It feels redundant to add myself to the growing chorus speaking against Donald Trump. Yet many people whom I consider bright and reasonable support him. Why?
I look a lot like the ideal Trump supporter. I’m a white male. I do not have a college degree. I think Washington is corrupt and the government poorly run. I’m a Republican, and consider myself conservative. I think Barack Obama has been a disaster for America, and that people are almost universally worse off than they were eight years ago. And I believe that Hillary Clinton is duplicitous, conniving, and ought to not be President. But I will never vote for Donald Trump, and if this post can convince even one person of the same, it's time well spent.
People say Donald Trump is a liar, a con man, and a fraud. That’s true, of course. But it’s a weak line of argument against him. Those three terms apply to all six major candidates for president. The case against Donald Trump is far more urgent than his lying, or even that he’s a racist. It’s that his election, either as president or as the GOP nominee, would represent a rejection of the principles our country has embraced for almost 250 years.
The age of Trump
Parties mean something. For the 60% of people who identify with a party (or 89% that lean one way or the other), party affiliation signals to people what you believe in. To my fellow 104 million Americans who “lean Republican:” does Donald Trump represent what we believe?
The truth is: no one knows what Trump believes. He’s been all over the map on every issue, so there’s no point criticizing him for any policy position. You can believe what he says now, or what he said for the previous 40 years. I doubt he even knows at this point. Flip-flopping or changing his views doesn’t disqualify him as President; it just makes him like every other politician.
What makes him a threat to America is his rejection of the fundamental tenets of the Constitution.
Justice Antonin Scalia has said he agonized over cases related to the structure of government. To him, they were the most important issues that faced the country. He felt anything related to individual rights could be ameliorated over time, but preserving the balance of powers, the checks and balances designed by our founders, and the structure of how government works was the most important piece of keeping our democracy functioning.
Donald Trump does not appear to believe in any of these things.
Whether it’s his assertion that he’ll simply ignore the protections granted us by law, that he’ll force the military to follow illegal orders, or his terrifying belief that he can change how the first amendment is interpreted, its clear he has no understanding or concern for the limitations of the Presidency.
A man with such a high opinion of himself that he is not constrained by the basic structure of our government is not a conservative. He does not embrace the Constitution, he wants to shred it in favor of a country where he can simply do as pleases.
Donald Trump is successful not because people believe in his view of the future, but because he promises retribution for the wrongs of the past:
This election is about the recession and our lack of recovery.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders represent a constituency with the same roots. They’re people who believe the current system does not work, and that it needs to be radically changed. They differ on how, but their supporters are angry. They’re left behind. Those flocking to Bernie are rejecting the last eight years just as strongly as Trump supporters are.
And these people are right! The deck is stacked against most Americans. The last eight years have not worked for America. The majority of people are not better off than they were a decade ago. We need a stronger safety net for the least fortunate. We need a role for the government in transitioning us through an incredibly tumultuous economic time.
At some point, I hope we’ll have substantive debate and discussion about how to fix that. The future of the Republican Party depends on us admitting that the government does need to have a role in helping people, because they feel left behind. But his own actions: offshoring labor, using foreigners domestically over Americans, and exploiting the college lending bubble should tell you Donald Trump does not believe this.
Debates over the structure of government aren’t for everyone, so here are:
5 reasons no American should ever vote for Trump
Yes, it’s fun to listen to Donald Trump brag about Mitt Romney on his knees. I think Mitt let us down, too. But let me ask his supporters: do you believe speech ought to be less free? Should there be more government surveillance of our devices? Do you believe that people should be assaulted for speaking their mind in public? Do you think the US should look more like Russia or China?
And unless you’re a member of the Sons of the Revolution, do you think your family should have stayed back in your native country?
Most importantly: do any of these things make us more safe? Does supporting Bashar al-Assad stop ISIS? Or empower it?
Those issues aren’t about government structure. They’re about rights. Today we have a system in place to protect them. But in a system where the president can subvert laws he does not like and accumulate power beyond his prescribed bounds, how are those rights protected? They’re not.
Donald Trump’s only policy is: do what’s best for Donald Trump.
America the superpower has a tradition of dedicated conservative leadership. Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Regan, and both Bushses were Americans who comitted their life to public service. None were perfect, but all believed in a government that worked for the people and defended those ideals. Each spent decades of their life in public service to advance the causes of the American people, to protect them, and in Reagan's case, to Make America Great Again (Donald Trump could not even create his own campaign slogan).
Donald Trump believes in bigger government. Just because it is wrapped in more vulgar rhetoric, do not be confused: his stances on national security and the economy are borne from the same paternalism that says “you can not succeed without me.” He believes in these things because he knows he will control them, and he wants us to cede that control to him.
American power has never come from a single leader. Not Washington, the man who would not be King. And certainly not Lincoln, who waged a civil war to preserve the constitution Donald Trump would ignore. 150 years later, we ought to take his sacrifice seriously.
People in America need hope. We do not need to surrender a more powerful government — that’s the same hope that Bernie and Donald are selling in different ways. We need hope that all 318 million of us can be heroes in the American story.
There are six remaining candidates for President. Frankly, none are inspiring. But two of them would destroy the very fabric of our nation. For the sake of my children, our nation, and the entire world order that relies on us, we can not allow that to happen.
Note: Since I’m sure I’ll get called out for it otherwise, I support Kasich of all the remaining candidates.