Monday, September 7, 2020

The Dead End Election (Why Trump Must Lose)

 It is now less than two months from the election and early voting will start in many states in a matter of weeks. Many of my Resurgent colleagues have given their opinions on why Donald Trump should be re-elected despite what they acknowledge to be his numerous faults. I respectfully disagree with this view and would like to take this opportunity to explain why I believe that it is vitally important for the future of the United States that Donald Trump not be returned to the White House. The opinions I am expressing here do not reflect the opinions of everyone (and possibly anyone) else at The Resurgent.

Let me say from the start that, even though I was not a Trump supporter in 2016, I tried to be objective and give him the benefit of the doubt after his election. However, being objective did not mean that I was willing to change my core principles and beliefs as so many in the Republican Party did. The fact that I chose to leave the GOP in 2016 and become an independent may have helped me resist the pressure to adopt the new partisan positions that Trump laid out.

And make no mistake: Trump’s positions, whatever they may be on any given day, have replaced the core principles of the Republican Party. If you don’t believe it, just read what passes for the 2020 Republican platform. The document, which is officially titled, “Resolution Regarding the Republican Party Platform,” states, “The RNC has unanimously voted to forego the Convention Committee on Platform” this year in what may be the party’s only voluntary concession to social distancing. Instead, the party’s non-platform states that the platform committee “would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration” and resolves

“That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.”

In other words, Donald Trump and the Republican Party are one and the same. Just as Democrats find little to no room for pro-lifers, Republicans have no room for Trump critics.

And President Trump has done much to be critical of. Any exhaustive list of the president’s problems would exceed the space available here so I’ll try to keep it brief and hit only the high points. Suffice it to say that Mr. Trump’s tenure in office has been a tale of widespread corruption, incompetence (including incompetent corruption), divisiveness, and abuses of power. It is the abuses of power and corruption that I believe are what make Donald Trump so dangerous to the foundations of the American Republic.

There is already a long list of Trump’s abuses of power as well Republican acquiescence to them. The list includes Robert Mueller’s revelations about Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice, the president’s repeated use of Executive Orders and national emergency declarations to circumvent the will of Congress, his attempts to use congressionally-appropriated military aid to ally being invaded by Russia to dig up campaign dirt on his likely opponent, and the firings of several Inspectors General who would not whitewash his administration’s unethical activities. Again, this is not an exhaustive list.   

These abuses of presidential power were defended by the President Trump on the grounds that Article II of the Constitution gives the president “the right to do whatever I want.” This is, of course, not true at all and would be shocking news to the Framers of the Constitution who had just won independence from a king with unlimited power and thought that they had crafted a document that specifically limited the power of the president.

Some Republicans have harrumphed at the idea of unlimited presidential power as well as the Justice Department opinion that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, an opinion that essentially puts the president above the law. Nevertheless, Republicans acted in lockstep with the White House to cover up President Trump’s abuses power during the impeachment process and almost unanimously looked the other way when it came time to vote, not just on impeachment, but on any attempts to rein in Mr. Trump and hold him accountable.   

At this point, it is very difficult for any Trump critic to justify a vote for any Republican. If you are bothered by Trump’s excesses, know that Republicans will do nothing to stop them and

“That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda….”

As I attempt to briefly make the case against Donald Trump, it would be a glaring omission not to address the Trump Administration’s abysmal handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. To be sure, the pandemic would have been a disaster regardless of who was president and that some governors also bungled their pandemic responses, but President Trump needs to be held to account for the steady stream of bad decisions and misinformation that came from his Administration – often from Trump directly – since the virus hit the US in February and March.

The pandemic is the greatest crisis faced by the United States since the September 11 attacks of 2001 or the financial crisis of 2008. It was Trump’s chance to rise to the occasion and he failed miserably. The Atlantic published a detailed postmortem of the White House response to the early days of the crisis as well as a compendium of Trump’s lies, misstatements, and wishful thinking about the pandemic. When the chips were down and Americans needed a leader they could trust, Donald Trump talked about injecting disinfectants and floated the theory that the disease would magically disappear. Indeed, one of the Inspectors General fired by Trump worked for the Department of Health and Human Services and had just released a report critical of the Trump Administration’s handling of the pandemic shortly before her dismissal.

Trump’s mismanagement of the crisis continues after six months. After downplaying the threat of the virus for months, the Trump Administration is currently pushing scientists and regulators to cut corners and release a Coronavirus vaccine before Election Day, an artificial deadline that has no bearing on whether the vaccine will be tested or ready. In response, Moncef Slaoui, the immunologist heading the American vaccine effort, told Science magazine that the vaccine “needs to be absolutely shielded from the politics,” but

“RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda….”

Likewise, Trump’s accomplishments, including the economy, have been greatly exaggerated. In the case of the economy, the president’s trade war had devastated the manufacturing and farm sectors even before the pandemic hit. The tariff wars caused the US to enter a recession in February, several weeks before the onset of the pandemic lockdowns. The downturn associated with the pandemic provided convenient cover for Mr. Trump’s bad economic policies, which he has doubled down on as the nation tries to recover. In the meantime, China is experiencing an export boom. Nevertheless,

“The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda….”

A Trump loss would be good for the Republican Party albeit painful in the short term. As we have seen, Donald Trump has moved the GOP in the wrong direction. His antics have alienated so many voters across the country, particularly minorities, that no one (save the most deluded members of the MAGA base) seriously expects Trump to win a popular vote victory. Any Trump win would be dependent upon a fluke similar to his 2016 hat trick in the Electoral College. A party whose strategy acknowledges that a majority of voters will not support them is not a healthy party.

Rather than calling 2020 a Flight 93 or Titanic election, I like to use the analogy of making a wrong turn onto a dead-end road. The road might be nice and have pretty scenery but it won’t take you where you want to go. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to turn around and back track to get on the right path. The sooner you make that course correction, the better off you are. And that’s where Republicans are likely to be in two months: At a dead end. If the party can eke out a victory this year, they will just have further to backtrack in 2024.

Many of my Trump-critical friends argue that Trump should be re-elected because the Democrats are so bad. This Blue Party Bad argument is compelling, especially in light of this summer’s civil unrest, but it falls short on two points.

First, it ignores the fact that Democrats rallied to reject the radical wing of their party and picked the most stable, moderate, milquetoast candidate who had a chance of winning. To listen to Republicans, you would think that Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee, but that is not the case no matter how much Republican messaging seeks to conflate the two. Moderate Democratic voters, of which there seem to be many more now than four years ago (partly because many have deserted the GOP), specifically rejected the radical left.

Secondly, Blue Party Bad does not make Orange Man Good. I don’t agree with much of what the Democrats stand for, but at least they stand in opposition to unfettered executive power and corruption… for the moment. That would undoubtedly change with a Democrat in the Oval Office, which is why I hope the election results in a division of power between two parties, neither of whom can be trusted to wield it unilaterally.

Barack Obama told Vladimir Putin that he would have “more flexibility” after his last election. So too will President Trump, especially if Republicans retain control of Congress. A lawless president unconstrained by Congress and surrounded by yes-men could do irreparable damage to the foundations of American democracy. Four years of liberal policies would be bad but probably less damaging in the long run than Trump’s systematic destruction of the norms, traditions, and safeguards that have preserved our system of limited government for two centuries.

But what of the question of abortion and pro-life conservatives (of which I am one) who cannot bring themselves to vote for any pro-choice candidate? First, even though Donald Trump has made some pro-life gains, most of these are the result of Executive Orders that would probably have been signed by any Republican president. Second, abortion has been declining for four decades irrespective of which party controls the White House. That trend will most likely continue if Joe Biden becomes president. Finally, a true pro-life viewpoint should extend beyond abortion to concern for vulnerable countrymen in a pandemic and immigrant families seeking asylum.

Donald Trump is neither a good president nor a good man. His time in office has been needlessly divisive and reflects poorly on all who supported him, particularly traditional Republicans and conservative Christians. The images of both of these groups have been tarnished by their association with a man who has shown that many of their deeply-held beliefs and principles were easily abandoned for a temporary political advantage.

I’m not endorsing Joe Biden or any other candidate. In fact, I’m undecided on who I will vote for. What I am endorsing is a vote for anyone other than Trump. If you cannot pull the lever for Biden, there are many other third-party options that you can support instead of rewarding Donald Trump for four years of bad behavior. I urge you to consider these options for the good of your country as well as your party.

It is high time for voters to tell Mr. Trump, “You’re fired.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

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