The US elections: A morality play?
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - September 1, 2020 - 12:00am

The 2020 US elections is getting much interest and importance globally due to its greater impact to many countries and to the world. In geo-politics, especially in relation to China and the Middle East, in the world economy, in the area of trade and finance, the US presidency and policies will affect many countries. The consequent government ideology, governance and morality will have far-reaching implications domestically and internationally. This includes the over seven million Filipinos in the US and their relatives in the Philippines and other parts of the world.

“Morality plays” is a description of popular dramas in the 16th century wherein the protagonists usually represent humanity or portions of society and the characters are various representations of good and evil. Justice and equity are recurring themes, and the play, “Everyman” and “Macbeth” are examples which provide moral guidance and poetic justice. In this time of the COVID pandemic, when most people, in their altered and quarantined lives, have reassessed their values and morals, our life stories and life itself are morality plays.

After the Democratic and Republican conventions in the last two weeks, the campaign themes of both parties are getting clearer and it is shaping like a morality play. Biden and the Democrats are stressing the moral, mental and intellectual incompetence of Trump, and unfitness for the presidency after his four years in office. His untruthful, abusive and divisive inclinations, disregard for fairness and equity in his exercise of power in promoting self-interest were substantiated by events in the domestic and foreign initiatives. His materialism and flawed character are demonstrated by documented family conflicts with close relatives. These accusations are very damaging, that the Republican Party strategists are trying to reframe the issues away from the Trump character/persona and divert the issue to his achievements in the past four years in the area of the economy and the peacekeeping in the Middle East. While the US economy and employment were good in 2018 and 2019, the COVID pandemic has shattered these positives, and the US is going into the election with an enormous health and economic crisis.

The Democrats are presenting Biden as the moral, competent and rightful alternative for the US presidency. A solid family and social upbringing, steadfastness and decency in the face of personal tragedies, political record of integrity and fairness, with a Christian belief and morality. The Republican’s attack on Biden for his mental and physical frailty and age is not likely to demolish his character and may even evoke sympathy. This highlighting of the character differences between Biden and Trump makes this election into a morality play, as a good versus evil, choice and contest. The recent explosive issue of racism and the related violence in some US cities integrate into this morality issues in terms of justice for the racial minorities and vandalism in the streets.

History is replete with examples of regimes and countries in varying forms of democratic and authoritarian rulers. Successes and longevity of these regimes depended less on the severity, cruelty and control of their citizens, but on the justice and prosperity to the large majority of the people. Rulers who use fear to govern are also in fear of the governed. Truth and justice are essential elements in successful and progressive societies and nations. Regardless of who win in the US presidential election, this exercise has laid bare the alternative moral issues and democratic ideals needed by the United States of America and by many countries in the world.

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