The Lady and the Trump
Here we are, standing on the edge of the abyss. Staring into this yawning chasm, one considers how we got here. How did Trump win the nomination in the first place? How did Sanders lose to Hillary? Idealistic remonstrating aside, America now has a choice: do they vote for a man who is, by any estimation, a clinical narcissist and pathological liar? Or do they vote for a woman who is morally and ethically compromised on many issues, but occasionally manages to express a coherent thought? Tough choice. But I thought I’d go once more unto the breach for my dear friends in America and spell out in excruciating detail why, when compared to Trump, Hillary is an angel. To do this, I sourced an article that explains why Trump’s supporters are going to vote for him (http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-36253275). Needless to say, I think their rationalisations do not stand up to even cursory scrutiny.
He’s not a politician
People are understandably disenfranchised with the political systems of many Western democracies. Political elites like the Clintons have apparently made it their business to secure wealth and office at any cost, without regard for the people that they have been elected to serve. None of this makes Trump any more palatable. He’s not a politician. So what? The lack of a perception that he is tied to interests other than his constituents’ is not grounds for the fanatical support he appears to garner at rallies and in polls. Politicians doubtless have many sins to atone for, but electing Donald because you don’t like the way our political system works is a huge move that will destabilise American democracy. The pendulum definitely needs to swing towards accountability and responsible government, but Trump will destroy the pendulum and then claim that Hillary did it.
He tells it like it is
Yes, in the same way that the Bible tells it like it is. This is my favourite claim to debunk, not only because it is so easy, but because there is so much material to work with. There is no doubt that Trump has pinched a nerve in America. He has appealed to those segments of the population who feel as though politicians are out of touch with the problems of everyday Americans. But his rhetoric is so self-contradictory and fact-free that this claim should be self-refuting. PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking website run by the Tampa Bay Times (a Floridian paper in a red state, I point out, lest people reflexively clutch at the crutch of bias to support themselves). They check claims made by elected officials all over America and have been checking statements made by both presidential candidates. Donald Trump, the champion of truth, the white knight (heh) of plainspokenness, has made 313 statements that have been checked by the site. Of those statements, 159 were rated either false or pants-on-fire, a ruling reserved for statements that are not only false, but that also make a ridiculous claim (Trump claiming Obama was not born in America is an example). According to this metric, over half of the words that come out of his mouth are false or false and ridiculous. He also says some things that are true. Which is to say that some of his ramblings occasionally intersect with reality. But to say that he “tells it like it is” is demonstrably false.
He fares even less favourably when he is compared to Hillary. PolitiFact checked 196 of Hillary’s statements and found 12.8% to be either false or pants-on-fire. Conversely, of her statements, 51% were deemed true or mostly true. So if any candidate is being honest (although not as honest as the voting public might like), it’s crooked Hillary, not Mr Trump. It’s true that Hillary has been frustratingly evasive and far from satisfying when it comes to questions about her email scandal, but the fact is that the FBI concluded that there isn’t anything worth prosecuting over. It was reckless and irresponsible, but the closer you look, the less you see that’s objectionable. She is trailing a litany of bad choices and morally questionable decisions, but that only makes her a compromised human being, not one that is totally unfit to be president. It would take very little for me to endorse a Republican candidate instead of Hillary. One of the biggest points of contention in this election has been the way that Trump treats women. It has been intolerable to watch Hillary dance around this instead of calling it out for the disgusting behaviour that it is. She cannot unequivocally condemn him because she has been involved in denigrating the victims of her husband’s past transgressions. There are many reasons why Hillary is an unlikeable and disappointing candidate, but placed against Donald’s complicated relationship with reality and his temperament, they dissipate and fade like mist in the wind.
He’s a successful businessman
But is he? A CNN Money report stated, “no major US company has filed for Chapter 11 (bankruptcy) more than Trump’s casino empire in the last 30 years.” Let that sink in. His casino business. A business designed to make money. Casinos are basically money printers, and Trump managed to drive his casinos to repeated bankruptcies. To discharge these debts, Trump had to sell shares, airlines and yachts. A National Journal article estimated that had he invested his inheritance from his father in an S&P 500 portfolio, he would be worth more than he is now, relying on a report to the Federal Electoral Commission concerning his net worth. This is somewhat speculative, given that Trump, that paragon of transparency and accountability, has refused to release his tax returns, breaking a trend established by Jimmy Carter in the 1970’s. Many supporters have claimed that Trump would run the American government like a business, cutting spending and reducing debt. The only problem is, Trump has amassed debt and driven his companies to bankruptcy at every turn, so how sure can we be that he won’t be as reckless with public finances? Well, luckily we needn’t speculate.
His revised tax proposal would cost between $2.6 trillion and $5.9 trillion. That’s how much money would be taken out of federal revenue, relative to today’s system. This plan consists of vaguely couched tax cuts for everyone, although disproportionately benefiting high-income earners, and would result in economic growth and more jobs, according to the Tax Foundation. But these benefits are estimated without taking into account spending cuts (or spikes for that matter) or the effect of Trump’s other policies regarding immigration and trade. Taking into account his proposal, which is apparently serious, of building a wall along the US-Mexican border costing between $8 and $12 billion dollars and his isolationist policy regarding trade and immigration, it’s fair to say that Trump’s economic plan would be disastrous for America and the world at large. He’s even considered, albeit loosely and incoherently, refinancing US debt. He clearly has no concept of what that could do to an economy that is increasingly interconnected and globalised. It’s one of many examples that demonstrate that running a corporation doesn’t translate to having a grasp of public finance. It also demonstrates that Trump doesn’t translate well into English, but I digress.
Islam and immigration
Here’s where things get interesting. Trump wants to close the US-Mexican border and prevent Muslims from immigrating to America under any circumstances. While I don’t think it reprehensible to have a coherent and comprehensive immigration policy that dictates who may and may not enter the country, once again Trump demonstrates a paucity of detail. For the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on the proposed Muslim ban, because the wall is a more ridiculous and inherently less likely thing to happen. Trump wants to ban Muslims. How would this be accomplished? Does the US develop a religious test for immigrants? The Constitution doesn’t prohibit such a thing, it speaks only of religious tests in the context of public office and public trusts (US federal public service). A ban on Muslims would certainly be an interesting idea, but, characteristic of all Trump’s statements, it lacks nuance. Vetting immigrants to single out certain Muslims would be wise and prudent, as an article by the National Review put it. The world is facing a huge problem with Islamism and Jihadism (these terms mean the ideology to impose Islamic law over people by political means and violent means respectively), and Islam is the religion of every Islamist and Jihadist. It’s true that not every Muslim is a jihadi. There are actually very few who fit the mould. Far more are Islamists, but both of these groups are antithetical to the core values of a liberal democracy and a country should be able to restrict their entry, especially after the events in Europe have played out over the past two years. Tolerance is only beneficial when it stretches to cover all people and beliefs, except those that are intolerant.
The problem with this proposal is that Trump has no idea how to articulate it. He probably doesn’t even know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims. He has found a vein of ore in the desire to protect ourselves from Islamic terrorism, but he doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to mine it. So he blathers on about banning all Muslims and gets denounced as a bigot. I don’t think this kind of criticism actually helps the cause of public debate because it doesn’t go to the heart of the claim, it merely deals in ad hominem epithets. In any case, Trump’s ability to leverage subtle and nuanced policy ideas is so sorely lacking, that I don’t think it a huge leap to say that his time in office would be more of the same: he would careen through the American political landscape like a runaway rhinoceros, tearing down any democratic institution that got in his way.
Trump cannot be president. He demonstrates with his every sentence that he doesn’t have the intellectual capacity, integrity, or nuance to serve as the leader of the free world. I fervently hope that, should he lose, the media pay him no attention and he sinks back into the relative obscurity of a B-grade celebrity.