“At no time before has there been a clearer choice between two parties or two visions, two philosophies, two agendas for the future. There’s never been anything like this,” Trump said during the rally where he claimed he was “probably entitled” to a third term because he’s been so poorly treated. “The Democrats are trying to rig this election, because it’s the only way they’re gonna win,” he said.
At the 9/11 memorial service in New York City, the nation caught a glimpse of the spirit of bipartisanship that existed back in 2001 as it reeled from the terrorist attacks. Biden and Vice President Mike Pence exchanged an elbow bump as they passed one another, a rare moment of comity within a deeply polarized nation led by a President who continues to divide Americans and turn them against one another, even as the nation is gripped by crisis.
The anniversary led many to reflect on how dramatically different Trump’s leadership style is from virtually all of the recent presidents who came before him. It recalled the images of President George W. Bush climbing atop a pile of rubble in lower Manhattan with a bullhorn attempting to unify the nation and speak for it as he sent love and compassion to first-responders and those affected by the tragedy.
Division permeating American life
Trump’s rhetoric at his Saturday rally was emblematic of his political strategy since he began running for the presidency in 2015. But his embrace of division and discord now seems to have permeated every aspect of Americans’ lives, from football to the simple act of wearing a mask, while at the same time, he has tried to subjugate some of the most independent agencies of government to his political desires.
While the protests against police brutality have been predominantly peaceful, some of the most frightening confrontations have unfolded when Black Lives Matter demonstrators were confronted by far-right agitators and armed vigilantes who seemed to heed Trump’s calls to dominate the streets — with some likely emboldened by the President’s refusal to condemn the violence unless it was directed at his own supporters.
Undermining US institutions
Michael Caputo, the lead spokesman for HHS who is a former Trump campaign official, defended the practice in a statement to CNN by offering the unfounded conspiracy theory that the CDC is under attack by deep-state actors.
“Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic — not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC,” Caputo said.
“NORTH CAROLINA: To make sure your Ballot COUNTS, sign & send it in EARLY. When Polls open, go to your Polling Place to see if it was COUNTED. IF NOT, VOTE!” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Your signed Ballot will not count because your vote has been posted. Don’t let them illegally take your vote away from you!”
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein responded on Twitter with his own all-caps message: “Do NOT do what the President directs,” he wrote. “To make sure your ballot COUNTS, sign and send it in EARLY. Then track it ONLINE with BALLOTTRAX. Do NOT vote twice (it’s a felony).”
And in Nevada, Trump continued to undermine confidence in America’s election systems and mail-in-ballots, claiming that Democrats are “trying to rig this election” while simultaneously arguing that he should be able to “negotiate” for 12 years in the White House.
“We’re going to win four more years in the White House and then after that we’ll negotiate, right? Because …based on the way we were treated, we’re probably entitled to another four after that,” he said.
Because in Trump’s America, no institution, including democracy, is sacrosanct. He seems to think the rules don’t apply to him if they stand in the way of his political ambitions — even the 22nd Amendment, which bars the President from serving for more than two terms. And he seems willing to use whatever means necessary to bend them even if he further divides the nation in the process.