My recent trip to the East Coast included places that are varied and diverse. We covered a lot of ground and interacted with a lot of people, traveling from Rhode Island to the New Jersey shore to the South Jersey Philadelphia suburbs to Western Pennsylvania. Outside of discussions with family and friends, who are all, like me, supporting Hillary Clinton, I didn’t hear a lot of discussion about or see a lot of evidence of the Presidential campaign. Except in Western Pennsylvania.
I had expected the rural areas we traveled – especially around the incredibly beautiful mountains, rivers and farmland of Western PA — to be conservative, and Republican. Knowing that it would do no good, I was determined not to get into debates on the election, to avoid talking politics if I could. I largely succeeded, but I couldn’t help but notice the Trump signs lining the rural Pennsylvania roads we traveled, and overhearing the occasional conversation about the election. A friend who is familiar with the area said it was about the guns, that rural folks need and depend on their guns and are sure Hillary will try to take them away from them. These people supposedly don’t buy into the rest of the Trump agenda. But in another conversation, I overheard, “what about white lives, don’t they matter?” The need for jobs came up in another, promoting a natural gas project that would provide a lot of construction jobs, but not as many on an on-going basis. There was no mention of the environmental impacts of the project, that the continued use of natural gas would exacerbate climate change, because either they didn’t believe in it or because they thought that creating jobs, even at the expense of our environment, is key.
The problem is that even though there may be only one or two reasons why any one particular person supports Trump, be it guns or jobs or immigration or the race situation, when you vote for him, you get the whole package. While Clinton’s use of the term, “basket of deplorables” was awkward and unfortunate, any honest critic of Trump would have to admit that so many of his statements and proposals, his ideas and his approach to our problems, are in fact deplorable. They are designed to attract, as a demagogue would, those who are afraid of changes that may affect their way of life. These statements are tinged with racism and hatred of “the other”, they are impractical and don’t add up, and they are based on falsehoods and outright lies. In many cases, he has no policy or idea at all, he simply assures us that he will somehow take care of the problem, that he will “fix it” despite lacking any specifics or understanding as to how he would do so.
But yet he is believed, because somehow he was able to attach to himself early in the primaries a label of honesty and credibility simply by being an outsider and “not a politician.” Because of his claims that since he is a billionaire who knows how to run a large business, he therefore must understand the economy and could easily run the country, despite ignoring (and lying about) his several bankruptcies, despite his shady ethics and despite refusing to show us his income taxes. He lures people into believing him and extending their trust to everything he says, because during the primaries he called the other candidates insulting names that supposedly described them and stated the obvious, like W really did allow a terrorist attack on his watch, contrary to Jeb’s fantasy that he didn’t. This happened while he solidified his base and exploited people’s fears, while the media refused or was unable to set the record straight about who he really is and his constant lies.
Now, it seems, his newest handlers, the far right-wing “right-alt” bloggers from Breitbart, have cleverly convinced him to read their distorted propaganda straight from the teleprompters in order to minimize the chance that he will blurt out even more stupid Trumpisms that detract from their far-right message. He seizes on our fears and spins lies and distortions around them, from every Muslim being a potential terrorist, to Mexican criminals pouring over our borders to commit vicious crimes and take our jobs, to African Americans living in the worst conditions ever, to his knowing more about the Middle East than the generals he says are incompetent and that he would immediately fire.
For whatever reason, the mainstream media, so despised among right-wing Republicans and long defended by progressives, have been reluctant to make an issue over the words and actions that would sink any other candidate in any other election. Imagine Hillary not submitting her income taxes? It would immediately be pounced upon in the headlines as evidence of her untrustworthiness. How is he able to slide by with stiffing the contractors who worked for him? Had Clinton done anything like that, it would have been exposed in the headlines daily as evidence of her ”crookedness”. Only lately have some media began loudly writing about Trump’s unethical and untruthful acts and claims. One can only hope that is not too late for the truth to get out.
So for those thinking of voting for Donald Trump because he proclaims that he is honest and can be believed, or because he will make sure you get to keep your guns, be aware of the entire package of unsettling and truly un-American actions that Trump would bring with him. Think of rounding up an entire group of people, including those born in the U.S., for deportation; of denying people entry into this country based on their religion; of interfering with our military leadership in a way guaranteed to turn an undesirable situation in the Middle East into a disaster and a likely major war. Think of the influence and power he would cede to Putin, the Russian autocrat whom Trump so admires, and his pledge to desert NATO, our closest allies who have helped us maintain our freedom in the decades following WWII. Think of the influence the KKK and neo-Nazis will have on our government, of how legitimate protest over shooting deaths of unarmed black people could turn into prolonged and destructive civil unrest. And think of his likely appointments to the Supreme Court, and to other courts and other positions of power, which maintain the balance of power in our government and sustain our democracy.
Before you decide for whom you are voting, think of the big picture and the fragile form of government that we cherish, and how electing the wrong person can bring it all down. Trump is clearly the wrong person.