebuild what has worked in the past," he says. "This is our opportunity to build back better than ever."
Biden is a unifying figure at a critical moment for this country as we navigate a deadly pandemic, a teetering economy and a burst of racial tensions and civil unrest we haven't seen in a generation.
He is not a radical leftist. He is a centrist Democrat who strives to build consensus. Would his term be smooth? Don't bet on it. He likely would need to stave off confrontations from the left as well as right.
But he pledges to be a president for all of America, not just the standard-bearer for a political party. And his record is one of sincere collaboration.
He aspires to be a unifier. He recognizes the priority that must be.
We are weary, but Biden gives us hope.
And that is a revitalizing thing, as ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder, pioneer of the encyclopedia, centuries ago observed.
"Hope," Pliny said, "is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of the waking man."
Let us awaken, America. Joe Biden for president.
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