It seems to me….
“In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?” ~ Barack Obama.
Unable to sleep, I wrote most of this column about 3:00 in the morning election night following declaration that Donald Trump was to be our next president. It is not the column I had hoped to write (or the one I actually had written prior to the election). Regardless, the electorate has indicated its preference and whether one’s preferred candidate won or lost is no longer material: it now is time for our entire nation to come together behind the new president. Though the election has left the electorate increasingly pessimistic, divided, and bitter about the state of U.S. politics; it now is time to put aside personal differences, to forego personal prejudices, to overcome personal biases. While I would like to be magnanimous in my acceptance, that is more easily said than done.
There have been many times over the years when candidates I backed have lost: this is not about being a poor loser. I have tried to think of something positive to say about Donald Trump but the nicest thing I can find is “obnoxious”. “Despicable” also would do. There doesn’t seem to be one topic on which he and I agree. His statements show him to be narcistic, racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic…. Perhaps even psychopathic. There have been very few people I have felt to be so personally repugnant. Not even Richard Nixon engendered such strong feelings of negativity. I’m not angry that the candidate I backed lost; I’m angry because Trump’s victory means this country will be less safe, less kind, and less available to a huge segment of its population. I keep hoping to awake and find the election outcome to have only been a bad dream.
While I had continually stated I was very concerned how the election would result, that Trump supporters were more passionate and likely to vote than those for Hillary, I was swayed by polls predicting her easy victory. What I in fact anticipated was a Barry Goldwater-type blowout. What I really wanted was a total and complete repudiation of all that Trump stood for.
Just the viability of a Trump candidacy once again raises the question of the electorate’s level of motivation and how informed they might be as to basic facts when selecting our nation’s political leaders. While we assume a sufficient number of voters would choose the best candidate, voters repeatedly demonstrate dubious judgement. There isn’t any perfect presidential candidate: Republicans twice nominated and elected George W. Bush, possibly the least intelligent of U.S. presidents, and now have nominated and elected Donald Trump, the least qualified and most ill-suited candidate ever for that position. Both Republican nominees immediately prior to Trump – John McCain and Mitt Romney – would have been reasonably good presidents but not Trump who is not experientially, temperamentally, or psychologically suited for the office: neither McCain or Romney were elected but Trump was. The logic defies explanation.
This is not intended as necessarily critical of anyone who voted for Trump, it is just that I find him totally anathema in all in which I believe. Voting for a candidate does not imply that you espouse all of his or her views. It has been claimed that some people voted for Trump to express dissatisfaction with our current elected leaders but this is somewhat difficult to accept since almost all Congressional incumbents were reelected to office. Trump was elected by half the electorate, over 50 million average people, people hoping for a better future for themselves and their families. It is difficult to understand how so many people could be so wrong.
The election was partly a reflection of the growing sense of emasculation among under-educated lower/middle-class white males feeling threatened by greater ethnic diversity and declining economic prospects resulting from technological advances increasingly requiring college degrees. In real terms, median male earnings remain lower today than they were in the 1970s. Mendacious claims about bringing back good paying jobs from overseas were nothing other than politically-motivate pandering. Many employment opportunities currently go unfilled for lack of qualified applicants and without increased access to cost-free education, training, and retraining, this trend will only accelerate in the future resulting in even STEM-relate positions eventually being forced off-shore consequentially leading to even greater ensuing voter frustration.
Perhaps elitist egocentric political leaders, failing to accept the justified dissatisfaction and anger of the disaffected who for far too long felt denied a voice expressing their concerns, lost any right to represent those voters. They overly concentrated on the political chasm separating the liberal and conservative factions but totally failed those most affected by the economic and demographic changes sweeping our nation. The very viability of a Trump on the Right and Bernie Sanders on the left candidacies should have been sufficient to signify the prevailing winds of change.
I will admit I did not like Hillary; but based on his remarks during his candidacy, considered the prospect of a Trump presidency to be truly frightening. Hillary after 35 years in the political spotlight had become too familiar, too beaten and battered, and the electorate obviously preferred someone new and fresh but, regardless of accusations and Trump’s baseless cries to “Lock Her Up”, she remains basically honest, hard-working, dedicated, intelligent, and experienced: a relatively dull policy-wonk. It would be nice if anything similar also could be said of Trump.
I believe the three most important issues facing our nation are the environment, economic inequality, and gun violence. Trump rejects the fact of global warming. He wants to cut taxes on the wealthy furthering inequality. He wants to remove all restrictions on gun ownership. How can he represent someone like me?
I admire those who find success; Hillary and Bill Clinton have become wealthy through hard work and their charitable foundation is greatly respected throughout the world. It is all too easy to be critical when that foundation accepts donations from countries not completely sharing our social or moral ideals but we need only to look and see the bigotry and prejudice in our own country. Trump claims to have become wealthy by being a good businessman but his record of discrimination, multiple bankruptcies, of cheating contractors, of not paying employees, and avoiding paying any personal taxes hardly seems admirable. His foundation exists only for his personal benefit. He is under multiple investigation for bribing state Attorney Generals, for improprieties by his personal foundation, and whether his university engaged in illegal business practices.
Trump was critical of Bill Clinton’s sexual activities but he has been married three time, bragged about his may affairs, and accused of sexual assault by numerous women. There never have been any accusations regarding his wife Melania, but neither have there been about Hillary who actually was the candidate – not Bill.
Now, we face the all-too realistic prospect of the entirety of the last fifty years of social progress being undone. It is likely Trump will have multiple Supreme Court seats to fill as the court’s older members approach retirement. By stacking the Court with conservative extremists, he could reverse or eliminate all basic rights setting our nation back for many years into the future.
Trump always pugilistically responded to criticism vindictively escalating his response by calling his opponents names; Lyin Ted, Crooked Hillary, Little Marco, Crazy Bernie, Low-Energy Jeb, Goofy Elizabeth Warren (Pocahontas)…; while always prevaricating or denying personal facts about himself. Trump’s record shows he is willing to use innuendo and misrepresentation while demanding the highest level of accurate disclosure by others; his record of public statements is rife with distortions, deceptions, and untruths. PolitiFact found more than two-thirds of his statements to be “Mostly False”, “False”, or “Pants on Fire” which is unprecedented in its evaluation of politicians. Fact Checker agreed finding 60-70 percent of Trump’s comments to be untruthful (Clinton also was somewhat untruthful but only in 10-20 percent of her statements). He refuses to accept or apologize when proven wrong. He constantly criticized the media, including Fox News, for bias even though studies have repeatedly shown most reporting is decidedly conservative.
While Clinton was very detailed where she stood on issues, Trump never released any detailed plans. Trump refused to disclose his income tax returns as almost every candidate has done for the past forty years. He egotistically claimed he would make our nation great again since he personally was so great. This should be treated as so much nonsense.
Trump’s awareness of science is essentially zero. All four presidential candidates, including Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party, were requested to reply to 20 questions regarding various aspects of their basic science policies: Hillary’s responses were judged to be the best; Trump’s were consistently the worst. Trump’s statements showed a disregard for science shocking in a candidate for high office. Though Trump stated that “science is science and facts are facts”, his campaign statements repeatedly demonstrated an utter disregard for facts. His responses to those questions were sufficiently simplistic to indicate he may not actually understand the scientific method or the governing structures that support it.
Even more disturbing is that the 2016 Republican Party platform extends policy proposals that were, in 2012, already anti-science. The platform proposes eliminating the current Administration’s Clean Power Plan; prohibiting the E.P.A. from regulating carbon dioxide; officially declaring that climate change is “far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue”; and dissenting from international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris COP21 Agreement. The platform also claims that it is illegal to contribute to the U.N.’s Framework Convention for Climate Change and its Green Climate Fund because of the Palestinian Authority’s membership in the United Nations. It also opposes embryonic-stem-cell research and human cloning for research purposes.
Trump’s actions would be catastrophic for our environment and our communities. Environmentalists repeatedly successfully defeated coal plant proposals during the Bush presidency and can be expected to continue the battle. Trump-McConnell-Ryan will be powerful adversaries but unable to stop regulators and local governments from choosing clean energy when it’s the least expensive and smartest option. They can’t stop cities from going to 100-percent clean energy. They can’t stop the private sector that wants to be part of the climate solution, not the problem. They can’t stop millions of people from exploring and protecting our public lands. Environmentalists will have to adjust many of their strategies but progress on climate and clean energy will continue and not be totally reversed. Rather than the federal government, cities, towns, and states will now have to become the leaders on climate and environmental protection.
It will be Trump’s cabinet appointees which will be one of the first indications of a Trump administration’s priorities and policies. Paul Ryan will most likely influence Trump’s financial policies (though Ryan has demonstrated little actual knowledge of economics in his previous financial proposals). Trump has promised to repeal all of President Obama’s executive orders on his first day in office including the creation of the Syrian refugee program, increased regulations on greenhouse gas emissions for the nation’s power plants, giving same-sex couples the right to take family medical leave, and halting the deportations of undocumented immigrant children.
Trump has also pledged to deport 2 million “criminal illegal immigrants” on his first day in office (which has been calculated to cost about $20.1 billion). He has repeatedly vowed to build a wall across the U.S. southern border and force Mexico to pay for it. He stated his intent to cut all payments to United Nations climate-change programs which, in addition to likely increasing U.S. greenhouse emissions, also would result in U.S. university and laboratory budgets reductions dedicated to studying climate-change.
Trump’s transition team has been developing plans to reverse the patchwork of executive actions that Obama devised to skirt a Republican Congress on immigration and climate change leaving Obama with little hope of salvaging a presidential legacy heavily depended on his successor. Obama’s accomplishments on jobs, health care, foreign policy, climate change, and equality will most likely be reversed. Trump has promised to scrap Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care law, which has become increasingly fragile and necessitating changes as costs spike and insurers withdraw from exchanges, but supporters now appear to have little chance of moving forward resulting in elimination of health insurance for over 22 million Americans. This also includes Obama’s unilateral moves easing deportation enforcement and his regulations on power plants.
Trump has stated his commitment to withdrawing the U.S. from trade agreements, including the pending Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Obama has championed. He also would remove the U.S. from the agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions enabling Iran to immediately restart nuclear weapon development (along with nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East).
Hillary supporters believe in a diverse America; one where religion or skin color or sexual orientation or place of birth aren’t liabilities, deficiencies, or moral defects. Her campaign was one of inclusion, connection, and interdependency. It was about building bridges and breaking ceilings. It was about going high.
Trump supporters believe in a very selective America; one that is largely white, straight, and Christian and voting verified this. Donald Trump has never made any assertions to the contrary. He ran a campaign of fear and exclusion and isolation – and that’s the vision of the world those who voted for him have endorsed. Words matter and there is every reason to believe he meant everything he said during the campaign; no later refutation can convince us otherwise. Being a straight white Christian male, I cannot fully appreciate the fear many people of color, LGBTs, immigrants, the physically or mentally challenge, or anyone else who appears slightly different must be feeling.
Van Jones commented on CNN that he viewed Trump’s victory as a “whitelash” in that much of white America was revolting against eight years of a black president by electing an openly bigoted demagogue who degraded minorities and people of color simply to score political points. Almost every ethnicity in the U.S. was at some point in the past considered an unwelcome immigrant and, hopefully, there still exists a deep pervading ethos of acceptance exceeding Trump’s xenophobic paranoia. The U.S. admittedly has its share of racists and xenophobes; we have our problems with race, religion, and ethnicity; but Trump’s election should not be considered proof of increasing people-phobia.
As for the prospects of a future female president, Hillary did not lose because she is a woman. She lost because she was bad at campaigning and Trump had a message that resonated with many voters; hers did not. The country is ready to elect a woman as its president and no one should be surprised if it happens in either the next election or shortly following.
Election of the first Catholic president in 1960 was extremely controversial but John F. Kennedy was a very popular and charismatic president. While race was rarely an issue publicly discussed in Obama’s 2008 election, selection of the first African-American president was not without obvious bigotry. Religion also did not appear to be an issue affecting Bernie Sanders’ as the first Jewish candidate for president. Hopefully election of the first female president also will not prove problematic.
Optimistically, in the future, ethnicity, sex, or religion should no longer be a consideration for anyone seeking public office. Once the pathways are open, we should look forward to when a Muslim, homosexual, atheist, or Asian-American can be judged on their qualifications for office rather than less-relevant personal characteristics. But that is still an issue left for the future; not yet, not today.
I opposed Trump as I believe the U.S. as a nation is basically compassionate, accepting, supporting, and understanding and not uncaring, paranoid, isolationistic, and xenophobic. Hopefully, Trump will keep in mind that he received less than half of the popular vote, won only through the Electoral College, and did not receive a mandate from the voters to govern on the demagogic positions on which he campaigned. He may be the president-elect – he now must demonstrate he can be the President of the entire United States of America. My hope is that Trump will be a better president than I fear; my fear is he will be significantly worse.
That’s what I think, what about you?
 Gorman, Christine, Ryan F. Mandelbaum. Grading the Presidential Candidates on Science, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/grading-the-presidential-candidates-on-science/, 26 September 2016.
 Editorial. Trump’s Views on Science Are Shockingly Ignorant, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trump-comments-on-science-are-shockingly-ignorant/, November 2016.