Last night I live-tweeted the first presidential debate.
I still don’t know why I did it.
Here are the cliff notes in case you missed it: Biden is a poor speaker and his ideas are a little better than mediocre. His position on racism is not adequate. He gets frustrated and says “shut up, will ya?” but is otherwise a personable old codger. He seems to genuinely love his wife and children. Trump, on the other hand, is an overt white supremacist who is a horrendous speaker, he has no ideas whatsoever, he’s obsessed with conspiracy theories, and he doesn’t know how to wait his turn. He’s notably much further off the wall than he was at the notorious 2016 debates.
I understand that Biden has a stutter, but that was barely apparent in last night’s debate and it’s not what I’m talking about when I say he’s a poor speaker. He’s just not good on camera. The former vice president has two tones of voice on display, a gentle pleading one and an angry one. He uses platitudes too often and tends to leave sentences unfinished. He remembers to look at the camera but his gestures are wooden. As far as his content, he hit all the expected notes for a moderate Democrat who might have been a Republican thirty years ago. This doesn’t electrify me in any way. He’s the presidential candidate that came with the frame.
Trump, on the other hand, was deranged. He did not seem to have any notion of how a debate worked. He was incapable of letting Biden speak for the allotted two minutes uninterrupted even once. He slouched and lolled at the podium and sweated heavily until his face took on the sheen of a glazed doughnut. He even tried to argue with and correct the moderator instead of answering questions. He didn’t look at the camera but barked his answers at Biden himself. The president repeated debunked conspiracy theories and also seemed to make up some new ones of his own. He claimed that he’d paid “millions of dollars in taxes” but refused to provide any evidence except a strange command to “go to the board of elections.” He kept asking Biden why he didn’t reverse the tax cuts that were enacted in 2017 or abide by the Paris Agreement that was opened in 2016, “forty-seven years ago.” And he claimed, falsely, that Biden is against “law and order.”
When asked about race, Biden mumbled the expected platitudes and I don’t think that was nearly enough. He suggested allotting money to send mental health professionals to a 911 call, which is something. Trump, on the other hand, was asked to denounce white supremacism and refused to do so. Instead, he chose to give a message to the Proud Boys, a violent self-described “Western chauvanist” organization: “stand back and stand by.”
Rosie came to sit with me toward the end of the debate, and howled with laughter whenever the president ranted about Hillary Clinton organizing a coup or conspiracy theories about mail-in ballots. We both laughed at his bizarre notions of the trees in Europe being more flammable than the ones in America, or that Biden’s milquetoast plans to mitigate climate change would tear down buildings and “take care of the cows, too.” I would like to see “Vote for Biden: He’ll take care of the cows, too!” on a t-shirt.
I giggled at the thought that anyone would think Biden had anything to do with “the radical left.”
But I did not laugh at Trump’s constant interrupting, yelling, and randomly making up accusations against people. I cringed at his cold hand-holding with Melania while Biden affectionately hugged his wife at the end. His abusive behavior made me sick.
And now, this afternoon, he’s on Twitter ranting about the “HIGHEST CABLE TELEVISION RATINGS OF ALL TIME” as if that were his job. He truly seems to not understand that he is supposed to be governing rather than creating chaos.
The debate was a cacophonous nightmare and an embarrassment, but the embarrassment wasn’t equally shared by both sides. Biden is an unelectrifying centrist politician and I don’t like those. Trump is delusional, manic, a white supremacist and a textbook abuser. They are not the same.
There is one other thing I want to point out, as a pro-life Catholic writing for the Patheos Catholic channel and one known for my criticism of figureheads in the pro-life movement. Roe versus Wade was only mentioned once in the entire debate, not by Trump but by Biden. And when it was, Trump vehemently denied that it was in jeopardy. He was offended that Biden would even bring it up. “Roe versus Wade is not on the ballot. There’s nothing happening there.”
In 2016 I was told again and again that the election was all about abortion– specifically, about reversing Roe Versus Wade which would make abortion never happen again. Never mind that abortion was legal in twenty states plus the military and available in every state in practice before Roe, or that people have been obtaining abortions since at least ancient Egypt. Reversing Roe was the only answer to the abortion question. Radical Hillary Clinton had an “abortion agenda” and was going to slaughter countless unborn babies, so we had to vote for Trump. I protested that this wasn’t logical because Trump was obviously lying about his newfound opposition to abortion, but was shouted down and called a “pro-abort.” Since then we’ve seen that Trump has not driven the abortion rate down. Planned Parenthood has reported its best year ever under Trump in 2019.
And now, Trump has let slip again that he doesn’t want to reverse Roe Versus Wade in the first place.
Yet I’m still seeing sermons and the like, claiming that I’d be in mortal sin if I pulled the lever for someone other than Trump.
I refuse to put up with this spiritual abuse anymore.
My faith, my belief in the personhood of unborn children, and my valuing life from conception until natural death, do not demand that I lay aside all of my common sense. Quite the contrary. I’m not only allowed to apply reason and prudence to my decision-making, inside and out of the voting booth, but I ought to and it would be immoral not to. It’s not a sin to point out a fraud when I see one.
There is no pro-life candidate this year. There is not even a candidate I like this year. Biden will continue to allow legal abortion and is honest about that, but I don’t believe that his other policies will do anything to jack up abortion rates by driving women to further desperation. He stands a chance to save a few lives, though not enough, by mitigating environmental destruction, by expanding the Affordable Care Act, and by at least trying to talk about police violence. Trump is not pro-life either, but he’s bilking gullible Christians by occasionally claiming to be in between conspiracy theories. It’s a transparent lie. Under him, actual abortion rates, at least at Planned Parenthood, have gone up. Besides that, he’s a white supremacist, an abusive bully, and suffering from a mental breakdown before our eyes. It would be grotesquely inappropriate to trust him with another four years.
To me, there’s no good option but there is a less bad one: I’m voting for the one who isn’t as dangerous, in order to save unborn babies as well as every other sort of human being. I’m doing it with a clean conscience. There is nothing against our Catholic faith, about voting for the least dangerous of two unsuitable candidates, particularly if one of them is completely out of his mind.
It’s not a sin to vote against someone this far beyond the pale. I think that it’s deeply sinful to manipulate someone’s conscience into thinking they have to. No one is morally obligated to believe a lie or to put their trust in a scammer for the sake of a pipe dream. Our duty as Christians is to love God and Neighbor, not to put blind trust in political idols like Donald Trump.
I’m insulted to even have to say that, but since it seems to be in question, here I am.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.
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