An Appeal to Moderate Conservatives and Fence-Sitters

President Trump and Vice President Biden at the first presidential debate on September 29, 2020.

I’m not sure if posting my political opinions online is effective, but I know this election is particularly significant, and ordinary voters shouldn’t sit on the sidelines of the discussion. Over the next several paragraphs, I outline why I’m voting for Joe Biden, and I make an argument that moderate Trump supporters and fence sitters should seriously consider doing the same. Just to be clear, I have numerous conservative friends and family members, and a considerable number of them support President Trump. Some offer their support wholeheartedly, and others do so in a tepid manner. So, I’m not making this argument for the sake of scoring points or to make a cheap crack at the president and his base; I’m writing this because I’m genuinely disturbed by the direction this country is moving in, and I know many of you feel the same.

Generally, I believe anyone can cast their vote for a president strictly based on policy positions, and brush a candidate’s character, personality, and ethics aside. In fact, under most circumstances, this should be the norm. No one should have voted for John F. Kennedy because he was youthful and spirited; no one should have voted for Ronald Reagan because he was an effective communicator; and no one should have chosen Jimmy Carter because he seemed honest and trustworthy. At the end of the day, policies are paramount.

That being said, I also believe several common denominators unite the vast majority of previous presidents and major party nominees; among them are love of country, belief in and knowledge of democratic processes, and at least a shred of competence. We often take these traits for granted in a president, but when they are missing, it’s not only cause for concern, but cause for reevaluating fundamental priorities. In my mind, when the leader of the free world is patently bereft of these basic qualities, a voter’s personal politics and policy preferences should take a subordinate role when weighing the pros and cons of the candidates.

With this in mind, below are some of the manifestations of President Trump’s character and competency flaws that, in my mind, individually cast doubt, and collectively prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is unfit for office.

President Trump unequivocally stokes racial and political discord in this country. He has been called a “dope,” an “idiot,” a “moron,” and a “kindergartner” by his top aides. He uses fear, vitriol, and toxic partisanship as means to a political end. He and his associates stink to high heaven of corruption, nepotism, and gross incompetence. He requires childlike incentives to complete basic tasks. For example, his name is frequently written in his daily intelligence briefing with the hope that he might actually read it. His staff has also hired an outside consulting firm to figure out how to communicate complex topics to the president of the United States. He barely possesses rudimentary knowledge of global politics and he repeatedly seeks to transform our carefully crafted system of alliances on a wing and a prayer. He castigates American veterans, and heaps praise on dictatorial adversaries. He is singularly silent in the face of democratic uprisings and human rights abuses around the globe and appallingly obtuse when he speaks about the pandemic and the protests. He finds himself constantly preoccupied with extinguishing fires of his own making and therefore spends nominal to no time addressing critical issues. He has staffed his administration with sycophants, crackpots, next of kin, and a shameful assortment of amoral characters (Stephen Miller being chief among them). The president has threatened the use of nuclear weapons in a flippant squabble on social media. He is incapable of rising to quite literally any occasion. He embodies the very worst qualities of a leader.

It’s important to remember President Trump’s innumerable misdeeds, blunders, and reckless statements because we so quickly learn to normalize them or tune them out. We have grown uncomfortably accustomed to the mental gymnastics of deciphering the salvageable bits of his deranged diatribes and ignoring the alarming bits that we’ve forgotten how mad this exercise is.

It’s also important to recognize the opportunity cost of President Trump’s flawed character and incompetence. When the president spends his time peddling conspiracies and whingeing on Twitter, it’s not only pathetic and embarrassing, but it also signifies that our government is neglecting to act on dire issues. 18 million Americans are currently unemployed. What is our plan? Nearly 28 million are without health insurance, and millions more have lost their employer-sponsored policies since February. What is our plan? Coronavirus confirmed cases have passed six million. What is our plan? Climate change threatens the world’s food supply. What is our plan? Our geopolitical adversaries are filling the void left by our newfound isolation. What is our plan? There is no plan. Our leader is out to lunch. It’s time we end this madness.

Joe Biden will slip up; he will fall short. He will inevitably put his foot in his mouth. On the whole, he will probably be uninspiring, and you may not support the policies he puts forward, but the time to deliberate those policies is not now. In my mind, in this current situation, we have to prioritize competency and character over policy. As seventy former Republican national security officials write in a recent open letter, “For now, it is imperative that we stop Trump’s assault on our nation’s values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy.”

If elected, Joe Biden will begin the gradual process of rebuilding a healthy, functioning body politic at home and begin mending our global partnerships. And with any luck, we might go several days at a time without breaking news coming from the White House.

Come November, we have a serious decision to make. It’s either the statesman or the stooge. For me, the choice could not be more clear.

Living and working in Washington, DC

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