The Atlantic: Two Questions to Ask when Casting Your Vote

(AP News)

The first publication of The Atlantic was printed and distributed in 1857 in Boston, Massachusetts. The magazine was identified as a literary and cultural commentary of leading writers on the subjects of the abolition of slavery, education, and other major contemporary issues. Its first editor was James Russell Lowe and its founder was Moses Dresser Phillips.

The origins of excellent literature have always been fascinating to me if not a favorite hobby. Literature perpetuates civilization and manifests a culture’s priorities and values. And thus, I find it to be invaluable as a means to understand people, wherever they live on the planet. I invite literary commentary from a wide range of writers who challenge my belief structure and cause me to consider other views and angles regarding society and life on planet earth. It’s the only way that I, a life-long student of humanity, can grow intellectually and maintain a sharp edge on my ever-expanding understanding of people and culture.

In announcing the idea for his new magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, which later became The Atlantic, Moses Dresser Phillips called a dinner party for a group of writers of great renown, people he termed, the most “conceded scholarship in the whole country.” Edward Everett Hale, in his book, James Russell Lowell and His Friends, recorded Phillips saying at that event, “Mr. Cabot is much wiser than I am. Dr. Holmes can write funnier verses than I can. Mr. Motley can write history better than I. Mr. Emerson is a philosopher and I am not. Mr. Lowell knows more of the old poets than I. But none of you knows the American people as well as I do.” Shortly after, his magazine was launched.

On October 22, The Atlantic published an editorial which endorsed Joe Biden in his run for president of the United States. It’s only the fourth time in The Atlantic’s storied history that they have felt compelled to endorse a particular candidate – Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon B. Johnson, Hillary Clinton, and now Biden. According to the editor, in Johnson’s and Clinton’s cases, it was more about their opponents than the stellar leadership package the candidates themselves presented.

But what I found most interesting about the endorsement, aside from the list of grievances the publication has with Trump – which I will address soon enough, are the two questions the magazine suggests voters ask in their determination who should lead the United States. The first question they suggest is: “…which candidate in a presidential contest is better equipped to guide the United States through a national-security crisis without triggering a nuclear exchange?” The second question is: “…which candidate is better equipped to interpret—within five or seven minutes—the ambiguous, complicated, and contradictory signals that could suggest an imminent nuclear attack?”

The process of answering those two questions could be seen as inherently ambiguous in nature and would rely heavily on a questioner’s background, experiences, and perhaps their personal environment. A person’s view of the world and their judgement of the character of any one person in the world is made up of many different points of input and experience. But objectively viewed, I argue the method in which a person presents themselves for office, their language, and their prior activities says a lot about them. Anyone who would refute that is likely lying or is extremely naïve. So, what happened during the 2016 election that propelled Donald J. Trump to the Whitehouse? The answer to that question is reflected in the electorate who voted for him.

In choosing whom to vote for, I like to look at a candidate’s past and peer into their life and livelihood before they broke onto the political scene. What did they do; what did they say; who were their associates and friends; how did they deal with adversity; how did they conduct themselves generally? Often, it’s not that easy to get good, accurate answers to those questions. But with Donald J. Trump, his personal public trail of greed, immorality, and self-aggrandizement, was well-defined long before he announced his presidential candidacy. Intuition, common sense, and maturity dictated in my mind that the man would never, ever be cast on any of my ballots – for anything, period. However, regardless my inclinations, I gave him the benefit of the doubt after he won in 2016 and was anxious to view what new things he would bring to the table as a non-traditional politician.

After his first year in office, I was fed up! Thus, the descriptions The Atlantic threw at Trump in their article resonated truth to me. I will not paraphrase so as to not lose the exact flavor and candor of their editorial. So here it is in its glory:

They said, “Trump has brought our country low; he has divided our people; he has pitted race against race; he has corrupted our democracy; he has shown contempt for American ideals; he has made cruelty a sacrament; he has provided comfort to propagators of hate; he has abandoned America’s allies; he has aligned himself with dictators; he has encouraged terrorism and mob violence; he has undermined the agencies and departments of government; he has despoiled the environment; he has opposed free speech; he has lied frenetically and evangelized for conspiracism; he has stolen children from their parents; he has made himself an advocate of a hostile foreign power; and he has failed to protect America from a ravaging virus. Trump is not responsible for all of the 220,000 COVID-19-related deaths in America. But through his avarice and ignorance and negligence and titanic incompetence, he has allowed tens of thousands of Americans to suffer and die, many alone, all needlessly. With each passing day, his presidency reaps more death. […] Compelling evidence suggests that his countless sins and defects are rooted in mental instability, pathological narcissism, and profound moral and cognitive impairment.” (The Atlantic)

I could not have said it better myself. I concur, Donald J. Trump is a clear and continuing danger to the United States, and the country would not be able to emerge whole from having him lead for another four years.     

Published by Jeff Hicks

I am a podcaster and author working and living in the Western United States.

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