- - Sunday, August 30, 2020

Lots of things matter these days, so we’re told: They include Black lives for certain, and blue lives perhaps. We’re not supposed to say White lives matter, and even venturing the obvious fact that all lives matter is, among those in the know, a no-no. As the 2020 presidential campaign between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden gets underway in earnest, Americans have an opportunity to step up and decide for themselves what really matters. Their choice will determine the future of the nation and, pointedly, who governs it.

The dueling candidates may not agree on much, but they both see a populace contemplating the upcoming election while teetering on a knife’s edge. In accepting his party’s nomination last month, Mr. Biden put it this way: “All elections are important. But we know in our bones this one is more consequential. America is at an inflection point. A time of real peril, but of extraordinary possibilities. We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful, and more divided. A path of shadow and suspicion. Or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite.”

In his acceptance speech on Thursday, President Trump also described the consequential nature of the contest: “At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies or two agendas,” he said. “This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”

It has become a quadrennial custom to hear that an approaching presidential election “is the most critical one of our lifetimes.” In 2020, Americans certainly believe it to be the case. In fact, more voters contend the current battle for the White House is the most momentous than at any time during the past 20 years, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Of registered voters, 83% agree that the election outcome “really matters” this election cycle. Only 16% say things won’t change very much whether President Trump is re-elected or Mr. Biden prevails on his third try. And while partisans would discover a reason to argue over the weather on a cloudless day, Pew found members of the two major parties equally concerned over the presidential contest.

Previously, voters had considered the 2016 campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the epitome of pugnacity. Then, 74% claimed the future would pivot on the Election Night count, while 22% more or less shrugged off its significance.

It wasn’t long ago when it seemed most Americans agreed with former Alabama Gov. George Wallace when, spurned by his own Democratic Party in 1968, he ran for president as an independent on the idea that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties.” Now, politics is war by other means, and to the victor belongs the Oval Office.

Many millennials, in particular, may have misspent their youth thumbing the controls of video games like Grand Theft Auto, where they act out the role of a ne’er do well who hijacks innocent citizens, dragging them from their cars and beating them before driving off with police in pursuit. It is primarily the young and restless whose real-life malice is illuminated by America’s burning cities. And it is among them that angry agitators are concealed while using the latest episode of national racial recrimination to foment their nihilistic revolution.

Still, no generation is immune from the seething effects on the soul of televised depravity, and too many admit to reacting to the defeat of their candidate with their own form of fury. A full 61% of Biden supporters tell Pew that they expect to find themselves angry if Mr. Trump is re-elected, with another 37% saying they would be merely disappointed. Conversely, only 37% of Trump supporters reckon they will be indignant if Mr. Biden prevails, and 59% imagine they will be downcast.

The 2020 presidential campaign has commenced and set to take Mr. Trump to all points of the compass and, for Mr. Biden, to every corner of his basement. Facing a point of no return, America matters. Whether the sun will still rise on “the land of the free” is a matter of choice.

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