Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
With early voting set to begin in many states, it seems like a good time to offer a plea to my conservative friends and readers (and family members).
Everybody: I’m begging you not to vote for Donald Trump.
I know, I know. Why should you listen to a dyed-in-the-wool “librul” like me, who bleeds Bernie blue? You probably see things the exact opposite from me and believe that Joe Biden is the antichrist. I’m the crazy one.
But rather than get into a battle of alternative world views, I’m not going to talk at all about policy now. This isn’t about abortion, immigration, climate change, education, taxes, or crime. I’m just going to throw out some points that can scarcely be denied, points that I’m assuming you find to be true even as you support this president because he’s doing things you want done. Appointing judges. Cracking down on immigration. Canceling international treaties.
I’m asking you to consider these points and to take on the mantle of the true patriot, which is to make a stand for something against your own self-interest. Because what’s at stake isn’t just the kind of policies that get enacted in the future. What’s at stake is our democratic system. The rules of the game that have survived 231 years since the Constitution took effect.
Donald Trump has put that system at risk. He is:
● Dismantling or corrupting the institutions that make our system of checks and balances effective. He doesn’t honor subpoenas. He has concocted the concept of “absolute immunity” for the president and his advisors. His Attorney General rides roughshod over established DOJ practices. Trump is even using the Postal Service for political gain. All you need to do is imagine how you’d feel if a Democratic president were doing these things.
● Spoiling the dignity of the presidency. Each and every day of his term, he tweets something or crows out something that stains the office. You might say Bill Clinton stained the office too, but I’d counter with (for comic relief), He stained Monica’s dress in an antechamber, not the office.
● Using the presidency to enrich himself. From his failure to divest of his financial holdings to running up government tabs in his own hotels and resorts, this president thumbs his nose at historical ethics guidelines. His daughter and son-in-law have earned millions of dollars while serving as federal employees. He is the only modern president who has refused to release his tax returns. Please ask yourself why.
● Disrespecting and disparaging fallen soldiers. Even if you don’t believe the recent accounts of his referring to American soldiers in a French military cemetery as “losers and suckers,” you know that he insulted John McCain in a similar way, and you no doubt recall his offensive remarks about the Kahns, a Gold Star family.
● Fanning the flames of racial animus. It’s no secret that his approach to the Black Lives Matter movement is to stoke fear that “they’re coming for you” in the suburbs. Instead of trying to ease tensions, he’s inflaming them. His own niece tells us he’s a racist. He called illegal immigrants “animals.” He called Colin Kaepernick and other NFL protesters “sons of bitches.” He said there were “good people on both sides” when referring to the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, where one of them killed a counter-protester. He refused to condemn the armed 17-year-old in Portland who shot and killed two protesters and injured another with an automatic rifle. I’m sad to say the list goes on and on. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” for example.
● Eliminating a common set of facts we need as a foundation for debate. He has repeatedly disseminated conspiracy theories, most recently the tale of a plane full of black-uniformed “thugs” on their way to invade some unnamed city. He didn’t dismiss QAnon when given an opportunity, saying instead, “I hear they like me a lot.” He manufactures statistics that have no basis in fact. He couldn’t even acknowledge that the size of his inauguration crowd didn’t match Obama’s. If Americans can’t agree on what reality is, everyone is free to create a “truth” that suits their own politics—a recipe for chaos.
● Pursuing a “means to an end” strategy. Everything Trump does is to maintain, expand, and deepen his power. He does this by appealing to conservatives with popular acts like appointing conservative judges, talking tough on immigration, tearing up long-standing treaties and trade agreements, pulling out of world conflicts such as the one in Syria, imposing tariffs on foreign goods and materials, and touting his “America First” decree. But these things serve his need for more power, not the needs of the people. Many are objectively destructive, such as the cancellation of the nuclear treaty with Iran and the Paris climate change accord. “Means to an end” has echoes of Stalinism.
● Destroying U.S. reputation worldwide. Because of his irresponsible, scattershot approach to policy, including that impacting our allies, the country’s global standing is sinking fast. All around the world, people are asking, What’s wrong with America? Why are they doing this? And it will have a ripple effect for a generation, given the betrayal of trust that has occurred. If our leaders can’t command the respect of other countries, we’re little more than a rogue nation.
● Eschewing empathy. He has no soothing words for victims of violence, especially when they’re Black. He never puts himself in another’s shoes. He seems incapable of understanding life from any point of view but his own.
● Practicing division for political advantage. His electoral strategy is clearly “It’s Us vs. Them.” To him, the “Us” is White Americans, especially the well-heeled ones. He writes off entire cities and states as “anarchist jurisdictions” and “hellholes.”
● Damaging the integrity of our elections. Only recently, Trump told a crowd in North Carolina that they should send in their mail ballots, then go vote again on election day. If that’s not an attempt to undermine the validity of the election, I don’t know what is. Among other things, though, it’s a felony. He has also declared that if he loses, the election was definitely rigged. He has refused to say that he will accept the certified results. All together, his actions and statements make this the most fraught and at-risk election in modern history.
● Pumping up the stock market at the expense of working Americans. The stock market is not the economy.
● Elevating dictators and autocrats. It hardly needs to be said that there’s something going on between him and Vladimir Putin. He has yet to condemn the undebunked story about Russia’s bounty payments for dead Americans in Afghanistan. You should think about that one carefully. What does it mean that he won’t defend American lives in a war zone? Moreover, he’s overly cozy with Turkey’s Erdogan, Hungary’s Orbán, Brazil’s Bolsonaro, and even Kim Jong Un. He belittles allies like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Is he fantasizing about the unfettered power autocrats possess? Or is he protecting his own interests over America’s?
● Damaging conservatism (just ask George Will, Max Boot, Steve Schmidt, George Conway III, Michael Steele, and many more). Most conservatives I know have been of the traditional variety, with a spectrum of beliefs on social issues but almost always “fiscally conservative.” Possessing no character, Trump has destroyed this branch of Republicanism by demanding loyalty across the board. When an elected GOP official crosses him, Trump lambasts him or her in public and the base threatens a primary. Consequently, the party is now essentially Trump’s robot army, but the positions he requires members to defend are off the map. One way or another, after Trump the GOP will have to reorganize itself. Why not start sooner than later?
● Making religion a tool to use in his political survival. Please. You know in your heart that this is not a religious man. He can’t cite a favorite Bible verse. In fact, he used the Bible as a prop when he had federal troops clear Lafayette Square of protesters so he could pose with it in front of St. John’s church. His actions and utterances demonstrate every day that he doesn’t believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. He’s cheated on all three of his wives. He’s paid off prostitutes and porn stars so they couldn’t talk about him. Everyone who comes within ten feet of him has to sign an NDA. This is not a religious man.
● Finally, he is continuing to mishandle the federal response to the coronavirus. This is perhaps the most serious of all because people have died and are dying as a consequence. Even now, there are hints that he’s going to require the FDA to approve a vaccine before its Phase 3 clinical trial is completed. This is dangerous from two angles: (1) Some people could have a bad reaction to the vaccine that would have been detected in the clinical trial; (2) Some people will refuse to get it because they don’t trust its safety. Trump has responded to the virus in ways that are clearly meant to protect his reelection chances. Moreover, we now know, thanks to Bob Woodward, that Trump knew the virus was deadly from the start but lied to the public about it anyway. Who knows how many lives could have been saved if he had spoken the truth?
Though long, this list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Donald Trump has lied as president more than 20,000 times, so it would be easy to go down the rabbit hole and talk about each of the 20,000 times he’s damaged the commonweal. Because lying undermines democracy.
If you’re a true conservative, your values are to conserve our constitutional system, to maintain order and structure and stability. It might be satisfying to have had nearly two hundred conservative judges confirmed under Trump, including two very conservative Supreme Court justices, but this comes at a price. If the judiciary is loyal only to the executive, every appellate decision will be a fait accompli. Justice will suffer. Correction: Justice will vanish.
Taking all these points into consideration, I implore you, my dear dear conservative friends: When you vote, whether it’s soon by mail or on November 3, vote for Joe Biden—a moderate all his career—and help the country mend the rent Trump has slashed through our national fabric. As tempting as it is to let policy desires guide you, this is a time when we need to think about the larger picture, our system of checks and balances, our place in the world, and our republic itself. All of these are at risk.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will get us headed in the right direction. Let the reconciliation begin on November 4th.
[Image by bpcraddock via Pixabay.]