Vote Against Trump, Again

01 October 2020

I try not to write much about American elections on my website, but four years ago I broke that pattern to urge my readers to vote against Donald Trump. The core of my position was that his shameless lying was the sign of a dangerous demagogue who would damage our democratic system.

Four years later, I'm happy to see that we still have a functioning two-party system. But Mr Trump has still made plenty of worrying steps towards authoritarianism. In addition to his incessant lies, he's blocked oversight of his government by both Congress and the inspectors general, bribed a foreign government to smear a political opponent, and sent unmarked federal riot police onto the streets.

That's why I think it's vital that he be voted out of office this year. Not just defeated, however, but defeated by a substantial margin. Such a margin is necessary because he's indicated that he will deny the validity of the election should he lose, so the margin of victory must be beyond even his capacity for lying. It must also clearly show the Republican Party, which has got itself hooked onto the crack-cocaine of Trumpism, that championing a demagogue is an electoral catastrophe.

I'm not active in politics or have any identification with political parties, but the key control that all of us American citizens have over these events is to vote. In the next month we will decide the next steps of the United States, and even the least active citizens need to add their vote to the decision.

For non-activists like myself, it's easy to look on political events as some sporting event, one that doesn't have much effect on our everyday lives. But this year, we've seen how our political leadership can impact even the most reclusive life. As I write this, just over 200,000 Americans have lost their lives to covid-19, a pandemic that President Trump has repeatedly minimized and failed to take seriously. In contrast, Germany has suffered a mere 9,000 deaths. Scaled up to the U.S. population, that would be 36,000. Thus the cost of incompetence in the U.S. is 170,000 lives. It's also a shattered economy, and the unknown cost of acute consequences for many of those who survived the disease.

Each one of us may only deliver one vote, yet we need as many of these votes as possible - and it's not that much trouble to cast a vote. I ask that you make sure you have a plan to vote in this election. If you think there is a chance you might find yourself unable to vote on the day, get a postal vote, or vote early. If you didn't vote in 2016, think about why, and sort out how you can ensure you cast your vote this year. The details of how best to vote vary from state to state, see the guides from New York Times or FiveThirtyEight. If you want to make a postal vote, do it as soon as you can, as there is some danger that there will be attempts to prevent late ballots from being counted. If you intend to vote on the day, beware that there may be long lines and other inconveniences, so ensure your plan has contingencies for them. If you can, share your plans with others, so you can encourage each other to vote.

This election needs to be a loud repudiation of demagoguery, so not just is it important to vote against Mr Trump, but also to vote against all those who have enabled him. If you're not voting in a battleground state, your votes can count against both him and his supporters. Even in a safe seat, a significant change to the margin of victory can send a significant message.

Writing this, I feel a despair over whether I can persuade any of my readers to cast a vote against this authoritarian. But it's essential that I try, because authoritarianism is a disease that's haunted humanity since history started to be written. This country was founded to oppose this disease and, despite its many faults, that vision is still one to cherish.


Beth Anders-Beck, Chad Wathington, and Mike Roberts commented on drafts of this post.