This is the second part of a five-part series I will do this week making the case for and against each of the major candidates, with a wrap-up on Friday. I did this in 2012 and I will observe the same ground rule I did then: making the case for a candidate means making the case for a candidate, not a case against the opponent. That’s the subject of later posts. So “he’s not Hillary” is not a reason I will list for voting for Trump and “she’s not Trump” is not a reason I will list for voting for Clinton. Each one of them will get their own special post all to themselves about they don’t deserve our votes.
Today I’ll make the case against voting for Donald Trump. A lot of this I’ve said before, but I’ll now put it all in one place. It’s going to be long and I expect any Trump supporters will be angry. Don’t worry: my anti-Clinton post will go up on Thursday.
There has never been a Presidential candidate as controversial as Donald Trump. Half the country is insisting that he’s the next Hitler while half the country is insisting he’s our only hope to prevent the collapse of our country. Trump himself has played to this dynamic, with numerous speeches depicting the country as a ruined wasteland and himself as the only salvation.
Needless to say, I think both view are overblown. Trump isn’t Hitler. But he’s also not the only thing standing between us and the abyss. So what is he?
I think he is a deeply deeply flawed candidate who has no business near the White House. Why?
Donald Trump is a big-government populist who would wreck what’s left of conservatism. As I said in the previous post, it is hard to pin down Donald Trump on a specific policy position. However, the overwhelming theme is one of greater government power: the creation of a massive deportation force, opening up libel laws so that it’s easier to shut up his critics with baseless lawsuits, opposing entitlement reform, supporting eminent domain (which Trump has used and described as a beautiful thing), the end of free trade, forcing companies to “bring jobs back” to the US, encouraging police to engage in more brutal policing methods, reinstating torture (a war crime), murdering families of suspected terrorists (also a war crime), seizing oil (also a war crime). The ACLU has put out a 27 page PDF file, detailing all the Trump positions that violate the Constitution. Some of those, I disagree with them on. But the list is overwhelming.
Over and over again, Trump advocates more government power, more Constitutional violations, less human freedom. Here’s a question for the Trump supporters: when has Donald Trump ever spoke movingly of freedom? When has he spoken of freedom at all? Has he ever said anything about civil liberties or property rights? He has ever once said that the government can’t or shouldn’t do something because of the Constitution? If so, has he said these things with a thousandth of the passion with which he advocate for more government power?
This is even worse if you look at Trump’s past positions: in favor of a massive wealth grab, in favor of gun control, in favor of high taxes, in favor of mandating paid family leave. How is this conservatism? How is this anything that we have been fighting for for the last four decades?
Yeah, he’ll have a Republican Congress to balance him. But that didn’t work so well with Bush, who at least had a modicum of respect for basic freedom and Constitutional process. And Donald Trump will not be powerless to do things on his own. He is surrounding himself with people who believe in hard executive power. He has advocated for more executive power.
And it’s even worse than just his big-government agenda. Trump has now elevated the so-called “alt right” to a position of respectability, retweeting alt-right dreck, filling his campaign staff with alt-right dreck and making naked appeals to alt-right dreck. Is this the GOP we want? Big government, populist and friendly to bigots? Anti-trade, anti-free-market, pro-torture?
He has alarming authoritarian tendencies. Trump is constantly beating drum of a Cult of Personality, portraying himself not as an executive to lead, but as some sort of savior. There have been numerous incidents of his supporters engaging in violence and Trump either doesn’t care or even encourages it. He is an enemy of transparency, refusing to release his tax returns under the flimsy excuse that he’s being audited. He kicks out media who have the temerity to question him. He has been known to carry out decades-long vendettas against journalists and has used ruinous garbage lawsuits to try to silence his critics.
For the last eight years, we’ve heard a non-stop shower of shit about how Obama is betraying our allies and coddling up to dictators. How is Trump any different? He’s dumped on our allies, threatened to abandon our alliances and praised Vladimir Putin as a strong leader.
(The latter comment is particularly revealing because Putin is not a good leader. Over the last few years, the Russian economy has collapsed. Putin has found himself diplomatically isolated and stuck in an insurgency in the Ukraine that he can’t really win. So by what standard is he a great leader? Because he blusters, because he murders the opposition and because he appears strong even when he’s weak? I’m sorry. A man standing boldly over the wreckage of his country is not my vision of a good leader.)
Can you imagine what we’d be saying if Hillary Clinton had endorsements from Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin, the KKK, Omar Mateen, Don Black and the Chinese Communist Party? Can you imagine what we’d be saying if Clinton repeatedly retweeted images from neo-Nazis and White supremacists? Can you imagine what we’d say if Hillary Clinton praised Saddam Hussein for “killing terrorists”? (Reality: Hussein funded terrorists, paying blood money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers). Can you imagine if she said the crackdown on Tiananmen Square “showed strength”?
These are not the words of a President who will exercise Constitutional restraint. These are the words of a srongman wannnabe. Maybe some people think we need a strongman. I don’t.
His diplomatic skill is non-existent. Foreign policy is the one domain where the President has the most authority to act. As I noted above, Trump has bashed our allies and questioned our alliances. He has praised dictators and called for nuclear proliferation. What are our allies going to think about this? Why should they strengthen our alliances when Trump has indicated he’ll abandon them? Why should they engage in free trade when Trump is spewing protectionism? When has he ever shown an ability to work with other countries?
Look at Trump’s recent visit to Mexico. People are calling it a triumph because Trump didn’t actually catch on fire. But he lied about what he talked to the Mexican President about. His claims were instantly contradicted. If this happened to Obama, the Right Wing would scream themselves blue about how the world didn’t respect us anymore.
He’s a fraud and a liar. There is way too much to go into here. But basically Trump’s history makes Hillary Clinton’s look honest by comparison.
Let’s just take one example: we’ve heard a lot about the Clinton Foundation (which has a top rating from major charity graders). But have you heard of the Trump Foundation? This is a charity that follows the Clinton model — raising money from groups and then giving it to deserving causes (Trump himself, for all his boasting, has not contributed to it in 8 years). But wrapped up in that are gifts Trump has given himself (including a $20,000 self-portrait). Wrapped up in that are illegal donations to politicians who, mysteriously, subsequently dropped investigations into Trump University. Wrapped up in that are numerous violations of tax law. Wrapped up in that are donations to charities that allowed them to … rent rooms in Trump properties. The Clinton Foundation may have been used to exchange access to Clinton for donations. The Trump Foundation has been used mostly for buttering Trump’s ego.
Trump University. Trump steaks. Trump water. Multiple bankruptcies. Vendors unpaid. Casinos run into bankruptcy while being used as cash machines. Over and over again, we see how this man is a blustering fool whose only real skill is self-promotion.
Is there any reason, any reason at all to expect this will change once he’s in the White House? Then you’re probably the kind of person who believes your drunken husband will sober up once the children are born. In the White House, Trump will have more power and influence than he’s ever had. This will be like taking a raging alcoholic and putting him in charge of a liquor factory.
He shows no understanding of even basic policy. Trump said that he would “renegotiate our debt” like a corporate bond. This would set off a world-wide financial panic. Trump has show that he doesn’t understand our nuclear policy, which makes nuclear war more likely. He’s promised to support parts of the Constitution that don’t exist and advocated policies that are flagrantly unConstitutional. More to the point, after being the Republican frontrunner for 15 months, he’s shown no interest in learning any better. I can understand someone outside of government not understanding the ins and out of the bond market. But it’s unforgivable in someone who is nine weeks away from the election.
I know that’s a lot. But this post could easily have been three times as long. You’ll notice I haven’t talked much about Trump’s personality. Instead, I’ve been talking about his positions (or lack thereof), his approach to issues, his past actions, his future promises. Trump defenders have frequently admitted he’s a jerk, but said he would still be better than Clinton. I’m not convinced. Trump is the most singularly unqualified person I have ever seen run for President. I have been against Trump all year. And I remain #NeverTrump. Not now, not ever.
I don’t care if he’s the only thing standing between us and President Hillary. As I’ll post on Thursday, Clinton is a terrible Presidential candidate whose ideas are pure left wing whackadoodle. But in every way that Clinton is bad candidate, Trump is worse. She’s dishonest; Trump is a flagrant lair. She’s vindictive; Trump has nursed decades-long vendettas. She’s for big government; he’s for bigger government. She is an enemy of civil liberties; he is a bigger one. She’s corrupt; Trump is even more corrupt.
As I said yesterday, the reasons to vote for Trump are the Supreme Court and the hope that he’ll just be a rubber stamp for a Republican Congress. This does not, in my opinion outweigh the massive negatives. Maybe he’ll do those things. But he could also wreck the economy, crush civil liberties and get us into a war. I don’t think it’s worth the risk. I think it’s way more likely that he’ll wreck things than lead us into a new American century. And as someone who, while libertarian, still has a conservative heart, I can not countenance that. I can not roll those dice.