In a crystallizing moment at the last presidential debate, Donald Trump and Joe Biden fielded a question about people of color who live alongside chemical plants and oil refineries that seem to be making them sick.
As is his way, Biden responded with I’ve-been-there empathy. He recalled growing up so close to Delaware refineries that when his mom drove him to school in a morning frost, the wipers spread an oil slick on the windshield.
Trump responded in his own way, too. “The families that we’re talking about are employed heavily and they are making a lot of money,” he presumed. “More money than they’ve ever made … tremendous money.”
These men were true to form, authentic in that exchange. On debate night and through the campaign they offered voters a distinct choice between a red-hot president who put the bottom line before all else and an unflashy Democrat who invited Americans to cool down and come together.
Biden promised straight talk and sobriety on the lethal pandemic, respect for the facts (if you don’t count his flubs), aspirations for racial justice and a revival of the verities of American democracy that Democrats said Trump was tearing apart.