American presidential elections go on too long. This one arguably began on July 28, 2017, just eight months after the election of President Donald Trump, when U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. The early entry did not work well for Delaney and he became one the earliest to drop out, too, back in January.
But Labor Day is now behind is and, barring something unexpected (and if that were to happen, 2020 is the year it would), one of two people will fill the next presidential term, the incumbent Republican or Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
A strong argument can be made that how the major parties narrow down the choices and select a candidate need major reform. Trump obtained the nomination in large measure because his outrageousness dominated the 24-hour news cycle during the 2016 Republican primary. Fortunes turned in Biden’s favor with his strong primary win in South Carolina on Feb. 29, a state that is not representative of the Democratic Party nationally and will go to Trump on Nov. 3.
But as flawed as the process may be, these are the choices, and the results will be of great consequence.
A continued Trump presidency is sure to offer continued chaos and tweets, prioritize jobs and business over environmental protections and climate concerns, leave it largely to market forces to provide health care coverage for those who can afford it, and make control of the southern border a high priority. The president would continue to appoint conservative justices and pursue reversing the constitutional protections for legal abortions. A Trump “America First” administration would continue to prioritize unilateral foreign policy agreements rather than broad multinational alliances.
A Biden presidency will restore environmental regulations rolled back during the Trump term, use government incentives to encourage growth of renewable energy sources, build upon the Affordable Care Act to expand access to health care, and urge Congress to find a path to legal status for immigrants who came here illegally but have otherwise acted lawfully. Biden would make liberal judicial appointments to the courts and seek to shore up abortion rights. A Biden administration would return to the post World War II approach emphasizing alliances and cooperative initiatives with allies.
Neither has offered a solution or is likely to have one for the massive fiscal hole the nation confronts. The U.S. government will run its biggest budget shortfall ever this year, at $3.3 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That would be the fourth-largest deficit in proportion to the size of the economy after the war years of 1943 through 1945. The national debt is $26.7 trillion, or $81,000 per citizen.
There are other importance choices, of course.
Please vote, whatever your political persuasion. More people will be voting by absentee ballot due to the continued threat posed by the COVID-19 virus. But however you vote, vote — a lot of sacrifices were made to give you that right.
Some significant anniversaries remind us of that.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment, making it illegal to deny someone the right to vote based on their race. Tragically, lawmakers in the South still found ways to deny Blacks access to the ballot box. These included Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, literacy tests and the threat of violence.
But it is also the 55th anniversary of Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided nationwide protections for voting. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, during which peaceful protestors were met with beatings, arrests, and vigilante murders, brought about this monumental change.
And 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote.
Don’t denigrate these sacrifices by sitting it out.