On November 6, 2016, hours before the polls closed, I wrote a short article that I often re-visit. Partly because of what could have been. But mostly because of our responsibilities moving forward.
The article was a reminder that we are more alike than we are different, just as the late Senator John McCain so poignantly had told us not long before.
The article was also a call for moderation, dialogue and participation. Specifically, it said “No matter whom we voted for, or who wins, let’s commit to some simple fundamentals
… dialogue is the most powerful bridge between different views
… family and community come before politics
… local actions matter
… democracy is worth preserving, and requires continued participation of all citizens.”
When the election was over, 97 million eligible Americans had chosen not to vote. Mr. Trump, with 64 million votes, lost the popular vote. But he won the majority in the Electoral College, and thus (regretfully but rightfully) became the US President on January 2017. Voting matters, and elections have consequences.
For nearly three and a half years now, the simple fundamentals that I listed on my November 6 article have been trampled, time and again. To be fair, Mr. Trump is not the only doing the trampling: Many across the entire political spectrum, including many in positions or power, are guilty as well. But Mr. Trump bears the heaviest responsibility, due to his misuse of the vast, unique power of the presidency.
He has led this country towards deeper divisiveness, and further away from the American Dream and a just and caring society. He has diminished the presidency, and made the US an object of both ridicule and pity—rather than respect and admiration—at the eyes of the world. He has violated basic societal building blocks, including forfeiting truth and decency.
It was unavoidable that (as all Presidents do) Mr. Trump would face major crises during his presidency. It was also clear, ahead of November 6, that Mr. Trump was unequipped to lead the country through a crisis. He lacked the vision, knowledge, intellectual curiosity, honesty, empathy and so many other attributes that are required of leaders—particularly at exceptional times.
The climate crisis was not created by Mr. Trump. But there are no words to describe the damage he has caused by denying and aggravating it. Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement was inexcusable. But it was unsurprising, and consistent with the environmental deregulation crusade that his Administration has embarked on. We only have one Earth, and one of Mr. Trump’s major legacies will be failing to protect it.
The COVID-19 pandemic was also not created by Mr. Trump. But it tragically illustrates how he puts ego and alternate reality ahead of facts and the interest of country and world. His actions and inactions—from well before the virus emerged—contributed to the US having the most COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide. This is inexcusable: We had the time, and the scientific know-how, to do so much better. Far too many Americans already lost their lives, or had them radically and negatively transformed at so many different levels—and we are by no means out of the crisis. Mismanaging COVID-19 will, too, be one of Mr. Trump’s major legacies.
To be clear, the damage that Mr. Trump has done to people, country and world is tragic far beyond his handling of major crises. It extends everywhere across policy and fundamental values, and exerts a heavy toll on the goodness of our nation. Some of the damage is not reversible, some might take multiple generation to undo. But it is imperative and urgent that we find a far better path.
That better path requires that each of us does what this President has refused to: Take responsibility. This November, taking responsibility specifically means not re-electing Mr. Trump!
I favor a true multi-party system, and electoral rules based on the majority (50% plus one) of the popular vote. Those are not our laws, though. Not yet, anyway. Pretending otherwise by voting a write-in or third party candidate, only favors an unfit and dangerous incumbent.
I would like a perfect President. But all candidates are human, just like you and me. While we have the right to expect decency, knowledge and fairness out of our leaders, expecting perfection is unrealistic—and, as exemplified by 2016, can lead to a tragic disaster.
Barring a major surprise, our choice in 2020 will be between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. None is perfect, but they are vastly different choices. Only one offers hope for a better future for America and the world. Only one sees the US Presidency as service to our nation. Only one can unify rather than further divide us. Only one can help us (we, the People!) revive, and go beyond, the American Dream.
Please vote. Please join me in voting for Mr. Biden.
— Antonio Baptista
PS: For the Oregon primaries, ballots must be received by May 19. It is too late to mail your ballots. But—if you have not done so yet—please drop your ballot in an official Drop Box.