Trump’s Disastrous Election

About all the intelligent people on earth were shocked by Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton. People are trying to make sense of it in retrospect; we’ll see what comes out of the analysis.

My own feeling is that we are heading into a dark future. Trump really is a vile person, based on his public statements, and he knows almost nothing about government, based also on the lack of substance behind his public remarks.

This is a recipe for disaster.

Missed Most of the VP Debate

I have to confess I missed most of the debate between Kaine and Pence last night. I had in part a legitimate excuse, because it was a Tuesday night and my wife and I had a rehearsal to attend about 40 minutes’ drive from home. However, on the way back, she tuned in NPR to listen. Only a few seconds was enough to exasperate me, because Kaine, Pence, and the moderator were all talking at once. For me, especially due to severe hearing loss, this is an extremely frustrating experience. But even for fully hearing people I am sure it is unpleasant at the very least, and almost certainly confusing.

When we got home, the debate was still on, and I tried to watch if for a bit. The tendency to talk simultaneously was still there, the interruptions by one candidate or the other making it impossible for either one to get his entire argument across. And then, Pence was particularly annoying with his tendency to run on, overextending any reasonable time limit. Still, I hung in there until the moderator asked them to tell how their faith influenced them. This was the limit. I went upstairs to prepare for bed.

My wife reported back that Kaine had won the debate, largely because Pence could offer no real defense to Kaine’s questions about his tacit support for some of Donald Trump’s more egregious statements. I was glad to hear that of course – nobody should vote for Trump. But I was not sorry to bail out on the religious discussion.

To my mind asking a candidate about his faith in such a setting ignores a fundamental fact about our government: it is secular. The Founding Fathers knew the history of Europe only too well: the centuries of warfare between Protestants and Catholics being foremost in their minds. They reasoned that the problem stemmed from the attempt to force one religion or the other on one whole country or province, with government endorsing one religion or the other. So the Founding Fathers laid down the law in the Constitution that no religious test should be applied to anyone seeking office. This implied, surely, that also in private life no person should be persecuted by the government for his beliefs.

Of course, in reality there has been religious discrimination in this country. Jews, Muslims, and Catholics have in the past been effectively barred from public office. But over time the Constitution, and the general moral progress of our culture, have granted, gradually, full religious liberty as far as public office is concerned. Prejudice by some believers against other religions persists privately, but it is to be hoped that ultimately this will subside.

Under this understanding of the Constitution, the attempt by some to impose their religious views on others should be condemned. So, if for example you have religious grounds for opposing capital punishment, you have every right to use any argument to try to outlaw it, but you do not have the right to prevent legal executions or impose unilateral sanctions on those who carry them out. Similarly, if you are opposed to abortion on religious grounds, you have every right to offer any argument to persuade people not to have them, or to try to regulate them, but you do not have the right to block access to clinics or to shoot doctors who work there.

This is not the place I choose to argue about the substance of either of those two issues, which I know came up in the debate. But the general perspective, that religion should not be a test of political eligibility and that the law holds sway over personal religious opinion, seems to me the only one consistent with our Constitution.

 

 

 

A Vocabulary for the 2016 Election

Here are a few words, whose meaning people might like to reflect upon.

 
1. Narcissim

– ˈnärsəˌsizəm/
noun
noun: narcissism
1. excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism
“his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism”
antonyms: modesty

o Psychology
extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
o Psychoanalysis
self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.
Example: Donald Trump, Hitler, Stalin, Joseph Mengele, Marylyn Manson, OJ Simpson, Paris Hilton
2. Bigot

: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)
Example: Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, Ian Paisley
3. Ignoramus

a person who does not know much : an ignorant or stupid person
Example: Donald Trump, George W. Bush, to cite two. Actually there are not many famous ignoramuses according to my internet search…maybe there is a reason, such as nobody usually pays attention to  ignoramuses?
4. Default

de·fault
dəˈfôlt/
noun
noun: default; plural noun: defaults
1. 1.
failure to fulfill an obligation, especially to repay a loan or appear in a court of law.
“it will have to restructure its debts to avoid default”
synonyms: nonpayment, failure to pay, bad debt
“the incidence of defaults on loans”
Example – Repeated recourse to the bankruptcy law to avoid paying the full amount of debts, as in Donald Trump’s behavior in Atlantic City. Or simply devaluating the dollar, as suggested by Trump to deal with debt owed to foreign investors
5. Reckless

reck·less
ˈrekləs/
adjective
adjective: reckless
1. (of a person or their actions) without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.
“reckless driving”
synonyms: rash, careless, thoughtless, heedless, unheeding, hasty, overhasty, precipitate, precipitous, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, devil-may-care; More

Example – the idea suggested by Donald Trump that we encourage other countries to acquire nuclear weapons so that they can defend themselves instead of depending on us.

 

An Independent Defense of Hillary

One of the things that has puzzled me over the years is the extent to which Republicans have attacked and vilified Hillary Clinton. They seem to think that persistent mudslinging will eventually stain her character. Now it turns out that an independent analysis has documented just what happened. In the 1990s William Safire wrote a column attacking Hillary for telling lies and suborning perjury in connection with a decade-old business venture called Whitewater. Formal investigations followed. It turns out that there was not a shred of truth in any of these charges. Safire never retracted his claims, and instead, despite having been disproved, they became a right-wing mantra. A second point, based on an analysis of polling trends, shows that whenever Hillary announced a plan to run for office, her poll numbers declined. When she succeeded to the office, however, her poll numbers went up. What explains this? It is pretty simple: misogyny. The idea of a woman seeking power is unpopular with a significant number of men. Fortunately, when the woman does a good job, at least some have the good grace to admit it. In essence, that is it. Here is a link to the article.

The claim that Hillary is a liar and not to be trusted is itself nothing but a Republican lie.

Hillary Speaks

She gave one of the best speeches I have every heard tonight in Brooklyn. In a conversational tone, yet speaking to millions, she talked of American values and pointed out how woefully short of living up to them Donald Trump is. She spoke about the power of working together. She rightly spoke of the influence of her own mother and how great it would have been if she could have witnessed the nomination of her daughter to be President by the Democratic Party. She rightly told us that Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” was code for “Let’s Go Backwards.” It was  brilliant.

 

Hillary Wins Nomination

The AP polled all superdelegates- Democrats in public office for the most part- and discovered that the number committed to Hillary has gone up. This, and her new delegates from Puerto Rico, put her over the top.

New Jersey will make it even bigger; there is no way she will be denied unless there is some unprecedented massive change of heart among Democratic leaders. Not likely given Sanders’ limited time as a Democrat.

Not Hitler, but…

Justin Smith’s column in the New York Times today offers some in-depth analysis on the question of history repeating itself. Without quoting Santayana even. Here is the link.

I quote from this scholarly and perceptive article:

“If Trump is not a reincarnation of Hitler, he is most certainly one head of the same global Hydra that has already given us Vladimir V. Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Narendra Modi. ”

In case you are interested, you can read about the classical reference to the Hydra here.

Michael Gerson on Trumpism and Evangelicals

Normally Michael Gerson is full of conservative ideas that I do not agree with. This time, however, in his column in the Washington Post, he is right on the mark. Here is a juicy quote, pointing out the weirdness of any hypothetical alliance of Trump with evangelicals:

“Support for Trump involves a massive, disorienting shift, especially given the reputation of the religious right. It is, well, unexpected for evangelicals to endorse a political figure who has engaged in creepy sex talk on the radio, boasted about his extramarital affairs, made a fortune from gambling and bragged about his endowment on national television. ”

The endowment referred to here is not a financial one. No.

Seriously, how can anyone imagine explaining to a child the buffoonish and racist statements of this man if he should become President? Who would not be ashamed to acknowledge that this guy is actually in charge of the executive branch of government? In fact, there is good evidence that many decent Republicans are already ashamed that he is their nominee.

Sometimes common sense and decency outweigh political preferences and party sentiment. This is surely one of those times.

 

Trump Fits into the Nazi Style

This letter by me appeared in the Albany Times Union, June 2 2016:

I read Charles Coons’ letter; I was attracted by the headline, “Election will help decide the future of America,” May 21. Mr. Coons enters into a diatribe against politicians who are exploiting their positions for personal gain. Who is he talking about?

It begins to become clear when he finally reveals his position: “What do they find wrong with having a balanced budget or closing our borders, other than votes. What is coming across our borders is the future of America and do they think ISIS does not know how easy it is to enter America?” Clearly, this is a letter of support for Trumpism.

I can answer the question about what is wrong with closing our borders, in the sense that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stands for. Let us go back to square one in Trump’s appeal, referring to people from Mexico: “…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists….” This was followed by a call for deportation and the creation of a wall on the Mexican border.

Elsewhere, Trump called for a complete ban on entry of Muslims into the country. Let’s substitute the word “Jew” for “Mexicans” in Mr. Trump’s first speech, or for “Muslims” in the second. There, one would have a plausible quote from the Nazi press of the 1930s.

The problem with closing the borders as advocated by Mr. Trump is that it amounts to racism of the ugliest kind the world has ever seen. It is indeed an important election. Trump must not be elected.

The Rise of Two Demagogues

I heard a story about someone comparing Donald Trump’s tactics to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany after the First World War. These remarks provoked a heated response. After all, Trump is not proposing concentration camps. No. And he is not proposing an invasion of Canada or Mexico either. But then, at the outset, Hitler did not propose death camps for the Jews or an aggressive territorial war either.

He began his involvement in politics while serving as a spy for the German army after the war. He was sent to report on an anti-Marxist, anti-democratic party called the DAP. He was immensely impressed by the anti-semitic rhetoric of the leader. Eventually he obtained permission to join the party from his Army commanders and became a leader in what was to become the National Socialist Party. Not fearing to use violence, the party agitated constantly until finally Hitler became Chancellor of Germany after having been elected by democratic vote.

Trump of course had a very different history. He never joined the army. He parlayed a large inheritance into a fortune in real estate, while going bankrupt several times. He contributed money to politicians of all persuasions, including Hillary Clinton. He did not formally join the Republican Party until 2012. When he began his campaign for President this year, he did it with a bang, attacking Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “murderers”, while allowing smugly that some were probably “good people.” He then proposed a program to expel all illegal immigrants and build a physical wall on the border with Mexico to shut down the flow of these people into the United States. Later, he added to his list of the proscribed by proposing a ban on the entry of Muslims into the country. Really, here the comparison with Hitler stands up pretty well. Just substitute Jews for Mexicans or Muslims in Trump’s rhetoric and you have a plausible Hitler quotation.

The comparison is inexact. But the parallel of racism is unmistakable.

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