Many people who know me already think they know why I’m voting for Biden/Harris. It’s because I’m a Democrat (which I’m not and never have been), or a dedicated liberal (which I certainly never have been). Or because I am personally enthusiastic about Joe Biden and/or Kamala Harris (which I am not). Or because I find Donald Trump distasteful. (I do, but that in itself would not be sufficient reason to vote against him.)
There once was a presidential candidate I truly felt enthusiastic about. It was in 1952 when as a 13-year old I helped the local campaign for Dwight Eisenhower. I’d been in favor of Dewey four years earlier, but not nearly as ardently. My father, a veteran political reporter, had known and liked Stevenson, but even he had no real enthusiasm for Adlai. Not that he had real enthusiasm for any politician. By 1956 I still felt Eisenhower was the better choice (having even then weighted defense and foreign affairs issues relatively more heavily than my father did) but had lost my edge of enthusiasm. By then I had some direct personal experiences with professional politicians (thanks to my father) and had come to understand more about the inherent nature of homo politicus.
I do not know Joe Biden. I’ve never met him, let alone worked with him. But from all I can see he is a broadly and deeply experienced professional politician and political executive, a species scorned only by those who fulfil the worst fears of the most skeptical of the Founders regarding the mental and moral defects of the American electorate. Moreover, he is lacking in flamboyant character defects. Kamela Harris, although inevitably less deeply experienced, falls in much the same category.
None of this can justly be said of Donald Trump. One of the more discouraging things about him is his failure to learn anything of note from the experience of nearly four years in office. And of course his character disorders are at the base of this.
Truth to be told, being president is money for old rope just as long as (1.) You don’t take the responsibilities too seriously and (2.) You don’t face any major tests. Trump certainly fulfils condition 1. very thoroughly indeed and until January last, the major tests he failed (which were many) were of a nature not visible to most. Early in February I made a bet with myself that we could see 200,000 to 250,000 dead by Election Day, and it appears that I was right. I also predicted that a competent and vigorous federal response could have held deaths well under 100,000, and that appears to have been right as well. All of which makes Trump by far the biggest mass manslaughterer in American history — and very possibly the biggest mass murderer, given what he said to Bob Woodward in March, showing that he really did understand at least the basics of the dangers of COVID-19.
Another terrible zoonotic pandemic is a question of when rather than if. Very likely, somewhere in Southern China or Southeast Asia is a cave with a colony of bats harboring another coronavirus that would spread just as easily as COVID-19 and is ten or twenty times as lethal. Bats are just different enough from us to be infected with such a virus without a lot of harm to them, and just similar enough to permit it to spread to us as soon as human developments or habitat deterioration forces them into contact with humans. With Trump in charge we will lose half a million to a million dead to COVID-19 before it can be brought under control. With the more virulent version still to come the toll will be ten or twenty times as great, at least, with a president who puts looking good above all other considerations.
And then of course there is climate change. Scientists, starting with Svante Arrhenius, have recognized for well over a century that if we pump enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, we will cook the planet. People being as they are, we just had to make the experiment, and sure enough, the scientists were right! Who would have thought it? Not Trump, of course; science is a source of objective truth and his fabrications must “Trump” all truth. No facts can be accepted unless he tweets them, and even then are subject to retraction or revision as suits him. Unless we take strong action soon to halt and reverse warming our children and grandchildren face a very bleak future, and Trump will take everything but effective action.
Finally, we have foreign affairs. I do not know for certain what is behind Trump’s deference to Vladimir Putin or his solicitude toward Russian interests, but it is obvious to all that he has worked to undermine the NATO alliance, and alienate our allies (or former allies, in some instances now) throughout Europe and Asia. I see this as extremely dangerous, inviting another world war that would bring unimaginable harm.
I could name other reasons for not voting for Donald Trump, but these will do for now.