By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist
My friend is a rare bird: a true conservative. We disagree on some political issues, though not as strenuously as one might think. After all, until Newt Gingrich emerged like a creature from the swamp, leading inevitably to our current deliberately divisive “president,” liberals and conservatives could get along. Share coffee and the occasional adult beverage.
A gun-owner, hunter, NRA member and, like me, a veteran, he believes military-style weapons belong only in military hands. Because he’s a real conservative, my friend didn’t vote for Trump and won’t this time, either. I haven’t convinced him not to throw away his vote on a third party or write-in, but I’m working on it.
In these times, I argue, traditional political disagreements take a back seat to preservation of those ideals which, until Trumpism, all Americans have valued, and which are under coordinated attack: The Constitution and its separation of powers, Congressional oversight of the executive, free and fair elections; inquisitive, skeptical, and free press; an informed, un-propagandized electorate. My friend shares those values, but he’s wary of Joe Biden.
Whatever else is true of ol’ Joe, I tell him, he’ll surround himself with qualified, smart, non-sycophantic people. Unlike Trump, he’ll listen to advice, welcome disagreement. He’ll read his intelligence briefings. He and his appointees won’t lie more than normal politicians do, which means not outrageously, repetitively, about facts that are obvious, and those that don’t fit on a bumper-sticker. Mid-crisis, he won’t try to lie it away, blame others, or golf. He’ll reregulate pollution, and address the dangers of climate change. He won’t consider the opposition un-American, nor wink at violence against them. He’d never ignore Russian bounties on American troops.
My friend recognizes the dangers of another four years of Trump. Like me, he worries about armed uprising that Trump is all but openly encouraging, should he lose. We both hate violence connected to protests; I’ve shown him the evidence that most is being fomented by far-right elements, intended to discredit those trying to effect overdue, positive change. (Business Insider: tinyurl.com/not2left)
These are unprecedented, dangerous times. Democracy is, quite literally, on the ballot. Trump’s America is becoming an autocracy. It’s no longer a world leader; not in science, not in dealing with crises, or sacrifice when it’s called for, or standing for human rights. Not, perhaps most importantly, in decency.
That’s what November comes down to. Not budgets, or taxes, or guns. Not the size of government. Decency. Simple decency. The choice is between Joe Biden, who, even if you disagree with him, is a decent man; and Trump, who never has been. Not ever. Not in marriage or his family, not in business, or as “president.” It’s between a man calling upon our shared humanity, and one who’s chosen to base reelection on cultivating the worst in us.
A definitional sociopath, Trump set dog-whistle aside and, in the shadow of Mount Rushmore, made it obvious: to maintain power, his campaign will resort to pitting us against each other, playing to bigotry, demonizing the opposition, and lying. Lying about BLM and “antifa,” about Covid-19; about his negative leadership which, along with several like-mindless Republican governors, has made us the only country in which infections — and hospitalizations! — are exploding.
Without a return to decency, we’ll see more people pulling guns on each other; threatened lynchings; grandmas shouting at BLM protestors, promising to teach their grandchildren to hate them; cars aiming at peaceful demonstrators. Tucker Carlson, Fox “news” most despicable racist, will remain their most popular host. We’ll continue to dismiss people seeking a more just country as, in his words, “America-haters,” and in Trump’s, “the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters.” In a decent America, we’ll resume listening to each other, rejecting such malevolence. We’ll see fewer mask-refusing Trumpists deliberately coughing on store employees, and we’ll see less of this: tinyurl.com/this2bad.
It’s plausible some Trump voters aren’t racist or indecent. Yet, by voting for him, they condone those attributes in him: separating and caging children; disgraceful lying; dismissing people demanding racial justice as terrorists. They surrender to his characterizing the many based on the few. Rather than reflecting on the meaning of Confederate symbols to African-Americans, for example, they accept Trump’s laughable pretense about “protecting history.” (Daily Beast: tinyurl.com/trump2brazil)
Unlike Trump, who isn’t, Joe Biden is decent. Increasingly divided by hate, we need that most of all right now. I’ll keep prodding my friend. He’s a listener.
Email Sid Schwab at email@example.com.