The shock of Tuesday night’s awfully chaotic and chaotically awful presidential debate has been replaced by news that President Trump and his wife have both tested positive for the coronavirus. Obviously, no one should be pleased that the man whose mishandling of the virus helped enable the death of more than 200,000 Americans has joined the ranks of the infected.
While we hope for the Trumps’ return to health, the choice Americans now face in deciding between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden has not changed. Neither has he.
As last week’s debate showed, the candidates differed over how to respond to COVID-19, racial tensions, the economic crisis and the composition of the Supreme Court. But such policy disputes are not what truly divides these men. What separates them is character. The choice Americans are already making in states where early voting has begun will reflect not merely their endorsement of a candidate; it will determine whom Americans aspire to be. In other words, the presidential election of 2020 is not simply a referendum on alternative candidates, but about us.
Trump’s reelection would signal a profound shift in our national character or ethos, with far-reaching implications for both policy and governance writ large. For the nation’s mood and character both reflect and drive policy, not vice versa.
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