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2020: The deaths election

In a cruel and bizarre way, the presidential election this year is about death: mass death by pandemic, public death by police action, violent street death, lack of access to lifesaving health care, the death penalty, abortion deaths — and who is likely to help us save ourselves.

So much of what we are experiencing as a society is about fatalities. We count the number of pandemic deaths, we witness the public executions of Black men by law enforcement, deadly violence is up in major cities. People lack or may be about to lose access to health insurance, both because the flaws in the Affordable Care Act have not been fixed and because the Supreme Court is considering challenges to the law from the Trump administration and some states. The federal government is carrying out the death penalty with increasing frequency. Abortion deaths so disturb many voters that they will make it a sole reason to pick or reject a candidate.

The American people are not in need of a savior or a strongman. They need an administration that follows the Constitution in doing its job. The United States is presupposed on the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We all know we are not happy right now. In 2020, both happiness and the liberty of many Americans are tied up tightly with the right to live.

Tuesday night's appalling, undignified presidential debate examined these critical topics poorly or not at all. There was not enough time after the yelling for issues of life and death, or even for a sign that they matter. It was as if the message is this: Not only do Black lives not matter. No lives matter. 


That attitude spits on constitutional rights and the presidential oath of office. In light of the announcement that President and Mrs. Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, people in power should be feeling what every victim and family must feel: Will this administration have their backs when death comes nosing around? And worse: Pre-existing condition? Sorry.

As long as this pandemic builds, as long as people flout the proven ways to avoid infection, and carry that exposure around with them, death is much closer for more Americans than it would otherwise be. The families of those 200,000-plus virus victims know that their loved ones went before their time. 

Fears for the future are even greater for Black families, who have disproportionately lost members to COVID-19 and, as always, to violence. So alarmed are religious leaders that 45 clergy, Black and white, have called for 40 days of fasting and prayer "for justice, mercy and a fair and safe election." Some of them are calling this "a life and death election."

The vital point is that there is an election. The greatness of democracy is that there is always reason for hope. The Constitution establishes three branches of government intended to balance one another. Balance creates stability. Stability encourages opportunity. Opportunity spawns hope. 

To get back social stability, economic opportunity and hope for the future, the nation needs to get its balance back. Congress, the courts and the executive branch do know how to work through disputes and different policies as they have for more than 200 years. But as we have learned in the most painful ways, that work can be derailed by partisanship that disregards Americans' wellbeing. Stalemate is not balance; chronic injustice is not stability; deaths destroy any opportunity at all.

Vote as if your life depends upon it.

Lisa McGinley is a retired deputy managing editor of The Day and a member of its editorial board.



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