Thursday, May 5, 2016

Trump turns American Values Upside Down

In the past, the American electorate expected certain qualifications and behaviors of its President.The office carried a certain gravitas, a certain level of respect and decorum required in recognition of the responsibility carried by that august post. Now, to our nation's detriment, the GOP candidate, Donald Trump, is turning those values upside down.

Morality: Ronald Reagan, considered a Republican icon, had a serious smirch on his record when he ran for president in 1980: he was divorced from Jane Wyman and a few years later married Nancy, in one of the most touching relationships of our time. Yet divorce suggested that one couldn't breach differences--which was a qualification especially important during the Cold War.

Divorce also suggested a disrespect for the family, a lack of concern for children, and a failure in one's past. How can we escape the comparison with Donald Trump's braggadocio, demurring in The Art of the Comeback to detail his experiences with "often seemingly very happily married and important women"? Two of his three marriages ended distastefully in divorce, one after philandering with Marla Maples, whose rapturous headline about it blared across the New York Post: "Best Sex I've Ever Had," with a smirking Donald-head as the full-page graphic.

At their 1993 wedding, Marla and Donald's daughter Tiffany was already two months old. Trump exited that marriage after six years upon catching Marla and her bodyguard in a roadside compromising position. 

Ronald Reagan looked at the many immigrants who'd come to our country without paperwork--often because their own country's system was corrupt--and who worked dedicatedly in an array of jobs upwardly mobile Americans increasingly eschewed. What did he grant them? Amnesty, a word now reviled by the right, and derided by Trump.

Compassion for those fleeing untenable conditions in their countries seems missing with Trump. He'd apply (an unconstitutional) religious test for entry, barring all Muslims, and spend $200,000 in taxpayer funds to deport each of 11.3 million undocumented residents, ripping them from their jobs, their homes (a third of the undocumented own homes, up to 46% in several states) and their families. Clever businessman Trump seems to think the huge taxpayer cost to rid our nation of entrants with immigration infractions is a better course than receiving billions of dollars for our flagging Social Security and Medicare coffers. Between 1996-2003, the undocumented gave $90 billion to those two programs, an amount that's only escalated since then.

The Statue of Liberty must be cringing.

Incivility: Parents used to inspire their children with the phrase "You could grow up to be President!" but what parent wants his child to emulate the coarse speech of the GOP candidate? His language is childish--in South Carolina he boasted, "I know words. I have the best words."

But far worse is that the words he seems to know are rude, vapid and bullying. We teach our children not to insult others, particularly on their physical characteristics, and then laugh and even support one who spouts the most crass denouncements, particularly about women. This is no help to teen girls struggling to value themselves for their potentials rather than their physicalities. And it abets boys' worst inclinations.

A Google search for "most offensive Trump quotes" brings 1.1 million results.

International Relations: In the past, the crucial criterion for US President was foreign affairs knowledge and experience. After all, the primary function of the federal government is to protect the safety of our United States.

 Take a look at some of Trump's foreign policies and see how well-considered they are. For example, on Syria: "I do not like the people coming. What they should do is, the countries should all get together, including the Gulf states, who have nothing but money, they should all get together and they should take a big swath of land in Syria and they do a safe zone for people, where they could go to live, and then ultimately go back to their country, go back to where they came from." Easy-peasy.

Domestic Issues:  Since Trump decided to purge the US of undocumented immigrants, Mexicans in particular, (ignoring the facts that 40% of the undocumented arrived legally, and that half of illegals came from countries other than Mexico), he's made several questionable proposals. First is his insistence that Mexico pay for an 80-foot wall along the border. His means toward that is to forbid the transfer of funds into Mexico by anyone without proof of legal residency, depriving poor families of sustenance.

On the economy, he advocates continuing the soon-to-be bankrupt Social Security and Medicare systems (and also replacing Obamacare) though he mentions neither of these among the six topics he covers in the "positions" section of his website. His trade proposals, according to many including a New York Times analysis, would not create more American jobs and could result in Chinese retaliation, though many of his plans appear to violate international trade law.

On Race Relations--well I dare you to read the entire transcript of a March 21 interview with the Washington Post. In it Trump is repeatedly asked how he would heal racial divides, and he gives redundant, evasive responses that with great tenacity can be reduced to increasing "spirit" in cities like Baltimore and Detroit, and providing jobs for unemployed Black males by bringing work from China "back" to the US.

A New (scary) Priority: I've tried to open-mindedly understand the basis of Trump-supporters' zeal, reading many articles in which they attempt to explain. The take-away is that Trump is a tough-guy deal-maker who gives vent to their frustration with the political establishment and will push through his policies, as off-the-cuff (and therefore appealing) as they may be. This is a value I fear--response to feelings rather than logic; to emotion rather than consideration, and especially-- to immediate gratification rather than a broader view. Trumpsters reject the characteristics once sought in a president.

"The Establishment" was always the enemy to rebellious youth, I'm sure since before beatniks in the 50s, or hippies in the 60s, and it's sure the villain on the Trump train. But if you think about it--rising to become "The Establishment" requires the skills we need in a leader. Someone who can understand the system, start at the bottom, work his or her way up, along the way gaining experience, expertise and wisdom. The fact that Trumpsters think seasoned lawmakers--all chosen by their constituents--who've survived this process and worked with their colleagues for years should be "trumped" by a renegade, lawsuit-mired political neophyte shows the dizzy effect of so many values turned upside down.