Every four years I have written a personal defense of the candidate I intend to vote for in the upcoming election. That task feels particularly important this year as we find our nation under extreme duress from all sides. Times warrant that this is less of a defense of my candidate than it is a defense of the country itself. I know there are not many minds to change out there, and that much of what you’ll read here has been said before, but it can never be said often enough because history proves that we cannot take our values, our country, or our democracy for granted.
I often hear the phrase “America First” among Republican supporters of Trump, and that’s nothing new. Every administration has had an “America First” agenda of one sort or another over the years, even if it was called something else. It’s part and parcel of how we became the nation we did. But how I see “America first” is very different from the last four years under Trump, and there’s never been any question about who I will vote for on November 3.
In my America First, our exceptionalism is reflected in a worldwide coordinated response to Covid-19, with mask mandates and sensible, science-based initiatives. Instead, we have been first in ignoring the science and burying our dead. While our scientists work frantically to find a cure and produce a vaccine, our president re-tweets conspiracy theories, trashes the very people trying to keep us safe, and even hosts super-spreader events at the White House.
In my America First, we lead the way toward a clean energy economy that transforms the U.S. job market and addresses the very real threat of climate change. Instead, this administration has been the first to roll back pollution and energy efficiency standards while propping up the fossil fuel industry with subsidies. They’ve even gone so far as to remove the phrase “climate change” from official government websites. Meanwhile, forward-thinking countries around the world are committing themselves to 100% clean energy, some in as few as 15 years, and building the infrastructure to support it. Even forward-thinking energy companies like BP are investing heavily in renewables. Yet America takes last place behind 170+ other countries that we worked hard to get to join the Paris Agreement, only to have this president cede that leadership once again. Instead of America building the economy of the future, Trump gave that valuable prize to China.
In my America First, our leadership on human rights—a role we have played for generations—advances our moral authority to demand greater social justice at home and abroad, whether that be on racial equality, LGBTQ rights, police reform or religious and political freedoms—rights that generations of our military have fought to defend. Instead, this president and his complicit sycophants have been the first in my lifetime to open the floodgates to white supremacy, antisemitism, and anti-Muslim hatred within our borders and, by extension, around the globe. While we have never lived up to the full promise of our pursuit of equality, in three short years we have abdicated all moral authority we once had over nations that regularly trample on the human rights of their citizens.
In my America First, healthcare is a right not a privilege, no matter how you get there, whether through the Affordable Care Act, Medicare for All, or a public option. We have some of the finest care available in the world, but too few people can access it. This administration is hell-bent on eliminating the one piece of legislation attempting to address some of our inadequacies in both access and protections on preexisting conditions. If they are successful, more than 20 million people will lose their insurance in the middle of a growing pandemic. Need we be reminded that the United States ranks 59th in healthcare on the worldwide Legatum Prosperity Index, mostly because all other leading countries provide universal healthcare for all their citizens at a fraction of our cost. When the health insurance industry is taking in over $1 trillion a year, you wonder who’s “first” when it comes to healthcare in America. As a small-business owner who provides health insurance to my employees, my insurance premiums are more than five times the Medicare taxes I and my employees pay combined. Think about that.
In my America First, equal and high-quality public education is the backbone of our society. Instead, we have a billionaire Secretary of Education (appointed by Trump, of course) who has been the first to display disdain for the public education system she is supposed to defend. Betsy DeVos seems to have missed the part in the Constitution that guarantees “equal public education” under the law. Instead, she is diverting millions of Covid-relief taxpayer dollars to private schools and undermining the rights of college-aged abuse victims by rewriting their Title IX protections.
In my America First, every person on our soil has a legal path to citizenship, no matter how they got here. Instead, we have a president who has been trying to expel 700,000 Dreamers since his first day in office. He openly belittles the immigrants who continue to build this country and condones the family separation policies that have left more than 500 children permanently separated from their parents, whom the government is unable to locate. Yet another “first” for this administration on the human rights front.
In my America First, foreign policy is national security. Instead, our president is the first to denigrate our allies (and even our troops!), while he coddles authoritarians and dictators who represent everything this country is supposed to stand against. What Trump sees as a weakness in America—our reliance on allies as a united front against those regimes—is what makes us strong. If you read the foreign press like I do, you know this president’s blatant disregard for the treaties and alliances that keep us safe damages our reputation worldwide and threatens the stability of our hard-won peace.
In my America First, we define the gold standard for how a democracy is supposed to work. Instead, we are now the first Americans to live with minority rule where the president of the United States is actively undermining the election process, packing the courts with unqualified political hacks, and using the Attorney General as his personal fixer. The Senate, under Mitch McConnell, has so corrupted the governing process—through both obstruction and outright abdication of its role as a check on the Executive branch—that our so-called democracy is truly in danger of becoming a banana republic.
In my America First, our president works every day to unite the country, move it forward, and promote our common interests around the globe by example. Instead, we have the first president in our history who spends the bulk of his time trying to divide the country on political lines, mock our differences, and unravel the fabric and institutions that have bound us together for more than 200 years. His abundant disdain for the people he governs and the office he holds is on display every day and in every lie he tells. He has never understood what it means to be the president, beyond his own self-interest. For that alone, he must not be reelected.
Joe Biden was not my first choice for president, but I am certain he will work to unite the country, protect democracy, restore our reputation abroad, support our troops and fight for the equality and opportunity of every citizen—none of which will happen under four more years of Trump. My worst fear is that, given the opportunity, this administration will not only set our country further back in terms of solving the difficult challenges before us, it will also erode or even eliminate the fundamental rights that have defined our nation since its beginning. While I have faith in the true majority to move our nation forward, there is the very real possibility that we will not have the opportunity to do that if Biden is not elected. One needs only to read the devastating history of Weimar Germany to know that our system of government and way of life is not guaranteed. We must recognize and defeat the threats to our democracy that come from both outside and inside our country. By voting for the Biden/Harris ticket in overwhleming and indisputable numbers, as well as for Democrats up and down the ballot, we can and must ensure that this moment is not America’s last.
D.N. - Chicago, October 28, 2020