One candidate offered faith in democracy. The other tried to sow doubts.
The final moments of Tuesday night’s presidential debate offered a clear distinction between President Donald Trump and his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. Only one of them — Biden — testified to a belief in America’s system of elections, and faith in its people to make it work.
Given a chance, Biden used his time to urge Americans to vote, whether by mail-in ballots or by going to the polls. “Show up and vote,” he said, delivering his message directly into the camera. “You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote vote vote.”
Trump, by contrast, peddled baseless conspiracy theories.
“Take a look at what’s going on in Virginia — mailmen selling the ballots,” the president said. “They’re being sold, they’re being dumped in rivers. This is a horrible thing for our country. This is not going to end well.”
That last sentence felt like the truest thing the president said all night. Otherwise, his statement seemed indecipherable, except perhaps to the most committed Fox News viewers.
There was a practical element to each man’s comments. For Biden to win an Electoral College stacked in favor of Republicans, he needs his voters to show up — whether by mail or in person — in overwhelming numbers. Trump, trailing in the polls, may see sowing confusion about the legitimacy of the election results as one of his best chances to stay in office. So each man played to his electoral strengths.
But we should take each man at his word. Biden pledged to abide by the results of the vote. Trump refused to commit. The contrast between the two candidates on a fundamental issue — democracy itself — couldn’t be more clear. Joel Mathis