Thursday, March 17, 2016

On Trump

Why are people so drawn to Donald Trump? I mean, I get it to a degree. Trump is anti-political status quo (i.e. he is not a career politician) and can be highly entertaining to boot. He says exactly what he is thinking and does not leave much to the audience's imagination. He is an "open book" so to speak (even if the story changes on occasion). Some people seem to be drawn to what appears to be a candid candidate that lays it all out on the table.

However, Trump is a troubling figure regardless of how much people are drawn to his dramatic energy and I would like to take up a bit of virtual space to counter a couple of the more common talking points that people use to defend Trump's presidential bid and his questionable stance on certain hot button issues.

I often hear people say things like "What is the big deal if Trump is elected? It is not as though the House and Senate would get behind all of his ideas. He would not have total control." This train of thought is problematic in two important ways.

  1. Why allow him to be elected if we do not actually want his ideas. We need a president who is going to be a leader. The president is and should be more than just a figure head. The ideas that are spouted from the top office of our country should be ideas that come with comprehensive plans on how to move those big ideas forward. Most of Trumps ideas have been promises to do something with little to no plan of action to follow suit. In fact if you listen to most of his answers to just about any question, the answer lacks substance. He says a lot of simple/understandable words and adds in a buzz word here and there for dramatic effect, but from a rhetorical stand-point there is largely nothing there when you really start to flesh it out. How is he supposed to lead when he has yet to demonstrate his ability to put forth clear cut plans for his ideas? Sorry Trump, your "believe me," rhetoric is not a plan.
  2. As president, he would technically need the cooperation of the house and senate to get things done, meaning several of his ideas would be unlikely to muster much cooperation, but the "big deal" is a problem of perception. Many countries (some of which are currently our allies) are completely appalled by the fact that Trump has made it this far and that there are a great number of people in our country that hold someone with his bigoted/xenophobic ideology in such high regard [1-2]. In fact he has already made attacks against certain foreign leaders that are sure to work against him if he were to be elected [3]. Trump's inability to display any measure of diplomacy is and will continue to be a huge issue. Our diplomatic ties are incredibly important. If Trump cannot create and maintain meaningful and respectful relationships with other leaders, how are we supposed to believe that he will be able to facilitate important negotiations with other world powers. Respect tends to beget respect on the international stage and Trump has shown little to no respect to anyone but himself. His inability to foster these diplomatic relationships will have a large impact on our country's ability to work with other nations. As much as some want the U.S. to close itself off, we do actually share a planet with other countries and we will need to work with them on certain global efforts.

I have also heard things like: "Trump is going to make sure real Americans get back on their feet and are safe. The wall and stopping immigration of certain groups will make this possible." Clearly this is also problematic.

First of all, I take issue with the way I hear people defining real or true Americans. Unless you are Native American...please just stop. But even beyond this, I again have two important retaliations.
  1. Regarding Americans getting back on their feet, Trump has insinuated that illegal immigrants are saturating the labor market and are at the root of the problem when it comes to the financial hardships of the American people. However, this is a point that Trump has personal stake in the average American believing. In reality, the truth lacks that kind of simplicity. There is also much blame to be spread at the top of the ladder. While wages for the middle and lower class have stagnated, the incomes for those in higher positions (e.g. CEOs) have skyrocketed [4]. And how do CEOs tend to earn such exorbitant salaries? First of all, CEOs and other top ranking officers in large companies are often rewarded for keeping costs low (that includes payroll folks!). For larger companies the wages are so low because they can be and those at the top understand that keeping wages low at the bottom will improve their own wages at the top in the long run. Not to mention that those large corporations that pay out exorbitant salaries at the top actually do so to create tax incentives for the company [5]! Donald Trump may not be a career politician but he is certainly one of the faces of corporate greed. Sure Donald Trump says he cannot be bought...but how is letting him into the oval office not directly placing corporate interest right at the top of the ladder? Donald Trump does not need to worry about being in the back pocket of corporate interest groups because he IS the FACE of corporate interest. If that does not raise your eyebrows regarding ethical concerns...I don't know what will...
  2. As far as keeping Americans safe: Trump, like many politicians, understands that fear is always a topic that will bait people. His "fear the 'other'" rhetoric is tired.What we need to understand is that, in reality, Americans harm other Americans much more frequently than any other group harms Americans.  There have been several studies that confirm that immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes or become incarcerated [6]. Additionally, although the media tends to casually work terrorist threat rhetoric into every-day news, we should really be questioning just how at risk we are. This is not to say that terrorism should not be taken seriously but I think that we are living in far more fear than is actually warranted. There are so many seemingly benign things that pose far greater threats to you than terrorism [7]. Seriously...relax! Letting in refugees and those who are trying to escape far worse living situations than a vast majority of Americans could ever imagine or letting in those people with diverse religious beliefs should be seen as a sign of our continued global leadership. Additionally, some of Trumps talking points related to the halting of terrorism are truly troubling. Trump has indicated that we need to kill off the families of terrorists. Way to advocate for a war crime! The fact that he has come this far lacking basic understanding of The Geneva Conventions and its stance on collective punishment is seriously troubling. I will not make a claim that I am an expert...but I am not running for president.  
People should be worried that someone like Trump has made it this far. I will be the first to admit that no candidate is a complete saint and it can be difficult come election year to find candidates that align with every one of our own political beliefs but I think that most Americans can agree that we need a leader who can work with congress to actualize policies, maintain our position as a global leader, play nice with other world leaders, understand international policies, and exist at a remove from serious ethical concerns. I do not care on which side of the political fence you fall, Donald Trump does not fit the bill.  

To be honest, I could go on but this post is already quite lengthy. Kudos to you if you have made it this far. 

Feel free to join the discussion in the comments below. 


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