It's not just Trump and Biden on the ballot. America's commitment to truth and democracy is too.

It's not just Trump and Biden on the ballot. America's commitment to truth and democracy is too.

October 11, 2020
  • It's not just Joe Biden and Donald Trump who will be on the ballot in the presidential election.
  • America's commitment to truth, standing in the world, ability to control the pandemic, willingness to confront racism, and the credibility of our justice system are all on the ballot as well.
  • Given that reality, the choice on Election Day is clear.
  • Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Every four years, candidates fall over themselves claiming that it's the most important election of our lifetimes. But this time, it's true. 

A raging pandemic continues to infect thousands each day — including our president — racial injustice continues to drive upheaval, and climate change is wreaking havoc across the country. And if that's not enough a Supreme Court seat is on the brink of being stolen, our international standing has been decimated, and the American public's trust in our institutions is wavering. 

This Election Day, there will be much more on the ballot than the two 70-something white males whom we saw overheat or underperform in the last debate. Even beyond policy, in the balance are our values as a country, the integrity of our democratic institutions, and truth. As the American people prepare to cast their votes, let's be clear about the real stakes.

Honor and truth are on the ballot

Donald Trump has spouted more false claims, misleading statements, and outright lies than any other modern president. After lying to the American people daily for nearly four years, most people don't trust him when it comes to the coronavirus, economy, and unrest in our country. We need facts coming from the White House, not political spin and conspiracy theories.

Killing the virus is on the ballot

The US is doing worse on coronavirus than almost all other wealthy nations. That's because this administration has failed us.

By his own admission, Trump knew early on that the coronavirus was highly contagious and deadly. But instead of warning the public and preparing our medical system, he lied. He unconscionably downplayed the virus for political reasons, costing the US precious time and lives. 

Since that first, terrible mistake, the president has continued to spread conspiracy theories, peddle false cures, and undermine efforts by states and his own administration to get the virus under control. Even after contracting COVID, Trump still won't tell the truth about the virus.

By contrast, Biden has valuable experience – through his leadership during the 2014 Ebola outbreak – to guide us through this moment. And his science-based plans are based on doing what's best for public health, not political gain.

Systemic racial injustice is on the ballot

The current administration is not interested in understanding, let alone affirming, the motivation for the racial justice protests taking place in cities across the country. Because those in charge refuse to see the problem, they have taken no steps to address the systemic discrimination and injustice Black and brown communities face. 

Instead, they have mischaracterized largely peaceful protests as violent riots to justify calling in military forces to attack our own people and institute federal policing in cities like Portland. With a majority of Americans supporting Black Lives Matter and at least some reform to policing, we need a president who will fight for the equality of all groups, not just his supporters. A president who won't unequivocally disavow white supremacy when given multiple chances has no place in the Oval Office.

America's place in the world is on the ballot

Our global standing has fallen precipitously in Trump's first term. America's sterling reputation as a shining light for others, which was intact during the Obama-Biden years, has been tarnished so badly that other countries now look at us with pity, bafflement, and horror. Thanks to Trump, we have become a cautionary case study on how to lose the fight against COVID, allow authoritarian tendencies to chip away at democracy, and damage relationships with allies.

The world is anxious for a President Biden who can reverse Trump's worst foreign policy decisions, regain the trust of our allies, and reject authoritarianism definitively.

In addition, the divide in our nation on full display in the first Presidential debate was music to the ears of the countries that would do America harm. Biden has the potential to heal, bring us together and face down our enemies in a united way. The incumbent isn't even trying.

An independent justice system is on the ballot

The justice system is supposed to work for the people, and judicial independence is supposed to be our government's crown jewel. But Trump has no respect for the integrity of our justice system and expects loyalty from its representatives.

In Trump's America, especially lately, the Justice Department appears to serve the President first and foremost. We've had enough of Trump and his criminal cronies sidestepping justice; of Attorney General Bill Barr moonlighting as Trump's personal lawyer; and of threats to steal the election.

The credibility of the Supreme Court is on the ballot

Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate are gambling that they can ignore the rule they insisted upon four years ago to prevent Barack Obama from filling Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court seat during an election year. Whether Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed before or after November 3, the election will send a clear message to the Senate about where the country is and whether Republicans can get away with cynically changing the rules to benefit themselves with impunity. Public opinion is already against them and a blue wave in November will make clear that Americans won't stand for such hypocrisy.

Trump's tabloid presidency is on the ballot

President Trump has forced us to live in his reality show drama the past four plus years. Every day we're bombarded with crazy new developments, conspiracy theories, villains, backstabbing, and even a teaser for a coup d'etat in season two. It's whiplash-inducing and exhausting – which is exactly Trump's goal. The drama is a distraction so that we don't focus on his epic failures as President. We need a leader in the White House who cares less about ratings and his own ego and more about results for all Americans.

At every turn, Donald Trump has proven insufficient for the grave challenges our nation faces. As damaged as the country is at his hands, imagine the exponential effect of four more years. Everything we stand for is on the ballot.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

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