Next week’s presidential election will likely be the most important in our lifetimes, and perhaps the history of the United States. Over the last four years, we’ve seen a presidential administration plagued by corruption, incompetence, bigotry and racism, and as a result our country has suffered. There are endless ways to quantify the failures of the Trump administration, whether it be in the more than 228,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus, the millions of acres burned in wildfires across the West Coast, the thousands of victims of police brutality or the hundreds of immigrant children separated from their families at the border. But as we approach Election Day, it is important to recognize how Trump has been unable to perform the most fundamental role of being president: acting presidential.
The president holds considerable power in shaping institutions, such as the Supreme Court, and has the ability to influence policy by either vetoing or signing bills into law. However, another important task of the president is to represent the United States to the rest of the world. A president should be intelligent, thoughtful and professional. Trump is none of these things. I would argue that Trump represents America about as well as Ryan Lochte did at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
All presidents make mistakes and misspeak on occasion. The Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, has had his slip-ups, such as when he mistakenly said that two million Americans have died of the coronavirus instead of 200,000. But with Trump it’s not one thing — it’s everything. It’s the Twitter attacks on Rosie O’Donnell, the ridiculing of the disabled and the blatant racism (“very fine people on both sides,” “bad hombres,” the list goes on). It’s his inarticulate speech, poor grammar, poor spelling (“covfefe,” etc.) and complete inability to make a cogent point under any circumstance.
The public behavior of the president matters. When it comes to international diplomacy, the demeanor of a nation’s leader speaks to the integrity of their country. Peace talks, trade negotiations and any forms of international collaboration that the United States engages in are less likely to be successful when the president isn’t respected. The United States has historically been a leader among nations, but over the last four years it has lost its pull. In the midst of a global crisis, nations are no longer looking to the United States for help or guidance, and Trump is responsible.
It is not just other countries that have stopped looking to the American president in time of need: The American people have as well. Trump’s denial of science, disparagement of mask wearing and social distancing and constant Twitter feuds with public health experts have made Americans unsure of who they can look to for guidance in a pandemic. Furthermore, in a year when America has had to reckon with its long history of racial oppression, President Trump’s public comments have only brought the country further from resolution. Trump is not the first president who has failed to address the inadequacies in the policing and criminal justice systems, but his outwardly racist remarks and the division they exacerbate are a unique failure in recent American history.
With the election just days away, it’s crucial to acknowledge how Trump has failed to be a leader, and how Joe Biden will not make the same mistakes. Joe Biden is respectful and composed. He doesn’t dabble in the rhetoric of white supremacists, nor does he publicly degrade women or members of any marginalized group. The nuances of Biden’s policy proposals can be endlessly dissected, but one doesn’t need to possess a firm understanding of policy to make the right decision on the ballot. It doesn’t take a political scientist to tell you that the way in which Trump carries himself is not becoming of a president, and, while there are undeniably some valid criticisms of Biden, he has proven that he will not be an embarrassment to the office and to the American people.