Joe Biden or Donald Trump: Closing arguments from USA TODAY opinion contributors

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On Election Day 2020, USA TODAY Opinion contributors make closing arguments for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

A vote for a good and honest man: Donna Brazile

Unity. Equality. Safety. And above all character.

These are the themes former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris and Democrats across the country are emphasizing in their closing arguments to the American people for why we should vote for them on Election Day.

Joe’s message is a positive one, setting out detailed plans to control the coronavirus pandemic, rebuild the economy so that it works for everyone, and unify our divided country. It is a stark contrast to the president’s dark message of xenophobia, racism, rejection of science and doctors, and personal attacks on anyone outside his family and Republican yes-men (yes, they’re almost all white men).  Joe speaks with deep compassion and empathy about Trump’s grave mismanagement of the pandemic — which has resulted in more than 231,000 “empty chairs at dining room tables, where just weeks or months ago loved ones sat and talked and laughed,” in Joe’s words — and the president’s failure to level with the American people about its seriousness.

A vote for Joe is a vote for a good and honest man who has spent his entire life fighting for the American working class.  A vote for Joe is a vote for a president who will work for all of us, not just for those who voted for him.  A vote for Joe is a vote to unify our country — not to divide us into red or blue states — and to bring us together in common purpose as the United States of America. Because as we’ve shown throughout our history, there’s nothing we can’t do when we do it together. 

Donna Brazile is the endowed chair of the Gwendolyn and Colbert King public policy lecture series at Howard University and adjunct faculty member in the Women’s and Gender Studies at Georgetown University, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, a Fox News contributor and the author of “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.” Follow her on Twitter: @donnabrazile 

Fascism is real in America: Kurt Bardella

On March 23, 1919, Benito Mussolini addressed a rally in Milan and declared that membership in his new group “commits all fascists to sabotaging the candidacies of the neutralists of all parties by any means necessary.” This was the prelude to what would become his fascist party.

In the final moments of the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump endorsed the efforts of modern-day fascists as they terrorized a Biden campaign bus on a Texas highway. This as Republicans in the Lone Star State tried to use the courts to invalidate 127,000 votes that have been cast from a Democratic-leaning county.

Mail delivery in the swing state of Pennsylvania have been on a steady decline, with 42% of all first-class mail taking longer than five days to be delivered.

Trump and his allies are doing a full embrace of Mussolini’s brand of fascism. Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s names are on the ballot, but in reality, it’s the fate of democracy in America that’s being voted on. The choice is simple, we are either a country that maintains fidelity to freedom and liberty, or we are not. This is the most important election of our lifetimes. Choose wisely.

Kurt Bardella is a senior adviser for The Lincoln Project and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. He was the spokesperson and senior adviser for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans from 2009-13. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella

A vote for Biden is a vote for Washington as usual: Rachel Bovard

A vote for Biden is a vote to return to “normal,” so I am told. But consider what “normal” used to look like: a new war or several every couple of months, an FBI weaponized against the incumbent’s political opponents, trade policies that allowed China to stomp all over middle America, and an immigration system prioritizing cheap foreign labor over American talent.

The Trump administration hasn’t been perfect. But it has spectacularly upended the Washington uniparty consensus that made Biden’s “normal” possible. Because of Trump, The Interests no longer get carte blanche to buy the rules that govern us. Big Pharma can no longer fleece seniors in Medicare Part B. The Big Tech overlords are on notice. We are no longer economic patsies to China and subject to Iranian lies about their “peace deal compliance.” Big corporations have been stripped of their power to rig the immigration system. There have been a record three peace deals in the Middle East. The criminal justice system saw major equitable reform. Trump is the first president who hasn’t taken us into war since the Carter administration.

After this year, we all want a return to normal. But if the choice is between Biden’s normal — a return to the Washington uniparty with a side serving of woke political inquisition — and four more years of upending The Interests, I’ll take Trump.

Rachel Bovard is the senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute. She is co-author of “Conservative: Knowing What to Keep,” with former Sen. Jim DeMint and a member of USA TODAY’s board of contributors. Follow her on Twitter: @RachelBovard

Donald Trump will rebuild economy: Brett M. Decker

Americans need to reelect Donald Trump to protect our energy industry and get the economy moving again.

Democrat Joe Biden stated in the Oct. 22 presidential debate that he would push the economy away from oil as an energy source. His campaign tried to backtrack on his pledge, and Biden’s energy stance flip-flops depending on the audience, but both Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, promised to ban natural-gas fracking during the Democratic primaries.

Energy is too vital to a healthy economy for there to be such confusion about a presidential candidate’s position. In 2019, 80% of U.S. energy production came from fossil fuels, which include oil, natural gas and coal. Our modes of transportation are fueled 91% by petroleum.

The stock market dipped last week partly in reaction to reports of a new COVID-19 surge, but Wall Street’s downward movement also followed Biden’s worrisome comments about interfering with our nation’s energy supply. The world’s largest economy can’t risk underpowering its engines of growth when it is trying to rebuild from a pandemic-caused recession.

Few things bring Americans together more than good financial times. Before the coronavirus struck, the booming economy — triggered by Republican tax and regulatory cuts — delivered the lowest unemployment in generations, including the lowest ever jobless rate for African Americans and Hispanics. The same policies will reenergize the economy in a second Trump term.

Brett M. Decker, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is a former editor for The Wall Street Journal and co-author of “The Conservative Case for Trump.” Follow him on Twitter: @BrettMDecker

Biden believes in science, decency: Ellis Cose

Joe Biden’s most relevant feature is that he isn’t Donald Trump. That he believes in decency and science is a bonus. That he would aggressively fight COVID-19 is a godsend.

Philosopher Noam Chomsky calls Trump the “worst criminal in human history.” That sounds hyperbolic, but Chomsky’s reasoning is compelling. Has anyone else “dedicated his efforts to undermining the prospects for survival of organized human life on earth?” asks Chomsky.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared COVID-19 deaths in the United States to those in other countries. America would have had 117,622 fewer deaths had it replicated Canada’s experience and 187,661 fewer had it mirrored Australia’s. But Trump has congratulated himself on doing “a very good job” with COVID-19 and couldn’t imagine doing anything more. Last week, his son and namesake dismissed America’s COVID-19 deaths as “almost nothing.”

Few Americans see over 231,000 deaths as almost nothing. Biden is fed up with that callous attitude (not just toward people dying of COVID-19 but toward refugee children and American troops), which is the essence of his powerful closing argument. God help us if it isn’t enough.

Ellis Cose, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is author of “The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America,” and “Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU’s 100 Year Fight for Rights in America,” both published this year. Follow him on Twitter: @EllisCose

Biden because our future is at stake: Sally Kohn

It’s fitting that this election falls right after Halloween, because Trump’s presidency has been scary for so many of us. Scary for the over 9 million Americans who have contracted COVID-19 and the over 231,000 Americans who have died. Scary for the 12 million Americans who are unemployed in an out-of-control economic crisis because the president failed to control the virus. Scary for the thousands of migrant families separated at the border and the 545 children still not reunited with their families. Scary for Black and brown Americans who have watched as white supremacists have become emboldened in our nation, coddled by the president. 

Joe Biden is not the hero in this story — we are.  We, the people, who can stand up for equality and justice and basic decency by voting for a better path forward, for all of us. Trump is the most unpopular president in modern history. It is also up to us to make sure every single vote is counted. Because the presidency isn’t just at stake — our future is at stake. And all of our voices — and all of our votes — matter in deciding that future.   

Sally Kohn, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is the author of “The Opposite Of Hate: A Field Guide To Repairing Our Humanity.” You can find her online at sallykohn.com and on Twitter: @SallyKohn 

Biden will listen to scientists: Dr. Thomas Ken Lew

The COVID-19 pandemic has become the single most important public health issue in the world. While morbidity and mortality was inevitable, it is possible that hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved with the right messaging, policies and leadership. However, this administration has ignored the majority of health experts on mandating masks, encouraging social distancing and, indeed, even acknowledging the seriousness of this contagious and often fatal virus. Joe Biden was right: This in itself should be disqualifying to lead our great nation.

Biden does not scoff at science but says he will use data and listen to medical experts. Meanwhile, our current president seems to support a plan akin to natural “herd immunity,” which has been widely debunked and will not work without causing the death toll from COVID-19 to swell even higher.

Aside from the myriad other issues with this administration — division of our citizens, immigration and human rights abuses, economic and health policies that do not protect the vulnerable — the pandemic response from Trump makes clear who would lead our nation to a healthier future: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 

Dr. Thomas Ken Lew, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is a hospital physician and assistant clinical professor of Medicine in California. All opinions are his own. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasLewMD

Trump made our problems worse: Michael Medved

At his boisterous rallies, President Trump’s admirers love to chant, “Four More Years!” But why should sincere patriots demand more of this? America has been staggering through a dark passage of polarization, pandemic and paralysis. President Trump didn’t create these problems, but he has made them far worse than they need to be.

Anger and anxiety spawn demented conspiracy theories along with a collapse of confidence in American institutions. Gallup reports only 28% who say they “feel satisfied with the way things are going,” but Team Trump offers more of the same.

On the other hand, Biden’s tightly focused campaign promises to handle COVID-19 more consistently and to unify our fractured populace. I’m not sure he’ll succeed, but I’m certain Trump won’t even try.

Trump’s party — a party I’ve loyally supported for 40 years — failed to offer a 2020 platform, with no second-term agenda beyond unquestioning allegiance to a presidential personality cult. A leader who can’t coordinate his own Cabinet or White House staff, with former aides regularly denouncing his impetuous incompetence, can’t unite the country. My vote for Biden offers at least some hope for restoration of “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Michael Medved, a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, hosts a daily radio talk show and is author, most recently, of “God’s Hand On America: Divine Providence in the Modern Era.” Follow him on Twitter: @MedvedSHOW

Trump made us better off: James S. Robbins

By all traditional policy metrics, Donald Trump’s reelection should be certain. Defying “expert” predictions, Trump’s first term brought increased economic growth, record numbers of jobs especially for women and minorities, higher average incomes and a booming stock market that surged value into 401ks and pension funds. Trump has also vowed to lower health care costs, Medicare premiums and prescription drug costs. Four more years of tax cuts, deregulation and fair-trade policies, particularly concerning China, will keep this economic engine running.

Trump’s pragmatic foreign and defense policies increased U.S. military strength and credibility. He smashed the Islamic State terrorist caliphate, pushed back against expanding Iranian influence and began winding down America’s endless foreign wars. His steadfast support for Israel, including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, led directly to historic peace deals in the Middle East. Trump’s smart energy policies have made the United States energy independent, creating jobs, lowering fuel costs, yet decreasing carbon emissions to the lowest level since 1993.

The alternative is bleak. Joe Biden is a cipher, a placeholder candidate for angry Democrats using the politicized pandemic to push endless lockdowns, and touting radical progressive policies that would kill economic growth and damage constitutional government. Gallup’s quadrennial preelection poll shows 56% say they are better off now than they were four years ago, the highest percentage since the question has been asked. The answer to that question guaranteed President Ronald Reagan’s reelection, and it should do the same for Trump.

James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of “This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive,” has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and served as a special assistant in the office of the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins

Trump has been a nightmare for the Latino community: Raul A. Reyes

Donald Trump has been a nightmare for the Latino community. His divisive rhetoric, which began on the first day of his 2016 campaign, inspired the massacre in El Paso, Texas. He abandoned Puerto Rico when the island was hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and the tragic consequences of his family separations policy continue to this day. Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus has resulted in Latinos and people of color being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. And he has appointed Supreme Court justices who cannot be counted on to protect Latinos’ civil and constitutional rights.  

In contrast, Joe Biden wants to make the American dream accessible to all. He has pledged to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions of Latinos gain health care coverage. He recognizes the existence of systemic racism in our society. He intends to make immigration reform a priority, and to assemble a task force to reunite separated migrant children with their families. Not only has Biden selected a running mate who is broadly popular with Latinos, he has conducted his campaign with dignity, decency and a seriousness of purpose that Trump lacks. Biden can help heal our divided country — and deserves to be president. 

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes

Be respectful no matter who wins: Kristin Clark Taylor

Our nation has unraveled down to a single, sorry thread; very little fabric remains. We’re wrung out. Warn-torn. Battle-weary. Call me wishy-washy. Criticize me for not doing exactly what I was asked to do, which was to offer my best closing argument for the candidate who belongs in the White House. I have a reason.

Here’s the thing: We all belong to each other. Apologies for being blunt, but blunt I must be. Vote for whomever the hell you want to vote for. Just vote. Then let’s come together and elevate ourselves above all of this dumb darkness. I’ve always been afraid of the dark, but never as afraid as I am today. We’re stumbling around like fools, not even realizing that each of us holds a match. Ignite your match — but casting your vote is only the first part of the process.

No matter who wins the White House, keep that match burning brightly. Hold it up high. Don’t retreat to your individual, partisan corners. We don’t have time for all that. We must act like the responsible, compassionate, respectful adults our mamas raised us to be … no matter who wins the White House.

My closing argument, since I was asked to share one, is this: Exercise your right, your privilege, your duty to vote. Light your match. But keep it lit long after you’ve left the voting booth. This flame must take us into these next, new days, because this is where our children and our grandchildren and our future children all live. This is the elevated perspective we must live by. If we don’t let love win, we’ve all lost. Act right.

Kristin Clark Taylor, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is an author and a journalist. Reach her at WriterKristinTaylor@gmail.com. 

The Case for Joe Biden: Stacy Torres 

“I can’t breathe” is 2020’s rallying cry. Joe Biden represents our best chance to address the conditions choking us, from COVID-19 to police violence.

In my closing argument, I focus on our environment and collective health.

“California is America fast-forward,” writes sociologist Manuel Pastor. I offer this dispatch from your dystopian future, if we don’t address the climate emergency. This isn’t a cautionary tale about left-leaning states but a preview of crises exploding across the country, such as climate change and environmental rollbacks, which have converged in the West to burn millions of acres, destroy countless homes and lives, and create the worst air quality in the world

The 1930s Dust Bowl displaced millions. Thousands fled to California from states such as Oklahoma. With record-setting wildfires, storms and floods sweeping the country, today’s climate refugees are running out of safe places to flee. 

Trump has systematically dismantled environmental protections, sacrificing the health of our environment to business interests. The young must inherit this decaying world, and the old face the greatest vulnerability to environmental disaster. All generations suffer.

I love reading sci-fi but not living it. If you vote like your life depends on it, the only reasonable choice is Joe Biden.

Stacy Torres is an assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at University of California, San Francisco and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors

Two bad candidates: Ruben Navarrette

Regrettably, my presidential pick is “None of the Above.”

President Trump divided Americans, insulted Mexicans, turned away refugees, alienated allies, coarsened our culture, crippled farmers through a trade war, made people comfortable with prejudice and failed COVID-19. Even after four years as president, he still doesn’t understand that the occupant serves the office, the office doesn’t serve the person. He vowed to make America great again, but he left America worse than he found her. In October 2015, Trump told CNN: “I will be a great unifier.” Instead, his presidency was a big mistake.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has nearly a half-century in politics. Biden 2020 — who supports Black Lives Matter and worries about how African Americans fare in the criminal justice system — wouldn’t much like Biden 1994 who, as a senator, co-sponsored a notorious crime bill that sought to protect white people from Black people through mass incarceration. As vice president, he stood by as President Barack Obama deported 3 million people, separated families, put kids in cages — and then, when confronted by Latinos over that record, told them to “go vote for Trump.”

A Latina friend who hates Trump told me that voting for Biden made her feel “dirty.” We need better candidates. Let’s make America clean again.

Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and founder & CEO of the Navarrette Sonic Podcast Network. Follow him on Twitter: @RubenNavarrette

Vote for the better man: Tom Nichols

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’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.

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

A vote for Trump is a vote for freedom: Dr. Ben Carson

Before the pandemic hit, African American unemployment was at an all-time low, jobs were plentiful and the economy was booming. This doesn’t just happen out of thin air or due to empty speeches by former politicians. It happens through brave leadership. It happens because we have a leader with courage who stands up to give a voice to those who have been forgotten for far too long. It happens because we have a strong leader who takes decisive action when others before him only made empty promises.

Trump is that courageous leader who keeps his promises — economic prosperity, religious freedom and common sense in the courts.

This president focused on historically black colleges and universities, achieved prison reform and prioritized investment in vulnerable neighborhoods.

Trump isn’t a politician — we certainly know exactly what he’s thinking, which makes him highly effective for the American people, and a threat to the Washington swamp.

Americans deserve freedom — meaning reduced government regulation, a less biased media and more opportunity for prosperity. A vote for Trump is a vote for freedom.

Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, is secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He wrote this column in his personal capacity. 

Trump doesn’t deserve your loyalty: Jennifer Horn

I have lost track of how many times during the last election that other state chairs and Republican National Committee members came to me, the party chair in the first primary state, for reassurance that Trump couldn’t really win the nomination. “You guys will stop him in New Hampshire, right?” they would say to me at meetings. “What is happening to our party that voters are actually choosing this guy?” they would lament.

But they never recognized their own responsibility for the decline of our party, simply unwilling to consider the possibility that their pursuit of power above principle, and their loyalty to party over country, was fueling Trump’s takeover of the GOP.

History will not judge kindly those who cower in silence. When America’s children study the Trump era, they will ask us where we stood, and what we did, to help right what was wrong in our time.

I do not argue that Joe Biden will be a conservative president, but I do suggest that he will return decency to the Oval Office, that he will right many of the most egregious wrongs of this administration, and that he will put the safety and well-being of the American people above himself.

Jennifer Horn, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, is a co-founder of The Lincoln Project. Follow her on Twitter: @NHJennifer

A Republican’s reasons for voting for Biden: Cindy McCain

As a proud, lifelong Republican I have done my share of campaigning for our party’s candidates. My decision to endorse Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was not taken lightly, and I owe it to my fellow Republicans to explain why I’m convinced he is the best choice on this year’s ballot to lead the nation as president of the United States. 

My husband believed in straight talk and country first. So do I. Joe Biden is the right choice to be president at this pivotal time in the country’s history. He is a patriot who believes passionately in America and the principles and values that make it great. He will be a leader whom all Americans can count on to put country above party, patriotism above partisanship, and national interest ahead of his own. Most important, Joe will unite a deeply divided country and bring together all Americans to address and overcome the great challenges we face. 

I can vouch for these qualifications because I have known him for four decades. He will have the vote of this proud Republican on Tuesday.  

Cindy McCain, whose late husband, Sen. John McCain, was the 2008 Republican nominee for president, is chair of the board of trustees of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University. Follow her on Twitter: @cindymccain

Speaking out on politics: Edwina Sandys 

My grandfather did not mince words about the Nazi threat — or say something like, “Hitler will be gone — disappear — like a miracle!” He trusted people with the truth, even when difficult. No! Winston Churchill did not promise the British people a rose garden. What he actually said when he became prime minister in World War II was, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” 

Strong leaders are enlightened, not cowed, by knowledge of science. My grandfather was born before automobiles, radio and penicillin. He was fascinated by science. During the war, he kept his friend and adviser, professor Frederick Lindemann (“The Prof”) close by him to keep up with the latest scientific inventions. Where would Trump be without science? No INTERNET! No TWEETS! No topnotch medical treatment! It is shocking that a man who pooh-poohs science has his finger on the nuclear button! 

I rarely wade into the political waters, but this year, at this moment, I am joining Republicans and Independents for Biden, an affiliate of the Lincoln Project. 

Edwina Sandys, a sculptor, painter and U.S. citizen, is Winston Churchill’s granddaughter.

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