Friday, May 20, 2016

What I like and dislike about Donald Trump

Before every election I post endorsements in every race local to me, in San Francisco, for a number of reasons.** The least important endorsements are the headline-getters. I do the endorsements to talk about the ballot propositions and local candidates who don't get enough scrutiny. I don't even need to make a Presidential endorsement, and I doubt that I will sway one voter by doing so.

** People should talk more about politics; extremist opinions flourish in the dark absence of discussion. Also, local newspapers don't do the job they used to of examining the issues and politicians in detail.

Unfortunately, just as he has on television, Donald Trump will attract all the attention away from all my other endorsements. It doesn't matter what I think about him, but people ask me all the time anyway. I began writing this post at an international wine competition in Europe where a dozen people asked me about him. I finished two weeks ago and have been sitting on it, picturing my many liberal friends with pitchforks and torches. But the time has come next week to do my other endorsements and I need to get this out of the way first.

So here is what I like and dislike about Donald Trump.

I have really enjoyed Trump's entry into the Presidential race, especially in the early stages. 

* Trump is the first Republican in decades, since Jack Kemp, to talk about the plight of the working class without blaming them for being poor.

* Trump is the first Republican to say the Iraq war was a mistake. How can an entire political party continue to insist the earth is flat, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi people would welcome us if we killed enough of them? This position is a huge point in Trump's favor.

* Trump is candid. Trump seems genuine. Hillary Clinton looks like an animatronic Disney model: every turn of her head, every smile, every applause line seems scripted. Trump speaks off the cuff, and I find that enormously appealing.

* Along those lines, my great hope from the Trump campaign is that it can end the sanctimonious "gotcha" journalism that haunts any candidate who says anything, whether it is President Obama answering for years to his completely true comment that some people "cling to guns and religion" or Mitt Romney's campaign collapsing after he mistakenly says, one time, something about the percentage of people in America who don't work. This over-reliance on a single verbal misstep is not new. When Bill Clinton was first asked about Monica Lewinsky, he angrily said that even presidents have private lives. The media wasn't satisfied with that, so he soon amended that perfect response to claim that he didn't have sex with that woman, leading to a ridiculous impeachment trial and public shaming that paralyzed the government. Trump, in that situation, would say, "Yeah I fucked her. So what?" And his approval ratings would stay exactly the same. I want to live in a country where the President can be honest.

* For a Republican, Trump has taken some unusually humane positions. He isn't reflexively anti-gay. I don't know what his current position on abortion is, but he's not a hard-liner. In the modern Republican party, this is enlightenment.

* In fact, Trump's nomination is a sign that voters have rejected Republican dogma. This is good and hasn't gotten enough attention from the mainstream media.

* Trump is not stupid. He's a quick thinker and he's shrewd. Not exciting on its own, but worth mentioning considering our last Republican President.

* Europeans are horrified by Trump's belligerent international statements. I'm not European. Putting a little fear into the rest of the world might work out well for the United States of America.

* Trump is entertaining. I can barely stand to watch Hillary Clinton speak for 5 minutes. Trump might be a terrible President, but he's unlikely to ever be boring.

These are a lot of pluses and I'm totally serious about them. I have made my Democratic friends uncomfortable by daring to praise Trump about anything. Most Democrats hate Trump so irrationally that they fixate on his hairstyle or his Trump-brand steaks and ignore the fact that Trump often sounds like he cares more about the working class than Hillary Clinton. This blind hatred for Trump reminds me of many Republicans' blind hatred of Obama. We have become so polarized in this country that Democrats can't even recognize a candidate from the other side who's actually pretty close to the center.

Now, here is what I don't like about Trump.

* He's a fascist. This should be a deal-breaker, but nobody alive today remembers the rise of fascism. If you were 18 when Hitler came to power in Germany, you would be 102 today. Trump is not Hitler: he doesn't have an open agenda of territorial acquisition or seem to have a hidden agenda of genocide. Trump IS Mussolini. His platform is a cult of personality with hints of violent reprisal. We must learn from history; we cannot allow such a person to be President.

I don't really need to go any further in explaining why I would not vote for Trump, but I will.

* Trump doesn't care about facts. It's why he's such an effective debater: when confronted with one of his many misstatements, he retorts with a personal insult, and never bothers to accept that he was wrong. He ended Marco Rubio's campaign not on any positions or issues, but by calling him "Little Marco."

Unfortunately, facts aren't important in the modern political world, especially to extremist voters. But they do matter when one is President. A President can't address a problem if he doesn't believe, against all evidence, that it exists.

* Trump sees the world through the eyes of a real-estate developer. This is fine for business of many kinds. It's not what's required of a President.

I took the trouble to read one of Trump's books, "Think Big and Kick Ass." (actual title, yup.) It's a simple-minded and sometimes entertaining autobiographical homily telling readers they too can be a millionaire if they just sell, sell, sell all the time. It's cowritten by an adult-lecture series maven who brags about getting his company started by standing on the street in a clown suit hectoring passersby. Anyone who doesn't want to use this strategy to get rich is a loser.

There are, no doubt, many good lessons a President can take from a lifetime of business negotiations, hiring and firing, etc. The problem is that Trump doesn't realize that these are only part of the skill set a President needs. He constantly talks and writes that in negotiations, he wants to win and have the other party lose. He doesn't believe in agreements where both parties win. This can be a very effective way to run a business, but it will not work in government, either domestically or internationally. Trump might think he can browbeat the Iranians into a better deal, but Iran has its own agenda and doesn't need to sign anything. Multiply this example by the number of countries that the U.S. deals with.

And consider domestic policies. I go back to the example of fascism: do we really want a President who has written openly about seeking revenge on those who cross him? It's sad that compromise is a dirty word in U.S. politics these days, but "revenge" is worse than that. What if, let's say, a nurse's union opposes Trump? Will he take revenge on nurses? This is a realistic and frightening scenario.

* Trump is impulsive, and doesn't take much advice. He writes that he "goes with his gut." Again, this might work in business. It's scary for the most powerful person in the free world.

* Trump walks away from his failures with no regrets. He sees them as a cost of doing business. Once again, this is good for a developer's thinking. But a U.S. President needs to avoid complete failures and cannot declare bankruptcy and walk away from anything, as we (should) have learned in Iraq. Not everything a President does will be successful, but we cannot be blase about the cost of failure.

* I don't know how misogynist Trump is. I think liberal women who hate him overstate a few of his insulting comments: the same "gotcha journalism" I complained about above. His supporters look at each of his comments individually, and can maintain a sense of humor. However, this is not about one comment or joke. Trump does appear to have a pattern of misogyny. I will not vote for a candidate with an open gender bias.

So that's it. As you can tell, I am not endorsing Donald Trump for President.

I will vote for Bernie Sanders in June. I could devote a lot of time to explaining why, but you've read it elsewhere. He's honest, he cares about the important issues, he has a history of working with the opposition to improve and pass legislation, and he has good judgment.

You may be able to divine from this post that I do not like Hillary Clinton. Nonetheless, if Sanders doesn't pull out a miracle comeback and Trump gets the Republican nomination, my endorsement for November should also be pretty obvious. I don't want to have to post this again.

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Aaron said...

That's a refreshing look at some of the things to like about Trump. I think it unfortunately says many, many more worse things about the current political climate :(

wudzee said...

Concerned at first, mollified as you continued. perfect in the conclusion. And Aaron is right on as well. Hear, hear.

Unknown said...

When I was 18 and registered to vote, I selected "non-partisan" filing status. So I have no dog in this political party fight.

Regarding your statement . ..

"I don't know what his current position on abortion is, but he's not a hard-liner."

. . . see this interview with Chris Matthews: