It’s distressing: the current narrative by many supporters of Trump (and haters of Hillary) seems to be “She’s as bad as he is.”
The problem with this is that it is a deflection – attempting to excuse the really vile behavior of one candidate by equating it with the behavior of the other. The problem is Donald Trump’s behavior. What Hillary did (or didn’t do) has absolutely nothing to do with DT’s narcissism, bullying, misogyny and hate speech. Her behavior, regardless of whether you buy into the claims made about her or not, does not excuse what he’s said and done.
What many supporters of DT miss in their eagerness to defend him is that the concerns with him are threefold.
First, aside from a handful of mantras about immigration, job loss, taxes, gun rights and the evils of Hillary; he has no discernible plan or stance on anything. His opinions on things change with the wind, and his proposed solutions – when voiced at all – tend to be in the realm of “whack it with a big stick and it’ll go away, trust me.”
Trust is essential to the office of President: trust built upon diligence, a legacy of results, transparency, and a willingness to take criticism seriously (or at least tolerate it well). No President is perfect at any of these things, but none yet has been as completely devoid of these traits as DT.
And yet, in most of these cases, those who oppose Trump share similar concerns to those who support him. The difference is often in the desired outcome; and even there, there is usually less difference there than we are led to believe.
Secondly, the biggest concern of those who oppose DT is the man himself – not his stances. If Mitt Romney or John McCain voiced such views, they would find resistance, but not the same levels of criticism and personal vitriol that DT is the target of.
While Democrats would not be wild about a President with views such as those espoused by DT, they would be work with him as long as they felt he supported the democratic process, the law, the Constitution, and honored his commitments. They would trust the system to temper his wild rhetoric, and possibly even channel it into constructive paths. — Which is exactly what it is designed to do, as enshrined in the governmental and legislative structures and relationships defined in our Constitution.
Unfortunately, DT has convincingly demonstrated that he respects none of these things, and is dismissively and willfully ignorant of them as well. As far as he is concerned it is all about him, which he proves every time he responds to criticism. He clearly cares nothing for other people, viewing them as tools to be used or opponents to be crushed. And so most Democrats (and an increasing number in the GOP) are publicly stating that he far too loose of a cannon to allow anywhere near a leadership role in our government.
BTW: the last President to be as openly defiant of the Rule of Law was probably Andrew Jackson, with Nixon a close second. And, while both were unsavory people (at best), they were effective Presidents; proving that a shrewd A**hole can get things done. But, can an unstable, self-centered and ignorant A**hole be effective? Doubtful. (Note: saying someone is “effective” is not the same as saying you like them, or like what they accomplish.)
Finally, the DT solution to any problem is pretty much the always same thing – brute force: isolating and exterminating those you disagree with rather than finding common ground. This is a good way to start a war – whether a military conflict, an economic war, or a cultural one. Such tactics never resolve the conflict, only aggravate it.
Subtlety, nuance and empathy are not in DT’s toolkit.
I, and many who oppose DT, are convinced that his “bull in a China Shop” approach to everything will break many of our political, economic and cultural systems; will damage or destroy many of the alliances between groups within our society and our alliances with other countries; and may well involve us in one or more expensive, messy, and likely disastrous military adventures.
But, many Democrats / Liberals miss the legitimacy of the concerns of those who support DT, and so dismiss their anger: They are certain the proposed solutions cannot work (and, in many cases, they are right). But, to dismiss the concerns themselves is dangerous – they will resurface again, and will be stronger and more virulent each time. If the incoming Administration and Congress continue with business as usual, as seems likely, then DT’s candidacy will be far more fondly (and regretfully) remembered than seems likely now.
A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft both believed that it was important for the Republican party to get out ahead of the Democratic Party’s Populism by embracing reform: breaking up Trusts, creating a fairer tax code, supporting unionization, regulating monopolies, and removing protectionist economic policies and tariffs. They were right – as the Democrats of the time were proposing extreme and ultimately destructive solutions, though not as extreme and destructive as DT’s are. And they succeeded: creating policies, regulatory mechanisms and governmental initiatives that have been critical to the success of business, the middle class, and the country as a whole, for the last century. And yet their accomplishments are now under sustained attack – largely by their own political descendants. And, DT’s “Alt-Right” Populism only accelerates this process.
If either of our two main political parties are to survive, both must embrace reforms that recognize the importance and dignity of all people, not just cater to those with money and power. The Democrats have shown they are better at listening to and supporting the underprivileged and powerless, but have also shown that they are equally unwilling to abstain from the same addictions to wealth and power that the GOP so openly embraces right now.
Our sociopolitical system – even though defective and in many places warped and damaged – is at its heart designed to encourage the pursuit of mutually beneficial common interest. Portions definitely need to be reworked, or even replaced, but breaking everything in anger and spite will leave us in a far worse position than we are now.
Let’s not go there. Let’s fix the system where it needs to be fixed. Let’s not destroy it, because in doing so, I fear we will erase everything we’ve accomplished as a nation.
The anger and pain being felt by all is legitimate and needs to be addressed. That’s the real issue: not which candidate is worse. Voting for who best gives voice to our anger is not the same thing as voting for who will be more successful at fixing the problems we all agree must be addressed.