A Hope of Unity

From Aug. 17 to Aug. 20, the Democrats made the candidacies of Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, official for November’s election. The party’s convention at times took on the feel of an infomercial because it resorted to the use of prerecorded messages from its major figures. The convention was no less effective this way, as it allowed the party to paint a picture of what is at stake: democracy itself.

If the Democratic Convention had a unifying theme, it was definitely the hope that the United States can rediscover its momentum on the national and international scale by drawing on the talent of its citizens of all origins, out of respect for their right to equality and dignity. There was something refreshing in the candidates’ speeches: They refuse to let their country be reduced to the sum of its differences.

The Biden-Harris ticket carries a unifying political message, unlike the outgoing president. Donald Trump has not “come to feel the weight of the office” and “has shown no interest in putting in the work, no interest in finding common ground,” as Barack Obama put it. His own interests and those of people in his inner circle, like his insatiable ego, come first – even before the democratic institutions and the citizens that he is supposed to protect.

Alongside the Democratic Convention, the Senate Intelligence Committee has published a damning report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The bipartisan committee goes even farther than Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Russia succeeded in its plan to sabotage the 2016 election thanks toTrump’s immorality and that of his cronies. The Trump campaign maintained close ties to representatives of Vladimir Putin’s government, resolved to get a ridiculous buffoon elected to the White House.

Trump has always minimized his ties to Russia, deploring a shocking “witch hunt” multiple times. In reality, Trump campaign officials accepted an offer of mutual aid from a foreign power. They secretly sent sensitive voter information to the Russians. They coordinated the release of troubling information showing that the Democratic National Committee was biased in favor of Hillary Clinton and against her disappointed rival, Bernie Sanders, information that Russian agents had obtained illegally after hacking the party’s servers. The Republican-led committee finally admits that Trump committed perjury in a statement to Mueller by incorrectly stating that he had not discussed a leak of documents belonging to the Democratic campaign with his adviser, Roger Stone. It appears to be a case of collusion, the Democratic minority has concluded. The Republican majority denies this allegation, emphasizing that there was no tacit agreement between Russian officials and those of the Trump campaign. This is a very weak line of defense.

American intelligence officials have also issued warnings about Russia’s intentions to interfere once again in the 2020 election. On Twitter, Trump spews out the venom of misinformation about Biden without the slightest pangs of conscience. He has become a slave-like spokesman of Russian propaganda, deplores Mark Warner, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

All these troubling revelations have passed like a star in the firmament of the news. Fatigue when it comes to Trump’s mischief and the public health crisis that has killed more than 173,000 Americans certainly has something to do with it. The accumulation of Trump’s ethical missteps has worn down the public’s capacity for indignation, against a backdrop of polarization and social division.

The demarcation lines between the Democratic and Republican camps are more solidified than ever. Most voters have made up their minds between Trump and Biden; the number of undecided voters has fallen dramatically (between 12% and 16% of the electorate, according to polls) and a handful of key states could tip the scales once again this year.

All through the Democratic Convention, big names past and present emphasized the importance of voting and of encouraging others to vote in order to save American democracy. One can imagine how worried they are about low turnout among Black and Latino voters due to cynicism and weariness, a sign of lost confidence in democracy that is advantageous for Trump.

Biden is going to need all the votes he can get. Not only is he contending with a warped and twisted adversary who is a compulsive liar and a demagogue, but also a shameless foreign power that is working for Trump’s reelection, all within an electoral system tainted by voter suppression tactics and the injustices generated by the outdated Electoral College.

The hope of unity that Biden’s campaign arouses is invaluable but quite fragile when faced with Trump’s demolition of democratic institutions.

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