This is a time for choosing

USA & World

This is a time for choosing

Mercifully, the finish line is approaching.

It has taken almost four years to get here. It has taken stamina and resilience. It has taken will and perseverance, too. It has required us to brave a long, black pall that has never seemed to lift – for more than a moment – to allow light or hope to seep through.

In slightly more than six weeks, we will learn whether that heavy, near-perpetual malaise will deepen or begin, finally, to be replaced by the faint prospect of better days, free of the daily, grinding indignities, insults and perversions of a malignant president, Donald Trump.

Of course, the outcome remains uncertain. While national polls continue to show Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, with a durable lead, some crucial state polls are beginning to reveal a tightening. Although anticipated, this phenomenon is alarming to those who wish, as I do, to be rid of this pestilential presidency.

That the verdict American voters will render on November 3 remains in doubt is testament to the rebar-sturdy support Trump still enjoys despite his profane temperament, manifest incompetence, corruption and congenital dishonesty.

The latest and fatal example of Trump’s insidious perfidy was his taped admission in February to journalist Bob Woodward that he knew COVID-19 was airborne, deadly and that the virus killed indiscriminately and efficiently.

And yet, the American president, predictably, buried the truth, claiming, instead, that the virus was a “hoax” as part of his dangerous, self-serving strategy to downplay knowingly its lethality, allegedly to avoid “panic”.

Even by Trump’s appalling standards, this lie, perhaps more than any other, has revealed his singularly malevolent nature. Trump knew the virus would likely kill a lot of people and he did little to stop it.

Worse, he encouraged – and still encourages – Americans to behave in ways that would – and will – heighten their chances of contracting and succumbing to the virus. Today, more than six million Americans have been infected, while close to 200,000 have died.

Despite his apocalyptic negligence, millions of Americans in all parts of America will vote for him come November. In the unhappy event that Trump shrinks the polling gap in key swing states further in the days ahead, it may be undecided voters who ultimately decide his, and by extension, our fates.

Given the entrenched and polarised nature of the US electorate, you may be surprised to learn that “undecided” voters exist. They do. Reportedly, there could be as many as 21 million would-be voters, waiting, apparently, to be moved or persuaded somehow, someway, at some time, to opt for Biden or Trump or neither of them.

In 2016, Trump eked out victories in states that polls on the eve of the presidential election suggested would pick Hillary Clinton largely because undecided voters broke late for him. That, combined with a depressingly low turnout – 55 percent of eligible voters – helped Trump win.

The same constellation of fortuitous circumstances – for Trump – could well happen again, resulting in the same giddy, although unexpected, outcome for him and the same demoralising and disastrous outcome for many of us.

Indeed, reading profiles and watching interviews of several “undecideds”, I felt a mixture of sympathy, bewilderment and anger at the rationales being offered up to explain the, at times, irresponsible dithering on repeated display.

Some “undecideds” insist that since America is more a plutocracy than a democracy; they are reluctant to participate in the pantomime by voting.

Others suggest that despite the rhetorical differences between Democrats and Republicans, a vote for either party is a vote for the status quo.

Neither party nor presidential candidate, in particular, is committed to truly challenging the fundamental structural centres of power and privilege that have made the poor poorer and the rich richer in America – hence their hesitancy to choose or to even cast a ballot, for that matter.

These arguments are not only reasonable, but also historically astute. In fact, in opinion columns for Al Jazeera, I have made the same case about the essential, indisputable role that money and entrenched power play in determining the mirror governing “principles” of the Democratic and Republican parties and, as a result, in perpetuating the social and racial inequalities and injustices endemic in American society.

So, while I appreciate and share the impulse to declare a pox on both discredited houses, this is an extraordinary time when we confront an extraordinary menace.

Trump is peculiarly sinister. The sinister instincts Trump not only embodies but enthusiastically encourages and foments must be defeated urgently and emphatically.

We know from the, by now, scores of testimonies of people who once worked for him – and, in some cases, were so devoutly loyal they went to prison for him – that he is unstable and unfit.

The most searing, and I suspect accurate, indictment of Trump’s defining character comes courtesy of his niece, Mary Trump. The psychologist says her uncle is a racist, bigot and a sociopath, who, by definition, is devoid of empathy and willing to sacrifice lives to satiate his narcissism and diseased ego.

“Donald is a very sick man,” she recently told MSNBC. “He’s never going to get better. He’s only going to get worse.”

Still, incredibly, there are “undecideds” who remain convinced that Trump can “get better” and, as such, they are considering voting for him again.

An undecided voter in suburban Minneapolis interviewed on CNN said she had only lately begun to “tune in” to politics again “to make up my own mind.”

This may account for her bizarre claim that Trump is not only capable of changing his ugly, pernicious modus operandi but could, with time and effort, transform himself into a “statesman”.

“What I would like for him is to show me that he can be that statesman,” she said. “I need him to show me that he can do this [the presidency] differently.”

This is not only delusional, but, as I alluded to earlier, almost criminally irresponsible.

Anyone remotely paying attention to the desecration of public discourse, the blatant racism and bigotry, the rampant, craven criminality, the overt endorsement of murderous right-wing vigilantes, and lunatic conspiracy theories that personify this loathsome administration could not and must not remain undecided.

Being a bystander, in this pressing context, can no longer suffice.

This is a moment for choosing between decency and indecency, between knowledge and ignorance, between empathy and viciousness, between tolerance and intolerance, between hope and hopelessness and, yes, between good and evil.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.