Yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump began making their closing arguments for the 2020 presidential election. With the final day of voting now less than a week away, it is time for the candidates to home in on why the American people should choose either man to direct the United States for the next four years.
In Warm Springs, Georgia — a place where a polio-ravaged Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to convalesce — Joe Biden took the opportunity to circle back to a message he started writing to Americans several months ago, after he won the state of South Carolina in the primaries. “I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president,” he said. “I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do. That’s the job of a president, a duty of care for everyone. This place, Warm Springs, is a reminder that though broken, each of us can be healed. That as a people and a country, we can overcome this devastating virus. That we can heal a suffering world. And yes, we can restore our soul and save our country.” It was a speech about unity.
But unity was not even a minor component of Donald Trump’s parting message last night. In fact, the final thing that the president did yesterday was to strand his own followers. After a rally in Omaha, Nebraska — a state that has split electoral votes and is newly competitive for Democrats — Trump departed on Air Force One. Rally-goers on the tarmac had been promised buses back to a more central location, where they could return home. Instead, they stood outside, in freezing temperatures.
At least 30 of these supporters — including a family with young children, a person in a wheelchair, and several elderly people — required medical attention. Multiple people were reportedly admitted to the hospital with cases of hypothermia. Donald Trump’s parting message, then, can best be summed up by the first lady’s declarative clothing, which is now part of the public conversation: “I really don't care, do you?”
We are left with a choice, made clear by our candidates’ closing arguments. One man argues in favor of the “duty to care for everyone,” irrespective of political affiliation. The other strands wayward travelers in freezing temperatures, as he soars above them, without duty. One man believes that “each of us can be healed,” while the other chooses self-interest over charity, literally relegating his adoring admirers to hospital beds. Will they be healed? Does he even believe that they deserve to be?
One man speaks of governance, and of the work of an American president. The other departs his events as a movie star would, a celebrity exiting stage left. A celebrity need not display empathy; a celebrity is only here for the show. But a president is supposed to be here for the down-and-dirty. He’s supposed to be here with us in the thick of it, even when the temperatures drop, even when there are no buses to take us home. Donald Trump is not that man.
It has been clear, of course, during these past four years, that Donald J Trump is no real president, and that he is not fit to lead this brilliant nation. But what the circumstances of his closing argument— disregard for his own greatest supporters — make even more obvious is that his version of this country is one that we should all reject.
These are the two Americas before us now, in stark contrast: a president who wishes to unite all of us, or a president who wishes to unite none of us, and whose callous indifference turns a blind eye to even his own ardent fans. To choose the latter, in this election, is to choose a country that is merciless, and unkind, and indecent; and we are, I hope, not that. Let Trump’s closing argument be reason enough to close this larger American argument. There is only one man running who is fit to run this nation. That man is Joe Biden.