A Question of Morality: What’s Really at Stake in this Election
After nearly four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, I am still so astonished that so many Americans support his reelection. The hyperbole of MAGA rally patrons, militia groups, and QAnon advocates has become predictable, but what shocks me is the amazing number of friends and acquaintances that I have known for years who are supporting Trump’s reelection. It is to you I am writing this. I would like you to understand why so many of us hope that President Trump is not reelected. I do not hate him or blame him for all he has done. There are many enablers. But I do despise his treatment of women, minorities, immigrants, the poor, and Muslims; his anti-environment, anti-education, anti-healthcare, and anti-sustainable energy policies; his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests; his pro-rich agenda; and his lying, narcissism, and misuse of Christian values. If you have any doubt or concern about his moral constitution or what another four years with this president might mean, please consider the following points.
Let me start with women. He has had countless affairs during his marriages to three wives (including a porn star while his third wife was pregnant); he is proud of grabbing “pussy” and trying to “fuck” (his words) married women; and brags about walking into changing rooms at his profit-making beauty contests and seeing teenage girls “with no clothes on.” Some of the girls claim—to their shock and dismay—that he kissed them on the lips. Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy, in their 2019 book, All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, discuss 43 allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump. Some cases include rape. One alleged victim is suing him and asking for his DNA to prove his guilt. Another claims that he raped her when she was 13 years old at a party of Jeffrey Epstein’s in 1994 (her testimony is in court documents). She dropped the case (for fear of violent retribution). Guilty or not, his relationship with Epstein remains troublesome. In a New York Magazine interview in 2002, he boasted, “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
Whatever you think about the accusations, let me ask you, honestly, do you think Donald Trump respects women? How about a few well-known statements such as, “She’s a dog”; “She’s a slob”; “a big fat pig”; “I moved on her like a bitch”; “there was blood coming out of her wherever”; “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees”; “a young and beautiful piece of ass”; “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” He also bluntly stated about women, “You have to treat ‘em like shit.” Would you want your sister or daughter to be treated or thought of like that? Why would anyone vote for someone who says and does things that are so clearly misogynistic? Every time another woman says “me too,” his enablers seem to buy his “she’s not my type” defense or simply write it off as “just another one” trying to defame an “innocent” man.
Women are far from his only targets of disrespect. What did you think when you saw Trump imitating and mocking the physically disabled reporter during a campaign speech? Did you laugh along with his devotees? What do you think about him calling African nations “shithole countries,” or his claim that “Mexico is sending us” their worst people—criminals, rapists, and drug dealers? What do you think about his “zero tolerance” policy that led to migrant children being separated from their parents at the border and being held in jammed, fenced-in areas (some in “cages”) without proper hygiene or nourishment? How about his calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”? Do you find any of that appropriate? Do you have to slide your moral compass around a bit for his sake? Either way, if you vote for him, what does that say about you?
Here are just a few of his statements compiled by the New York Times that attest to his racism: the immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and the Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would never “go back to their huts”; undocumented immigrants are “animals” and will “pour into and infest our country”; “if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated Black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage”; “Black guys counting my money [at one of his casinos]! I hate it…I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in Blacks.” Though three were born in the U.S. and one immigrated with her family when she was young, he tweeted that the four “Progressive democrat congresswomen” of color should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” He disputed a reporter’s allegation, saying, “I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world”; then, mentioning Reverend Al Sharpton, “Now, he’s a racist.” He concluded, “What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done…And the African American community is so thankful.” I wonder, does he really believe that?
Trump’s disdain for Black Lives Matters is rooted in his racism. He openly castigated all sports figures who have kneeled in protest and considers BLM as part of “the toxic propaganda” that is killing our country. Do you really think he cares about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, or other victims, or more about getting votes? He constantly uses rhetoric to support white nationalism and to enrage his minions. Do you think that the rise of hate crimes has anything to do with that? Though he claims to be “an ally” of peaceful protesters, he is quick to associate them all as “looters and thugs”—as he proved by sending unmarked, federal forces to capture, throw into vans, and detain peaceful protesters in Portland, Oregon. He threatened to send in troops to occupy other “democratic cities” despite the outcry of mayors and governors. Trump’s warning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” has encouraged just that, witnessed by a 17-year-old who crossed state lines and killed protesters with an AR-15. Violence is an integral part of his base, and he applauds it regularly. He even told supporters at a 2017 rally to “knock the crap out” of hecklers and he would “pay the legal fees.” The hatred is there, Trump didn’t start it; he just opened countless avenues of expression—verbally and physically.
Trump’s attack on diversity includes sexual orientation as well as race, religion, and ethnicity. Along with Mike Pence, he has relentlessly tried to undermine LBGTQ rights. As the Human Rights Campaign insists, “Since the moment Donald Trump and Mike Pence walked into the White House, they have attacked the progress we have made toward full equality for the LGBTQ community and undermined the rights of countless Americans.” As the HRC reports, all LGBTQ references were removed from the official White House webpage less than two hours after Trump and Pence were sworn into office. Their assault includes proposed legislation that would limit LGBTQ rights involving housing, health care, HIV/AIDS patients, the Equality Act, and “discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity.” President Trump banned all transgender people from serving “in any capacity” in the military, a move that stirred 56 retired admirals and generals to release a joint statement warning that the ban was ill-founded and would degrade military readiness.
Other Trump-related attacks include his vilification of critical race theory and threat to end diversity training in all governmental agencies. He plans on creating a national commission to replace “left-wing indoctrination” in schools with a patriarchal “pro-American history” agenda. He proclaims that teachers are instructing students to “hate America” and that “left-wing rioting and mayhem” in recent protests is “the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools.” His selection of anti-public schools billionaire, Betsy Devos, as education secretary says volumes about his education agenda.
Despite his philandering, oppression of the poor, hate-filled tweets and rallies, and his penchant for anger, revenge, lying, and deception, he claims to be a Christian. When Pope Francis bluntly claimed, Trump “is not a Christian,” the president lashed out at him. When Christianity Today called Trump “morally lost” and argued that he should be removed from office, he lambasted the magazine as left-leaning and irrelevant. The fact is, Donald Trump uses religion as a tool. His famous stunt using police (and horses) to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square with smoke canisters, pepper-balls, flash-bang grenades smoke canisters (or possibly tear gas) in order for him to pose in front of St. John’s Church with an upside-down Bible in his hand received thunderous rebukes from hundreds of religious leaders. When asked by a reporter if that was his Bible, he replied, “It’s a Bible”—one that, apparently not belonging to him, was carried by Ivanka Trump in her designer handbag and given to him shortly before the photo-op. Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church said, “That Bible that the president held up—it might have been helpful if it were opened.” A Church canon, Stephanie Spellers, stated, “Following in Jesus’s footsteps does not lead us onto the path that this president has laid out.”
While many evangelicals regard him as God-sent, he is neither a regular churchgoer nor a practitioner in any sense of the word. According to Michael Cohen, Donald Trump has an uncanny ability to “appeal to the evangelicals’ desires and vanities—who they wanted him to be, not who he really was. Everything he was telling them about himself was absolutely untrue.” Behind his back, Cohen claims, he called them “idiots,” “fools,” and “schmucks.” In regards to their laying of hands on the president to bless and protect, Cohen reports that Trumps retorted, “Can you believe people believe that bullshit.” Obviously, he is willing to play along if it means more votes or money.
Though he claims to know his Bible, he nearly always refuses to cite a favorite book or a verse with claims such as, “The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.” There are exceptions, such as the time radio host Bob Lonsberry asked him, “Is there a favorite Bible verse or Bible story that has informed your thinking or your character through life?” His response is quite revealing: “Well, I think many. I mean, when we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. And some people, look, an eye for an eye, you can almost say that. That’s not a particularly nice thing. But you know, if you look at what’s happening to our country, I mean, when you see what’s going on with our country, how people are taking advantage of us, and how they scoff at us and laugh at us. And they laugh at our face, and they’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re taking the health of our country. And we have to be firm and have to be very strong. And we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you.”
In many ways, it makes sense that his favorite verse has to do with the old-covenant form of justice based on revenge rather than the new-covenant “turn the other cheek” edict of Jesus.
Trump’s lack of morality is clear in his environmental record. Without question, he is the worst ecological president in history. Disregarding scientists and epidemic storms and fires, he does not believe climate change is real. Simply claiming because “I don’t believe it,” he buried a report produced by 13 federal agencies of his administration and over 300 leading climate scientists that warned of the dangers of climate change. He tweeted that the notion of global warming was concocted by the Chinese to stymy American economic growth. Besides withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, his administration has rolled back or is trying to roll back over 100 environmental rules and regulations. He supports gas and oil drilling in national parks, drilling in nearly all U.S. waters, and logging and drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Tongass National Forest. His reelection would be an environmental catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions, as many environmentalists have made clear.
A short list of renowned orders and legislation is proof of his ecological disregard—including a repeal of Obama’s Clean Air Act; a roll back of Obama’s coal emissions standards; the order to allow Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines; an annulment of the regulation requiring oil companies to provide details of minerals purchased from foreign governments; a repeal of the Stream Protection rule that prevented coal companies from dumping waste into rivers; revoking endangered species protection for 25 species facing extinction from climate change; removal of the Clean Power Act, which was aimed at lowering carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030; allowing the EPA to multiply the threshold for dangerous amounts of radiation by ten times that was set by Obama; renewing the right for copper and nickel mining in Minnesota’s protected Boundary Waters; a roll back of offshore drilling regulations, which were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon disaster; lifting a ban on pesticides that are linked two dwindling bee populations; a roll back of Obama’s ban on imported African elephant trophies; a reversal on banned hunting techniques, such as baiting grizzly bears and using spotlights to blind and shoot hibernating black bears (including mothers and cubs) in their dens, and shooting swimming caribou from motorboats.
The success for much of the legislation can be attributed to Scott Pruitt, who Trump hired to administrate the Environmental Protection Agency—or, more appropriately, to gut it. As Oklahoma’s General Attorney, Pruitt sued the Environmental Protection Agency 14 times (13 of the cases involved regulated companies that contributed to his political aims). The corruption surrounding Pruitt began his first week in office and did not end until he was forced to step down due to ethics violations based on misappropriations of funds (including using private jets for personal trips and spending $43,000 of taxpayer money for a soundproof phone booth). The loss of Pruitt has not altered Trump’s plan to deregulate actions of corporate polluters, dismantle air and water purity laws, and endanger forest habitats—such as the Tongass—that are so crucial to the life-sustaining systems of our living planet. Can you imagine what another four years of such environmental assault would mean to future generations?
Trump’s education agenda and policies are as bad as his environmental ones. His education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is an enemy of public schools. Her influence on educational policies in Michigan—through self-funded groups such as the Great Lakes Education Project—has had tragic results for many urban schools that are attended by predominantly Black and poor students. She is being sued by Michigan and other states for her recent attempt to use taxpayer dollars meant to help public and low-income school students during the pandemic in order to fund private and religious schools. According to the National Education Association, she has requested more than $40 million for charter schools, has proposed to cut $5 billion from public schools, reduce funds for the Special Olympics, plans to abolish the Unified Champion Schools program, and defund the Department of Education budget by 10 percent. With Trump’s impetus, she threatened to defund public schools that refused to fully open this fall because of COVID-19. The Trump/DeVos budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 would slash education funding by $6.1 billion—8.4 percent—compared to the amount Congress provided the previous year. Tax credits could divert up to $5 billion in taxpayer money to private schools.
The results of another four years with a Trump/DeVos education platform would be disastrous, particularly for the poor and underprivileged students and schools. As is typical of Trump’s policies, he seeks to take from the poor and give to the rich. DeVos is equally clear about her intent. When asked by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, if she was going to take relief funds intended for schools in need and use them for vouchers to support families whose children attend faith-based schools, she replied, “Yes, absolutely. For more than three decades that has been something that I’ve been passionate about.” As Paula Herbart, the President of the Michigan Education Association has said, “DeVos is the least qualified person to ever lead the Department of Education—with no experience working in, attending or sending her children to public school. As education secretary, she has continued to dismantle the promise of public education.”
While Trump’s environmental and educational policies are a travesty, the way he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic is criminal. By February 7, he knew the virus was deadly and airborne but refused to tell the American people to avoid “a panic.” His negligence includes misleading statements, downplaying the danger, and lies. Comparing it to “the Democrat policy of open borders,” he called the coronavirus “their new hoax.” He failed to develop a plan and said at least 34 times it will simply go away. Some of his claims, collated here by Politico, testify to the absurdity of his position: “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA…Stock market starting to look very good to me” (Feb. 24); “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low…When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done. We’re going down, not up” (Feb. 26); “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear” (Feb. 28); “We had a great meeting today with a lot of the great companies, and they’re going to have vaccines, I think, relatively soon” (Mar. 2); “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu…Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus [as he spelled it in the tweet], with 22 deaths. Think about that!” (March 9); “I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic” (March 17).
His disregard for American lives is evident by his rallies. After the CDC issued its first warning on January 8, he held nine rallies in January and February. Unbelievably, he is still holding them—such as the June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he drew laughter by calling it the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.” Though his campaign alleged that over a million people wanted tickets, only 6,220 showed up when 19,000 were expected. Nevertheless, according to medical reports, the inside event helped spread the virus and claimed lives. (Herman Cain was filmed not wearing a mask at the rally and tested positive nine days later). No question that his other rallies also spread the virus. His rallies in Nevada and Minnesota violated pandemic guidelines in both states. At his rally in Duluth, Minnesota, which took place two days before he tested positive, he was not wearing a mask. How can anyone forget the briefing where he suggested that injecting or drinking disinfectant or introducing light into the body might cure COVID-19 (similar to halting hurricanes by “nuking them”)? People believed him and actually ingested disinfectants.
Trump is not the only one to blame for the lack of a response. The coronavirus task force, headed up by Mike Pence and joined by Jared Kushner, canceled its initial plan for nationwide testing and shifted the pandemic responsibilities from the national government to the state level. The results were terrible. Without federal funds, testing was stifled and instruments scarce. Many have pointed to the shift as a political ploy. Because the Democratic states were hit hardest early in the outbreak, by shifting the responsibility to the state level the blame would be lifted from the White House and put on Democratic governors. According to a health official who worked closely with Kushner’s team, that was his plan: “The political folks believed that because [the pandemic] was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that will be an effective political strategy.” True or not, Trump’s handling of the pandemic is a clear indication of his inability to lead or to care for others.
Trump’s moral culpability is evidenced by the people he has hired and fired, the reasons behind his decisions to do so, and the number of those indicted. In all, 14 Trump aides, donors, and advisers have been indicted or imprisoned. His campaign manager and advisor, Steve Bannon has been charged with fraud; friend and advisor Roger Stone was convicted of seven counts of lying under oath to investigators; campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who had vast Russian connections, was found guilty of tax fraud, money laundering, lobbying violations, and witness tampering; personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about a proposed real-estate deal in Russia and to paying “hush money” to women for Trump’s sex trysts; campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and lying to investigators; George Papadopoulos, a campaign adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials; and Michael Flynn, a national security adviser, was fired a month into his job and is now a convicted felon. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has faced 15 ethics inquiries in less than two years. Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor and the current Postmaster General, is being investigated for violating campaign finance laws and attempts at voter suppression. The list goes on, but the notion of a swamp is apropos.
Donald Trump is quick to fire officials for disloyalty—none more auspiciously than the honorable FBI director James Comey (who Trump called “shady,” “a showboat,” and “slimy”). He fired him in hopes of stopping the Russian probe. He fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who he called “VERY weak” and “DISGRACEFUL”) for his recusal from overseeing the Mueller Investigation. He fired Cabinet official Rex Tillerson (who he called “lazy” and “dumb as a rock”) via a tweet shortly after he called Trump “a moron.” He fired National Security Aide and Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman for testifying against him in the impeachment hearings, calling Vindman “very insubordinate.” He fired Sally Yates, Acting Attorney General because she ordered Justice Department lawyers not to enforce the president’s executive order to ban Muslims (a White House statement claimed she was “very weak on illegal immigration”). He fired his third National Security Advisor John Bolton (who he called a “whacko” and “low life dummy”) via tweet because, as the president’s press secretary stated, they disagreed about policies. In his book, The Room Where It Happened, Bolton highlights their disagreements and concluded that every policy decision Donald Trump made was based on personal interest. Again, the list goes on, but it is clear the president wants to dictate, not govern.
It is no wonder so many people in his administration have ridiculed him. Along with David Shulkin, H.R. McMaster, Anthony Scaramucci, Stephen Bannon, and Omarosa Manigault, the revered Defense Secretary James Mattis claims Trump “doesn’t even pretend to try” to unite us, rather “he divides us,” and offers “immature leadership.” In his resignation letter, the retired Marine general imputed Trump for not “treating allies with respect” and not “being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors.” Trump immediately attacked Mattis, to the dismay of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who agreed with Mattis and attacked the ethics and character of Donald Trump. Kelly, also a retired Marine general, said this about Trump: “The depths of his dishonesty is just astounding to me. The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship, though it’s more pathetic than anything else. He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life.”
Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, levies huge assaults in his book, Disloyal, and concludes he “knew him better than even his family did because I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.” One family member, his niece, Mary Trump, seems to know him quite well. A clinical psychologist, she discusses his sociopathy and misogyny in her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, and concludes that his mania resides in his fragile ego “because he knows deep down that he is nothing of what he claims to be.” In the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, 27 psychiatrists, and mental health experts discuss the psychotic behavior and mental instability of Donald Trump and conclude that he is not fit for office. Over 60,000 mental health professionals signed a petition that Trump has proven himself to be “a clear and present danger.”
Donald Trump runs his businesses much like he does his presidency—brutally, dishonestly, and unsuccessfully. He is famous for not paying people who work for him, be they carpenters, painters, waiters, plumbers, lawyers, or real estate brokers. Hundreds of people have accused him of breach of contract. In an interview with USA Today, he defended himself saying, “Let’s say that they do a job that’s not good, or a job that they didn’t finish, or a job that was way late. I’ll deduct from their contract, absolutely. That’s what the country should be doing.” But to have 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards since 2005 and being involved in 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades, as the USA Today reports, is not in line with a president who claims he will “protect your job.” He has a history of abusing his power and enriching himself at the expense of others—even charities. He was ordered to pay two million dollars spread to eight charities for, as New York Attorney General Letitia James stated, “…illegally misusing charitable funds at the Trump Foundation for political purposes.” He used $10,000 of charity funds to have a portrait of himself painted for one of his hotels. He cheated students out of a $34,995 tuition fee at his “fake” Trump University (the settlement, following a lawsuit, cost him $25 million). His failures include Trump Airlines that, after receiving a $245 million loan, defaulted after two years; his hotels and casino businesses have gone bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009; Trump Steaks, according to its CEO, “literally sold almost no steaks”; the GoTrump.com site lasted less than a year; and Trump Mortgage lasted just over a year. He is a dishonest and failed businessman.
His fraud knows no end. His refusal to release his tax returns is a telling sign, especially when we now know he only paid $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017 and is $400 million in debt. Who knows what else a full disclosure might reveal? He claimed as tax write-offs $75,000 for consulting fees paid to his daughter Ivanka, over $95,000 for her favorite stylist, and $70,000 for his own haircuts. He has visited 14 of his properties over 500 times since being president, and those properties have received more than $17 million of taxpayers’ money. His lack of transparency is blatant in his administration, which still will not tell what businesses received over $500 billion in relief funds for the pandemic. According to Forbes, between April and July, billionaires grew their wealth by 27% from $8 trillion to $10 trillion largely because of Trump’s coronavirus stimulus packages.
Trump’s family has undoubtedly benefited financially from his presidency. The nepotism and conflicts of interest are self-evident and may very well lead to future prosecutions. Though the president claims to be divested from the Trump Organization, it is run by Eric Trump and his older brother, Donald Trump Jr., and makes millions of dollars around the world. It currently has projects in India, Ireland, Uruguay, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Philippines. Over a year after being appointed a senior advisor to the president, Ivanka ran her international fashion business. According to the Los Angeles Times, “On the same day Trump and his daughter dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in Florida in April 2017, China awarded her three preliminary trademark approvals for jewelry, handbags and spa services.” Her husband, Jared Kushner, also with no experience, was also made a White House senior advisor. While John Kelly and other intelligence officers advised Trump not to allow him access to sensitive documents pertaining to national security, he did any way. His dealings, including meetings with Russians and personal profit-driven decisions, have made Kushner, according to Seth Abramson (author of Proof of Corruption), “the greatest domestic danger to America.” After assessing Trump’s violations, a special report from Emory Law maintains, “Mr. Trump’s potential conflicts of interest upon assuming the presidency in January 2017 are numerous and real. The conflicts pose a direct threat to the administration of the rule of law, confidence in due process and transparency in government, and pose difficult challenges to foreign policies and relations.”
Trump has degraded America’s standing worldwide while alienating our allies and inspiring dictators. According to a recent poll, Germans consider Trump the most dangerous leader and “greatest threat to world peace,” ahead of some of the despots such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, and Xi Jinping that he claims to have befriended. Trump has literally courted Putin and publicly put his trust in him over and against his own intelligence officials’ assessment that Russia helped him win the 2016 election. He ignored the bounty that Putin apparently put on the heads of American soldiers. Some say his failure to confront Putin owes to compromising evidence Russia has against him. It could also be that he hopes for post-president business deals in Russia. The Trump Tower Moscow that Donald Trump pursued during his campaign may have included giving Putin a $50 million penthouse. As for Kim Jong-Un, Trump once called him “Rocket Man” and threatened to wipe North Korea off the map, but after tough “back and forth” at their summit, Trump insists they “fell in love, OK? No, really, he wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love.” Besides entertaining President Jinping, he admires how Xi assumed lifelong leadership: “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”
Besides honoring dictators and pardoning war criminals, he has demeaned the military and its commanders (often using terms such as “my military” and “my generals”) as well as veterans and their families. Along with claims that he knows more than the generals, he has called fallen service people “losers” and “suckers” and said that John McCain is “not a war hero…because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” This from a man who dodged the draft five times—four because of education and one because of his self-acclaimed bone spurs. No wonder more than 200 retired generals and admirals (some who served under Trump) recently endorsed Joe Biden in a joint letter. Besides declaring that Trump has failed “to meet challenges large or small” and that “our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us,” the letter submits that, under his leadership, “Climate change continues unabated, as does North Korea’s nuclear program. The president has ceded influence to a Russian adversary who puts bounties on the heads of American military personnel, and his trade war against China has only harmed America’s farmers and manufacturers.” Retired Admiral Steve Abbot added, “Over the past four years, I’ve seen what is a clear manipulation of our military to serve his personal needs. The military has been a loyal, reliable constant in this country because of its apolitical nature. And here we had a president working to undermine it.”
Along with over 20,000 lies or misleading statements, Trump has broken hundreds of promises. Some of the most revealing is his promise not to play as much golf as Obama because he would be too busy. He has played golf 280 times since he has been president, costing taxpayers some $141 million. During the pandemic, he has made more trips to his courses than he has had meetings with Dr. Fauci. Instead of lowering taxes for the lower classes and increasing them for the rich, as he promised, he has exactly the opposite. He promised to release his tax returns; now he is asking the Supreme Court to block them from being released. He promised Mexicans would pay for his “big, beautiful wall.” He promised he would lock Hillary Clinton up for using her personal email for official business while he, Ivanka, and Kushner use their cell phones for official business. He promised everyone could get a free COVID-19 test.
Donald Trump also promised to boost economic growth by 4 percent a year but growth has not reached over 3% in any year since he has been in office and is now stifled while unemployment is at its highest point since the Great Depression. He has added $5.2 trillion to the national debt. The federal deficit, which he promised to eliminate, has increased by 60%. Drug prices have not been reduced; he promised to reduce them. He promised to hire “only the best people.” Why has he fired more of his Cabinet and White House hires than any president ever, and then called some of them “whackos,” “dumb as a rock,” and “not mentally qualified”? Instead of replacing the Affordable Care Act with something “beautiful,” as he promised he would do, he is responsible for the loss of health insurance for over seven million Americans. As if that is not enough, he recently charged the Supreme Court to repeal the ACA without a plan to replace it during the pandemic! If he ends the ACA and the payroll tax, as he has promised he will do, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will suffer explosive cuts. An ABC report estimates that Medicare will lose $1.6 trillion and Medicaid $451 billion over the next 10 years.
Along with broken promises, Trump has broken numerous accords that have helped ensure peace and sustain allies. Besides pulling us out of the Paris Agreement, he ended the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. He has tried unsuccessfully to repeal DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that protect young people who arrived in the U.S. as children) but did pull us out of the UN Human Rights Council after its High Commissioner called the border parent-child separation policy “unconscionable.” He broke the accord with United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, claiming it had an anti-Israel bias—despite the fact that well over 2,000 scientists and 22 Nobel Prize winners signed a joint letter asking him to “adhere to high standards of scientific integrity and independence in responding to current and emerging public health and environmental health threats.” He withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, the Asia-Pacific trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the UN Global Compact for Migration in order to “reassert sovereignty over our borders.” The broken accords and promises reflect ignorance as well as ruthlessness.
Trump has been impeached, indicted many times, and is guilty (even if he is not charged) of breaking various constitutional laws. Guilty of quid pro quo, Trump tried leveraging $400 million in aid to Ukraine in hopes he could pressure officials to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter (more evidence Donald Trump would do anything to win the election). Other constitutional violations include the Emoluments Clause because of, for instance, profiting from foreign and domestic use of his hotels. He is guilty of breaking the Hatch Act by campaigning—with various cohorts in multiple ways—from the White House (his RNC speech on the WH lawn is a case in point). He uses the Department of Justice for his personal interests. For instance, Attorney General William Barr is spending tax-payer dollars to defend Donald Trump in a defamation suit by a woman who claims he raped her; and to sue the author of a tell-all book about Melania Trump. In short, Trump sees his role in the executive branch as an authoritarian one that controls all others with no regard for checks and balances.
His one-sided approaches to First Amendment rights are, in manifold ways, unconstitutional (including not just who has free speech, but also who has the right to assemble). He has attempted to control the media, considers free speech “disgusting,” and has threatened and encouraged hostile acts toward journalists. He calls any report that criticizes him “fake news.” He considers the press “the enemy of the American people.” While such attacks may be legal, some of his assaults and punitive acts may not be, which is why PEN America, an organization of writers, along with the nonprofit Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Clinic is suing him. They are seeking an order that disallows Donald Trump to “use the force of his office to exact reprisals against the press.” Besides barring “enemy” reporters from press conferences, his administration tried to block the merger of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, with AT&T, not because of anti-trust issues, but because Trump regards the news company as “terrible,” “fake,” and “garbage.” He has praised violent attacks on reporters, threatened to pull the press credentials from certain journalists, blacklisted entire news outlets from campaign events, referred to journalists as “scum” and “slime,” and claimed though he “would never kill” reporters, “but I do hate them.” His threats and diatribes against them have been taken literally by followers as many journalists and reporters have received death threats.
Of all of Trump’s foibles, one of the most apparent and transgressive is his penchant for divisiveness. The way he fuels partisanship and divides the country is the product of hate-mongering mixed with the threat of violence. His call to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” is one of many instances when his rhetoric has led to violence or potential violence. The domestic terrorist group, the Wolverine Watchmen, took his words to heart. 13 white men belonging to the group were charged with plotting to attack the Michigan capitol in Lansing and kidnap two governors — Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Ralph Northam of Virginia. In a tweet following the arrests, Trump suggested it was Whitmer’s fault, stating, “Governor Whitmer—open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!” White supremacy is real and its terrorist groups dangerous. A bill before Congress states, “White supremacists and other far-right-wing extremists are the most significant domestic terrorism threat facing the United States.” Yet, Trump, between interrupting and bullying, would not condemn white supremacy when asked to do so at the first presidential debate. Instead, when asked about the neo-fascist Proud Boys, he simply stated, “stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys have taken that phrase as a rallying cry. Donald Trump doubled-down stating, “I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem.” Yes, there is a problem, and we are caught in it.
It is not a secret: anger, hatred, and threats of violence characterize Trump’s attempt to create his own regime. If the commander-in-chief loses the election, he is seriously considering refusing to concede and not allowing “a peaceful transfer of power.” How can anyone with an open mind and a caring heart support such a blatant disregard for the constitution, the United States, and the values of freedom and decency? After all he has done, voting for him is an affront to not only those of us who see Trump as a threat to our republic, but also a clear insight into who you are, whether you like it or not. Let me repeat, I do not hate Donald Trump. He is a product of his upbringing and our commercial “reality-TV” driven culture. His fame and fake, “your fired” Apprentice persona are not his fault. Nor is his unwitting role in cementing the battle lines that were drawn when the 1960s Zeitgeist birthed the anti-patriarchal movements involving Civil Rights, feminists, environmentalists, hippies, free-speech, and anti-war. Still, a vote for Trump is a lynchpin to a future from which we may never fully recover.
For obvious reasons, there is only one ethical choice: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I have already voted and brought my ballot to our town hall. I am hopeful. Many of us are hopeful. We all need hope. We also need leaders who fight for the poor, believe in science, and see the effects of climate change. We need a president and vice-president who speaks for all voices regardless of sex, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, income level, or political party. This election is not a matter of choosing between the lesser of two evils. It is a moral as well as a political choice. Biden was born to a middle-class family in Scranton, PA, and has been a Catholic his whole life. He knows the issues surrounding working-class families and cares deeply for their welfare. Biden is trusted by our allies and respected by our enemies. He understands global politics and is educated and experienced at handling crises near and afar.
No wonder a bipartisan group of 489 former national security officials signed and published a joint letter endorsing Joe Biden, claiming he “has the character, principles, wisdom, and leadership necessary to address a world on fire”; that his “positions are rooted in sound judgment, thorough understanding and fundamental values”; that he “has the experience and wisdom necessary to navigate America through a painful time.” Over a hundred prominent members of the group, “Republicans and Independents for Biden,” have endorsed Biden because, as former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder submits, he has “shown the desire to heal a deeply divided nation; has demonstrated strong moral character and empathy; and he seems willing to listen to people who have different perspectives from his own.” More than 175 current and former law enforcement officers and officials endorsed Joe Biden for president because of his experience at “keeping communities safe,” his ability to “heal the divide in our country,” and our need for “a president that has always prioritized the safety of Americans and their families.”
Joe Biden is not perfect. He makes mistakes. But owns them and tries to learn from them. He would never blame others for his own failures. He stutters. But he has worked his whole life on his impediment and has succeeded to an enormous degree. His ability to stay on target even when been harassed and interrupted on national TV is quite remarkable. You know what he is saying comes from the heart. He may misspeak or falter for a moment in search of the right words, but he communicates honestly and, despite being 78, shows no signs of cognitive decline. He has been a politician for 47 years. But he is still open to change. Besides, being a career politician has an upside. His experience, including 8 years as VP, will serve us all. He is wise, strong, impassioned, and most importantly, has empathy. Biden has learned how to work with both sides of the aisle. He knows when to be assertive and when to be conciliatory.
His pick for vice president, Kamala Harris, is inspired. She has a unique and diverse heritage, is a crusader for justice, and has experience prosecuting and protecting as well as serving in the Senate. Together, they will work with doctors and other health experts to save lives and take the necessary steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19. They will work with scientists to combat climate change and protect the environment, raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, and support an educational system that serves all children. They will improve the country’s infrastructure, implement safe and renewable energy, fight for racial equality, work to halt gun violence, initiate justice reform, create new jobs, launch an immigration reform plan, and fully fund Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They will renew our international respectability, bring back dignity and decorum to the White House, and treat the press fairly while respecting the First Amendment. They will promote compassion in place of hate, hope instead of despair, tolerance rather than violence, and unity as opposed to divisiveness.
Whether or not this addresses any lingering doubts or concerns you may have, I trust you see why so many of us are hopeful and why these past four years have been so painful. There is no need to tilt your moral compass any longer. Donald Trump does not deserve your respect or your vote. As so many Republicans are testifying, Donald Trump has strayed drastically from the party’s platform, moral base, and vision for the future. A vote for Biden and Harris is a vote for America, a return to decency, and a testament of good will. It offers a chance for voices to be heard of those who have suffered because of discrimination based on sex, race, religion, class, and nationality. It offers hope for our children, the environment, and international relations. A vote for Biden and Harris is a moral statement and declaration that we can find a better way.