A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
A conservative Republican comes to terms with what his party has become.
Fans of the current administration would refer to me as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) because I do not support President Trump. I take great exception to this because I have been a conservative republican since 1978. The problem, as I see it, is that the current Republican Party no longer supports the two core ideas that the party supported since the 1980s – Family Values and Fiscal Responsibility.
I reject Donald Trump as President of the United States on the basis of two necessary and profound deficiencies: character and competence.
The qualities of character I look for in a leader are integrity, honesty, fairness, and compassion. He or she should also be hard-working, well-read, and well-organized, as well as possessing the wisdom to listen to others who are more knowledgeable. Trump has none of these qualities.
Merriam-Webster defines integrity as “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY.”
I do not believe Trump has the integrity to be the great leader he thinks he is. He is profoundly dishonest in almost everything he says and does. Even before he ran for President, his Trump University was already shown to be a sham. As an educator, I find this especially disturbing – too close to home, so to speak. His morality is not simply questionable. In fact, I don’t believe Trump is immoral at all – I believe he is amoral. Again, from Merriam-Webster: “lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply.”
My gut feeling is that Donald Trump actually believes that whatever he does is moral because he did it.
That belief of being able to redefine the world in his own image was reinforced when he gave away classified information at a conference in Mar-a-Lago. He endangered our allies’ clandestine operations and the people involved, but security experts explained to the public that, as Commander-in Chief, when he made the information public, it was, by definition, no longer classified. Thusly he remakes the world without regard to the consequences suffered by others. This brings us to the topics of Fairness and Compassion.
Fairness has been put forth as a component of, or even a synonym for, Justice. Dealing justly with others is an indispensable quality of leadership. Treating others unfairly is a profound violation of trust in a leader. When Lt. Colonel Vindman testified, it was pointed out by his military superiors that he was doing exactly what he was trained to do – refusing to obey what he perceived to be an illegal order. After Lt. William Calley (and others) committed the horrifying My Lai massacre in Viet Nam in 1968, our country suffered through too much to allow “just following orders” to be accepted as an excuse for committing illegal or even immoral acts. Nevertheless, Donald Trump has punished Vindman and others – each an example of the President’s disregard for basic fairness and justice.
The word compassion is derived from the latin, and means “to suffer with” another person. I don’t see or understand how disregarding the plight of American citizens in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated their island was an example of compassion. His display of throwing paper towels at them was shameful at best. They did not vote, therefore they did not count. I feel the same way about separating families and locking people in cages at the border.
The President is not a hard-working man. He railed against President Obama for the amount of time he spent playing golf, but Trump has spent far more time doing the same. Also, a significant part of the President’s time is preparing for meetings with foreign officials. His gaffes have become legendary, from not understanding proper protocols (for example, with the Queen of England and the UK) to profound ignorance about basic geography (proclaiming that India has no border with China – it’s actually over 2,000 miles!).
The President has made much of his education at Wharton. He does not mention that over 4,000 members of the Wharton community signed an open document rejecting Trump’s policies and actions. He claimed to have graduated “first in his class” which is remarkable since he never even made the Dean’s list. Again, more lies.
He campaigned on a platform to “fix” the economic inequities inherent in our international economic treaties. The number of credible economists who believe tariffs are a good idea is remarkably small. However, Trump was able to use economic fear as his lever to get support for his economic plan during his campaign. He was able to magnify and focus peoples’ fear on an outside enemy – China.
The farmers of America were frustrated and angry about Washington’s incompetence or apathy concerning their situation. He fed into that, telling them it wasn’t their fault, that the Outsider – China – in collusion with a mythical “Deep State” was to blame.
Trump first provided a tax break totaling 390 billion dollars to the corporations that lend money to farmers. The next step was to start a trade war with China – the farmers’ biggest customer! These two actions had consequences. For example, farm foreclosures are up 20% in 2019, the interest rate on farm loans are at 6.07% – the highest in 20 years.
He has completely abandoned fiscal responsibility. The national debt is significantly larger than the gross domestic product. For perspective, if every transaction in the nation resulted in a payment to the government instead of the seller, we would still owe money. Think about it. When he was unable to get the budget for the wall, he essentially took funding from the military budget. As a result, there are military installations that are lacking in basic amenities. Whether you think the military is too big or not, we should at least do it right.
He stated flatly that we could simply “print more money” to pay for projects. This is a statement endorsing what is currently called Modern Monetary Theory, wherein debt doesn’t matter, only the money supply. This is not modern or theory. History has shown that “printing more money” simply primes the pump for inflation. By artificially keeping interest rates low, we are effectively winding a spring, storing the reactive energy. The spring will unwind in a bloodbath of hyperinflation until we are forced into a campaign of austerity to preserve our position as the reserve currency of the world. I’m sure at that point the then ex-president will launch on a campaign of “I-told-you-so” in a bid to regain power. The farmers will suffer first and most and he will use that anger the same way he used fear in 2016. With much higher selling prices, they will be happy for a short time, but they will be unable to afford the seed for the next year’s crops. The loans to buy the seed will be beyond their reach or obtainable only at interest rates that guarantee default, as we saw happen in the housing industry in 2007-08. That will be coupled with a crash in the value of farmland, which is the collateral for the loans. This must inevitable result in record increases in farm foreclosures, again as we saw in real estate in 2007-08. This may seem like mere speculation, but history supports it.
I’m tired of being ashamed of our President. He has no understanding or intention of embracing the basic character traits we look for in a leader. Donald Trump has taken my Republican Party hostage. He is so vengeful and vindictive that members of our party are scared to raise their voice against him in fear of being punished.
There is a name for this. It’s called Stockholm Syndrome.
There is a reason the writers of the Federalist Papers warned against the rise of populism – it inevitably results in irrational decisions that will affect all of us. All we need to do for this disaster to come about is nothing. Or, we could vote them out.
John Edward Simms is an Associate Professor of Accounting at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.
Copyright 2020 John Edward Simms