Why this conservative voted for Biden and you should too: Trump is a morally defective man

At the end of every campaign, advocates of a candidate (like me) make a final list of all the issues and policies that we think should matter to other voters, and why our guy is better on them.

I don’t have that list.

Don’t get me wrong: As a conservative and former Republican who has already voted for former Vice President Joe Biden, I could create an entire inventory of issues, even without the lightning strike of the pandemic, where I think Biden is a better pick for president than another four years of President Donald Trump. From budget deficits to nuclear arms control, I could easily make the case for Biden, even if I might concede that I would prefer a few of Trump’s policies (such as cutting government regulations and increasing defense spending) over any Democratic administration.

But I did not vote in this election based on policy. Neither should you. The election of 2020 is about the moral future of the American nation, and so I voted for a good man with whom I have some political disagreements over an evil man with whom I share not a single value as a human being. Trump is the most morally defective human being ever to hold the office of the presidency, worse by every measure than any of the rascals, satyrs or racists who have sat in the Oval Office. This is vastly more important than marginal tax rates or federal judges.

We have to decide what we stand for

Of course, I can also offer an inventory of the disasters that have befallen us because of Trump’s essential nature as a ball of moral anti-matter. But I would also argue that these failures do not matter now. From the American carnage of COVID-19 to the implosion of our economy to the collapse of America’s position in the world, our morally blind choice in 2016 has already levied its payment on us, in both blood and treasure.

We cannot turn back the clock. 

What we can do is stem the pandemic and recover from the recession. We can shore up our tattered alliances. But none of this will happen — and nothing else will matter — if we lose the moral core of our identity as a democracy.

Trump’s vanity and stupidity have cost thousands of lives and harmed the nation. He has left us less healthy, less wealthy and less safe in every way. But Trump’s assaults on the Constitution and the rule of law, including everything from his vicious attacks on the integrity of our elections to his calls to lock up his political opponents, have left us less American in every way, and that damage will take longer to fix. Four more years of Trump will take those wounds and make them a permanent scar on our national soul.

President Donald Trump on Oct. 28, 2020, in Bullhead City, Arizona.

Trump’s supporters might see this moral indictment of the president and answer: “So what?” And well they might. The days when American conservatives, in particular, cared about character — a golden era only dimly remembered through the mists of some four or five years ago — are long over.

Besides, Trump did what his voters wanted him to do, not by accomplishing anything, but by enraging and shocking people they hate. Meanwhile, the circle of cronies picking up the considerable scraps from the Trump family table got what they wanted as well. Trump’s loyalists and lackeys have made their choice, and Trump’s legacy is their burden to carry.

Even if Biden wins:There is no vaccine for Trumpism

The rest of us, however, must ask ourselves questions that transcend politics. We have to ask ourselves about our duty as citizens, about who we are, about how we want to talk to each other, to our families, to our children and grandchildren about what we did at this moment of national crisis. We are living through the most dangerous time in our modern history since the reign of terror led by the odious Joseph McCarthy. It’s a worse time, in fact, because at least we didn’t make McCarthy president. Now, as in the 1950s, we have to decide what we stand for.

This is not some nebulous appeal to history. History will not have to judge Trump; he is in the dock even now because we already know everything we need to know about him. We know that the 45th president is a compulsively dishonest and emotionally unstable man, compromised by foreign powers and hostile to the basic rules of American democracy. We know that he surrounded himself with an entourage of liars and opportunists. We know that he has trampled on our lawsour Constitution and our traditions for his personal gain.

Don’t reelect Trump out of spite

What more do we need? Are we really to say, after all this, that we rejected a decent and honorable man in order to further Trump’s continued rule? For what? Because we somehow felt disrespected by the culture? Because we wanted an utterly immoral man to further our personal religious convictions? Because we thought it would just be fun to see the country continue to burn?

I would feel that I betrayed my country if I left our national security in danger because I thought it would annoy my neighbors. I would never be able to admit to my own child that I voted to keep a dangerous sociopath in office purely out of spite. I could not live with myself if I turned a blind eye to the continued lawlessness of a band of thugs merely because I wanted judges who would be friendly to gun owners or hostile to poor women who want an abortion.

An honorable example:Conservatives voting Joe Biden over Donald Trump are patriots. Thanks for the inspiration.

These are, to me, petty and anti-American motives. And so I voted instead to act in cooperation with millions of other citizens of the United States during a dark time in American history to restore the promise of our Constitution, to protect the rule of law, and to affirm the moral center of American democracy.

There will come a day when we will all fight over policy and issues again. But today is not that day. Today is the day to remove Donald Trump, and to elect a decent American named Joe Biden in his place, and then to rescue the Constitution and restore the country. That should be enough. It is for me, and I hope it will be for you, too.

Tom Nichols is the author of “The Death of Expertise,” a senior adviser to The Lincoln Project and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @RadioFreeTom

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