On Friday, my overseas voter absentee ballot arrived from the Election Board of Johnson County, Kansas, where I am registered. I have the option of responding by email, fax, or mail. I have the right to vote as a citizen, even if I live overseas. And I have a duty to exercise that right. Here is my rationale why I will vote for Joe Biden for President. You are welcome to agree or disagree and, hopefully, you will exercise your right to vote your conscience if you are a United States citizen. I just want to share my rationale in case it helps anyone else sort out their own mind.
A candidate should be evaluated on two things: their position or accomplishments on issues and their character. The domestic issues that most matter to me are the economy, healthcare, and how we are progressing towards our founding promise of all people being equal. The foreign policy issues that matter most to me are security, diplomacy/international relations and climate change.
Let’s look at President Trump and Vice President Biden on these issues, considering their position and accomplishments:
The economy – the extent to which a President deserves credit for the economy is debatable, but let’s assume that they do for the sake of this argument. Until the pandemic arrived, President Trump’s economy was going gangbusters, building off an economy that began growing under President Obama after his administration inherited the Great Recession and turned things around. Vice President Biden had a major role in managing that recovery. Jobs creation under President Trump continued at roughly the same pace as it did under President Obama. However, there are now almost five million fewer Americans with jobs than when President Trump took office. The only part of the economy seemingly doing well now, is the stock market, which seems completely out of whack and benefits mainly the wealthy. “But it is because of COVID!” you might say. Well, if you want to take credit for the good times, you have to take responsibility for the bad times. And right now, the economic times are pretty bad.
President Trump led the renegotiation on NAFTA and has challenged China on trade issues, which were the right things to do, but have brought about seemingly little benefit. Especially on the China trade war, it has resulted in significant tariffs for imports which American consumers will pay and the recent attacks on specific technology companies seems poised to divide the world into two technological spheres, which will ultimately be bad for American companies and workers. President Trump continues to make promises about bringing back jobs in industries such as steel-making that are hollow and out of touch promises. President Trump’s tax cuts enlarged already historic economic inequality. While acknowledging that the Obama/Biden administration’s approach to China – hoping that by engaging them, the Chinese government would become more open and more democratic – was not successful, Vice President Biden’s economic positions seem better-placed to create economic growth for everyone, not just the wealthy.
My conclusion on the economy? President Trump rode a upwards wave, cut taxes for the wealthy, and has expanded the deficit. His approach is not sustainable. Vice President Biden will ultimately create more jobs and an economy which benefits everyone, not just the stockholders.
Healthcare – Here, the decision seems especially clear. Under the Obama administration, Vice President Biden helped enact the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare” as Republicans dubbed it). This brought healthcare coverage to millions of Americans and is now very popular. President Trump has continued to attack the ACA and has continually promised to present his alternative, and missed his promised deadlines, multiple times throughout his term in office. I fundamentally believe that healthcare is a right. Vice President Biden’s approach is quite conservative, not a radical “Medicare for all” that his Republican critics claim, but he will move us closer to the goal of healthcare for all than President Trump will.
Related to the healthcare discussion is the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. While any administration would be challenged by a pandemic, President Trump is on record as having continually misled and downplayed the seriousness of the virus. His administration did not show leadership on this issue, domestically or internationally. And pulling us out of the World Health Organization does nothing to increase Americans’ health and safety. The Obama administration effectively dealt with Ebola, and despite Senator Mitch McConnell’s claims, left behind a literal playbook on how the Trump administration could deal with pandemics.
On healthcare related issues, I trust Vice President Biden much more than I trust President Trump.
Progress towards our founding promise – Our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and we have been working on getting closer to that truth ever since, including expanding it to include women and to address the stain of slavery, America’s original sin. I see a system in America that structurally perpetuates inequity and the system needs to be changed so that all Americans have equal opportunity. President Trump does deserve some credit here: his administration championed, and he signed, the 2018 First Step Act, which led to reforms in the criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts people of color. There are additional bipartisan bills that he has signed such as the one that gives paid parental leave to federal workers and another that requires airports to provide proper space for mothers to breastfeed. And President Trump appointed five openly gay ambassadors.
And this is interesting to me, because since he first announced his candidacy, President Trump has been using divisive, sexist, and overtly racist language and statements. Under his watch, the State Department ordered embassies and consulates abroad to no longer fly the rainbow flag symbolizing LGBTQI rights during pride month. And the track record of his conservative judicial appointments seem to indicate a return to the 1950s rather than a reflection of the melting pot that America is today. The Obama/Biden administration has a stronger overall record of creating more equity, especially in representing women and people of color in their administration and in the judiciary. And the Biden/Harris ticket itself is simply more representative of the demography of America than the Trump/Pence ticket.
Security – In a world that is ever more interconnected, security remains a concern. One of the unfortunate legacies of the September 11th attacks has been an increased fear of Americans towards the world. Looking at the promises President Trump made around building a wall along the border with Mexico and deporting illegal aliens, he hasn’t accomplished much other than caging children and tearing apart families who are refugees or seeking asylum in the United States. And the Obama administration actually deported more illegal immigrants than the Trump administration has. Vice President Biden supports comprehensive immigration reform and are generally more friendly to immigration overall, which aligns with the approach I think we should take. Immigration should be managed but it isn’t a bad thing, and America should be a safe shelter for those seeking asylum and refuge.
Has the world become safer under President Trump? His engagement of North Korea has not produced any results and President Trump’s bromance with Kim Jong-Un has likely encouraged him rather than brought him closer to the negotiating table. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has undermined United States credibility, as has his abandonment of our Kurdish allies. Recent progress in relations between Israel and some Arab states is positive, so some credit is due there. On China, President Trump vacillates between antagonizing and praising Xi Jinping, sending mixed signals while the country has fully undone the “one country, two systems” agreement in Hong Kong and inches closer to domination of the South China Sea.
And then there is the question of Russia and President Trump’s odd fealty to Vladimir Putin. This is the biggest reason I don’t trust President Trump on security.
Diplomacy and international relations – Related to security, this is where I see a particular strength of Vice President Biden. Under the Obama administration and further under his career in the Senate, Biden fundamentally is oriented towards facing challenges in concert with our allies. President Trump has withdrawn from international commitments and left the world uncertain whether it can rely upon the United States. Vice President Biden has indicated the need to strengthen those relationships.
President Trump’s rallying cries are “America First” and “Make America Great Again”. His words and actions these past four years, indicate that he sees the world as a zero-sum game. “America First” means “America Only” and “Make America Great Again” means “At the expense of everyone else”. I fundamentally reject both notions. An American President is sworn to defend and protect the United States. I think this can best be accomplished by looking for ways in which to create more safety, security, and prosperity by working with other countries rather than trying to go it alone. As an American living overseas, I can easily see the damage done to our ability to influence world affairs, especially those that affect us, by President Trump. Vice President Biden can gain us a place back at the grown-ups’ table.
Climate change – The scientific consensus is that climate change is real and that it is happening because of human activity. President Trump continues to deny the science, support the fossil fuel industry and now wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. This is too important an issue to ignore, one that will affect our children – heck, one that is already affecting us! Vice President Biden’s track record in this isn’t perfect – he supported fracking and “clean coal” – but his plans to invest in renewable technologies and help shift us to a cleaner, more climate-friendly economy are a necessary step to address this issue.
Character – Finally, let’s consider President Trump and Vice President Biden on their character, tone and demeanor. The Presidency of the United States is a powerful bully pulpit. The occupant’s words and actions reflect on his or her fellow Americans. And the conduct of the President should serve as an example for us and for our children. They do not need to be perfect, but they should be someone to whom we can look up.
I had hopes that once he stepped into the Oval Office, President Trump would become a president for all Americans. To grow into the office, to appeal to the greater good, to inspire us to work for the values we share. Instead, from the very start, he has continued to demonstrate a pettiness and a divisiveness that is distasteful. And the lying. Politicians are known for bending the truth a bit but President Trump says anything he wants, with no regards for accuracy.
Vice President Biden is spoken well of by all who know him and all who have worked with him. He has three qualities that are critical in a leader: he is a fundamentally decent human being, he has the capacity to empathize with others, and he is humble enough to admit his mistakes and learn from them.
Every election is the “most consequential election of our time” because every election shapes the future. We won’t know for many decades, what the real impacts of these decisions are. But my sense is that politics in America are getting more extreme, more hostile, than is good for us. And the damage being done to our international standing, will lead to the decline of America being the greatest power – and a force for good.
I think Vice President Biden is a better choice to address where the United States is now, and where it needs to go in the next four years.