Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Why anyone would be better next year than Donald Trump

In response to a Facebook comment (if you ever read this blog and wonder where I've gone, it's mostly to social media, plus life has gotten a lot more complicated over the past few years) on WHY I feel that any Democrat would be better than four more years of Trump, I feel like that is a multifaceted question that requires a more extensive answer than a 'facebook note' so I'm dusting off the blog again.

First, the obvious part of the answer.  I wouldn't be a Democrat if my core beliefs didn't include I didn't believe in helping those least able to sustain themselves in society,  in feeding the poor,  providing medical care for the sick, housing the homeless (yes, we heard a lot about homelessness last week, but if the Democratic response to homelessness has been inadequate,  the Republican response has been far worse,  essentially just, "go away and be homeless someplace else.") providing an education to all,  and yes, taxing those of us who have been fortunate enough to earn a decent living to help pay for those things (a secret about progressive taxation:  If I make more than you, then no matter how progressive the tax laws are, I will STILL make more than you after taxes are paid,  just maybe not as many times as much as I do pre-tax.)  I care about protecting the environment and about the right of a woman (or anyone) to control her own body (imagine the government telling you that you must let someone else use your kidney in order to save their life;  why is a uterus any less  a part of a person than a kidney?)  There are places where I disagree with some Democrats such as the right to own a gun if you are not a criminal, terrorist or a threat to anyone else, BUT I can say that openly whereas a friend of mine who is a former Republican was roundly drummed out of the GOP some years back for speaking out against the Iraq War when it began.  So clearly that is the first reason I'm a Democrat is that my core values align with the liberal end of the political spectrum.

BUT-- this is also a question about Donald Trump in particular.  There are Republicans I might vote for in the right circumstances (such as Colin Powell) but I especially believe re-electing Donald Trump would be a truly awful thing.

There are many areas where we could begin, but let's start with experience.  It is understandable that people would have voted for a man with zero governmental experience.  His well-documented business failures aside, Trump had a reputation for leading a company, and his lack of experience in government was actually a selling point.  Never mind that nobody in their right mind would want to go to a mechanic, a dentist or an attorney whose main selling point was that they had never worked in that field before and had not a day's worth of experience in the business.  Nor would a large company hire a CEO who bragged that he had never worked in the field before.

The reason lack of experience got people to vote for Trump was the perception that government is CORRUPT and that he would 'drain the swamp.'  Now, it is true that there are certainly corrupt people in government.  My own former Congressman, Rick Renzi, went to prison after the FBI raided his business and he was convicted of bribery, money laundering and extortion.  And we've seen plenty of corrupt members of Congress and other government offices be convicted and go to prison, members of both parties.  Dan Rostenkowski, Duke Cunningham, William Jefferson and Bob Ney, to name just a few.  But turn that around for a moment.  The fact that they have been convicted and gone to prison is NOT proof that the system is corrupt.  It is proof that the system WORKS.  In many countries a corrupt politician would retire comfortably and not go to prison as long as they stayed on the right side of the rulers of the country.   But in the U.S., they can be caught and tried and convicted and jailed, Remember that as the longtime Chair of the House Ways and Means committee, Rostenkowski was one of the most powerful-- and most feared-- men in Washington.  But that didn't protect him from being indicted for turning the House Post Office into a personal taxpayer-financed cash cow (for which he later plead guilty and went to prison.)  So yes, there are plenty of unethical people in Washington (which Trump fits right in with, very well.)  But while he can't be indicted as a sitting President, others can, and others have, and that is evidence that whatever the flaws in the system, it does work to police itself.

And as far as lack of experience in government, anyone who has read my FB posts knows that one Democrat I'm very leery of is Andrew Yang-- for exactly the same reason.  BUT-- even there, at least Yang is smart enough to listen to people who disagree with him (just like Eisenhower did, though as the Supreme Allied Commander in WWII Ike did have to deal with the President (his boss) and members of Congress on a regular basis and the military is in fact part of the government, so he still had some experience.)  Trump in contrast surrounds himself with the proverbial 'Yes Men' who will agree with whatever he says and not try to give him contrary advice (or God forbid, disagree publicly with him.)   If they do, they're out and he will find someone who will bend over and flatter his ego by telling him he's RIGHT about whatever it is and then go on TV and lie if that's what it takes to prop him up (queue the recent tempest about the tempest when the National Weather Service publicly chastized the local Alabama forecasters for daring to say Trump was wrong about whether the state was at risk from Hurricane Dorian.)  And one other difference;  as much as I feel Yang would be the most risky Democrat, at least he tries to stay positive, while Trump has done nothing but widen the already deep divisions in American society and rub the sores of resentment raw.

And this brings us to the second reason I feel Trump is such a disaster, the way he is changing America and the direction he is taking us in.  Remember Reagan also ran against 'the government' and 'the system,'  but he did it with positivity and a smile.  Trump in contrast has promoted a very mean-spirited approach.  He may for example criticize San Francisco for homelessness (never mind that the city is surrounded on three sides by water and on the other by other communities as well as a mountain range; of course housing is very expensive there because they are out of land) or Baltimore for having mice,  but notice he never offers to help with the problems or suggests any ideas on how to solve them. All he does is criticize.  His border policy is straight from hell (yes, when families showed up at the border during the Obama administration sometimes they were separated for a day or so while we vetted the family, but after that they were reunited and free to continue on.  Trump, in contrast, has separated families for weeks, months or even in some cases deported the parents while effectively turning the children into orphans, under our care.)  His proposed wall is not only a colossal waste of money (a steel slat prototype was sawed through with a ten dollar hacksaw ) but has turned us into a laughingstock in the rest of the world (remember when 'build a wall around the country' was an actual joke?)  President Trump's targeted rhetoric, not towards individuals but against entire groups like Muslims and immigrants (especially those from places he calls 'sh*thole countries') has spread among his followers to where according to the SPLC, hate crimes against those communities have increased rapidly under his Presidency.  His rhetoric warning of an 'invasion' of Central American migrants is not only divisive but brings out the worst of stereotypes.  Certainly there ARE people among them who due to felony convictions, ties to gangs or cartels or for other reasons we don't want in our country,  but we have the ability to vet people in a matter of minutes or at most hours (we use it at airports all the time) so between that,  turning away Syrian refugees and stepped up deportations of people who may not even have any criminal record the message is clear,  "GET OUT AND STAY OUT!"  A far cry from when my maternal family came through Ellis Island and had to pass nothing other than a lice check.  Heck, Bob Cucinelli, Trump's point man on immigration recently even rewrote Emma Lazarus' iconic poem, "the New Colossus" to make it clear that we only welcomed in immigrants of means who would never be a 'public charge' (as even successful immigrants have often been when they arrive with nothing but the shirt on their back and a will to work.)

Meanwhile, Trump has backed the lawsuit filed by some GOP Attorneys General seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act (something the administration tried by reconciliation when they had control of all of Congress and could pass one bill per year without having to break a filibuster.)  They failed then, but now they may succeed.  And the lawsuit does NOT carve out exemptions for 'pre-existing conditions' in the ACA, it seeks to overturn every word of the act.  Now, disclaimer here: I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.  My plan has been to retire when I can do so next year, then buy insurance from the Obamacare exchange and focus on getting well or at least in staying healthy enough to be somewhat productive.  But if they are successful I would be unable to get insurance at ANY price (since cancer is the prototype of a 'pre-existing condition.')  I am fortunate in that I could remain employed and keep working until I died, but would still have insurance.  But many other people would lose theirs.  Now, I favored universal health insurance for YEARS before I actually needed it so my present opposition to the GOP has nothing to do with my cancer diagnosis in 2016,  but...  it is true if they succeed I would probably die if I retired from work.  And it's hard to vote for somebody who personally wants you dead.

Beyond that, stop for a moment and contemplate this:  Why did we outdo the Soviets in gaining international influence during the Cold War?  Well, certainly we have warts from that time (ask any Iranian and they will give you the whole history, not just the 'we are victims' version that we get in the U.S.) But OVERALL, we held the moral high ground.  Our society was freer, more open and more tolerant than the Soviets'  Nobody had to build a wall to keep us in.  And we were trusted to keep our word.

With Trump, those things are no longer the case. Substitute 'China' for 'the Soviet Union.'  Now it is true that China is a dictatorship with a dismal, horrible record on human rights.  But-- when we criticize our Democratic allies while cozying up to people like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) or Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duterte,  we become indistinguishable on the human rights front.  Sure, we may criticize the governments of China, Venezuela or Iran for their human rights abuses but as long as we embrace dictators we like,  those condemnations are seen for what they are: purely situational.  Further by withdrawing from the Paris climate accords,  the Iran nuclear deal (where the Iranian response of pushing the envelope on their end was entirely predictable and avoidable,) or from various international trade deals,  the U.S. is no longer seen as absolutely trustworthy.  This matters, as countries like Australia (an erstwhile American ally) sign massive trade deals with China and that nation rushes to fill the vacuum we leave behind.  Do we really WANT a world where other nations no longer can count on us to keep our word? It's not like if we withdraw from an agreement that it doesn't create a vacuum, and either Russia or China will rush to fill it.  In this regard, Trump is playing a very dangerous game.  It takes years or even decades to build trust but it can be destroyed in one rash moment. And Donald Trump is all about rash moments.

And speaking of the change in America, it is not just mean-spiritedness at home. It is the same policy towards the oppressed elsewhere too.  Today I was listening to a story on the radio about how even Iraqis and Afghans who helped U.S. forces are having their visas delayed (and some of them have been murdered for working with us as they waited through the delays we are now imposing.)  We may have trouble in the future finding anyone abroad who will work with us as well.

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