Did you see the presidential debate on Tuesday? Did you see the man-child at the podium who bullied his way through the whole 90 minutes? Did you get a load of his interruptions, harangues and lies?
Were you as embarrassed as we were?
We know you, Wisconsin. You’re our neighbor. We know how you were raised, and how you raise your kids. There’s a decency about you, a no-frills integrity that feels very Midwestern. We may have our differences, some even bigger than Bears versus Packers, but there’s a reason we keep driving up to share a beer with you. You’re good people.
We got to thinking about this, Wisconsin, while watching the debate. Donald Trump, it just seemed, is everything bad that you are not. We could not imagine how you, one of the swing states that will decide this election, could vote for him.
You tell your kids, just like we do, that character comes first. Yet Trump, let’s be blunt, is not just a bad president. He’s a miserable human being.
Trump doesn’t get Wisconsin
We get you, Wisconsin, in a way Trump clearly does not.
We know you must have been offended by the way he bulldozed the debate moderator, Chris Wallace, and ignored the rules. We know you grew tired of the way he constantly talked over Joe Biden. If Uncle Henry behaved like that on a fishing trip, you’d never go fishing with Uncle Henry again.
We know you were put off by the constant lies.
In West Virginia, Trump said, mail carriers were selling ballots. False. In Philadelphia, he said, poll watchers were thrown out of polls because “bad things happen in Philadelphia.” False. Across the country, he said, he has created 700,000 manufacturing jobs. False.
Trump said he’s made insulin “so cheap, it’s like water.” False. For most people, insulin costs as much as ever. He said a coronavirus vaccine is weeks away. False. His own health advisers say otherwise. He blamed piles of leaves and fallen trees for the California wildfires. False. Man-made climate change is largely to blame for a doubling of forest fires since the 1970s, according to the National Academy of Sciences.
Trump even lied again about his taxes. He said he paid “millions of dollars” in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, yet the New York Times reported this week that he paid only $750 in each of those two years.
For real, neighbor, who are you going to believe?
We have no doubt you were offended by Trump’s fearmongering, Wisconsin. The way he insulted those of you who live in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay. If Biden is elected, he warned, the “radical left” will storm up your driveways and “the suburbs would be gone.”
As if all of you are white — a notion of suburbia as outdated as Ward and June Cleaver. As if all of you fear Black folks moving in. As if all of you, like the whole country, haven’t caught on to Trump’s racist dog whistles.
If Trump ever visited a typical suburb of today, as Biden said, he’d find that “people driving their kids to soccer practice are Black and white and Hispanic in the same car more than at any time in the past.”
Trump’s appeal is to the poorly informed, the easily frightened and the haters.
But we know you, Wisconsin. We know you better.
Listen, neighbor, we will always have our differences. We will always argue about stuff like taxes and guns and racism and the proper role of government, just like our grandparents did. So it goes, for the better, in a free society.
But we also know you’d like to see our country get back to disagreeing from a place of good faith and honesty. We know that you, like most Americans, are exhausted by how Trump pits us against each other.
Wisconsin, you’ve got your share of conspiracy nuts and organized haters. But we know they don’t define you — no more than our own nuts and haters define us. We know you want no part of them. And we know you were appalled when Trump refused to call them out.
“Proud Boys?” said Trump at the debate, referring to a particularly militant neofascist group. “Stand back and stand by.”
Stand by for what?
Good government begins with good character. We can see that now, after 31⁄2 years of bad character in the White House, more than ever. A good country begins with good character.
So that’s our hope, Wisconsin. Our purpose in writing. We’re really counting on you to vote in overwhelming numbers for a man of good character, Joe Biden, and against a man of deplorable character.
Because all else flows from there.
By the way, we’re thinking of renting a cabin up your way next next summer. If we do, stop by. We can share a beer or two, maybe argue a little, and enjoy being Americans together again.
Your neighbor, Illinois
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