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Politics in the Positive

Earlier this week, I read The Atlantic’s rare endorsement in this year’s presidential election. More specifically, it had written an anti-endorsement of President Donald Trump as a follow-up of its 2016 anti-endorsement of same.

“What we have learned since we published that editorial is that we understated our case,” wrote Jeffrey Goldberg on behalf of the editors of that magazine. “Donald Trump is the worst president this country has seen since Andrew Johnson, or perhaps James Buchanan, or perhaps ever.”

What follows is a lucid case against a man whose transgressions are almost too numerous to count, and on whose watch a staggering 225,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Goldberg’s case, however, fell flat. After all, name a person of voting age and sound mind who hasn’t yet made up their mind about Donald Trump. But it’s also telling that one of the leading news magazines in America has approached its readers not with a recommendation, but with an anti-recommendation.

In the last four years, I’ve seen a woman rip the head off a cardboard cutout of the president and take a bite out of it at a protest of Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS confirmation hearings. People have told me that they showed up armed to counter-Black Lives Matter demonstrations hoping that the police will “tag them in” if things got out of hand. These are the behaviors of people who are unhappy and dissatisfied with how things are going, and they’re on both sides of the proverbial aisle.

I think they feel this way because they believe America is under attack. The enemy is a riot of dripping fangs and rage directed at the places and people you love. It’s a siege, and over time, it has made people desperate, outrageous and unfair. Worse still, so preoccupied are we with what we don’t want that we’ve lost sight of what we do.

Election day is a time to ask yourself what you really want out of politics. In his editorial, Goldberg does get around to saying that the editors of The Atlantic favor Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden; but in the main his piece shares the appeal of such rallying cries as “owning the libs” and “vote him out”: it rebukes rather than affirms, rejects rather than embraces. I have always viewed aspiration as a source of personal and civic strength, and though I myself have already cast my ballot, I hope you’ll join me on Nov. 3 to honor those votes cast for something rather than against it.

—Harrison Berry, Editor

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