Opinion: Trump is a danger to the nation

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We are concerned about restoring our democracy, which has been under threat from President Trump. American representative democracy is based on a nearly sacred idea: that a person — no matter their religion, their cultural background, their gender, their sexuality, their skin color, or their social status — is to be accorded dignity through the provision of basic rights and liberties under law.

To be sure, our reality has often been painfully at odds with this ideal, which has been restated and reaffirmed at many points in our history, and which has been widely accepted following the Civil Rights movement.

On the other hand, white nationalism, which is what Trump is selling, is based on a shared clan identity. Those who are said to fall within the boundaries of that identity are accorded dignity; others who fall outside of it are denied dignity altogether and made perpetual subordinates to the dominant clan group. This is a recipe for making racism and bigotry the norms of our national life.

White nationalism, then, is the death knell of the sacred idea of our representative republic, and that is why we have to end Trump’s presidency as soon as possible, either by impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate or by Democratic Party victory in the 2020 election.

Why has Trump taken this destructive course to our nation? It is because he is shockingly incompetent, and he seeks to obscure this fact from view by pushing into the public sphere a white nationalist program and his own autocratic ego.

Donald Trump had no experience at all in elected office when he ran for president. He knew very little about the structure and operation of our government or about international affairs and was incurious to learn, even after he was elected. He did not and still does not care to be briefed by experts and by career members of governmental agencies. He prefers not to read but rather to listen to TV, and usually only those programs favorable to him.

His lack of knowledge of and lack of concern for the norms of his office are reflected in many areas. His cabinet is a revolving door. He believes that cabinet members should be loyal to him, not to the nation. While there is conclusive evidence that Russia interfered in the last election and is going to do so again, Trump denies this.

Trump insults heads of those states that have been our allies; recently he has insulted the Danish prime minister because she was not willing to discuss his bizarre proposal to buy Greenland, a semi-autonomous state. Trump cozies up to autocrats, encouraging their violations of human rights and their territorial ambitions. The worst case is his continued toadying to Vladimir Putin, who had already invaded Crimea and Ukraine, violated arms agreements, ordered the assassinations of Russian journalists, and interfered in the U.S. presidential election.

Trump’s incoherent trade policy has caused many farmers in the Midwest to lose markets, has recently sent the stock market into a plunge, and could ruin our economy. He is in the process of destroying government agencies that we rely on for our safety and security.

Similarly, on the international level, he has pulled our nation out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Agreement. One of his slogans was “drain the swamp” but there has been plenty of crony capitalism, self-dealing, and rank conflict of interest in his administration. When he was peeved that Congress did not appropriate billions of dollars for his border wall, he vowed to shut down the government and to keep it shut. This 35-day closure was the longest in U.S. history; the Congressional Budget Office estimated that it cost the U.S. economy more than $11 billion.

Though he had no governmental experience, Trump touted his business experience, as though that could qualify him. The truth is that he is not a self-made man but was given a fortune by his father. His own business strategies were highly questionable; he ran his casinos into bankruptcy; and one of his attorneys, Michael Cohen, is in prison for the criminal activities he undertook for Trump.

The so-called reality TV program in which Trump starred, “The Apprentice,” was not reality, and the main thing he seemed to like doing was firing his make-believe apprentices.

Donald Trump’s ethnic nationalism and his autocratic temperament are expressed in his vicious attacks on individuals and on whole groups of people. He has demeaned people with disabilities. He has demeaned women and was taped stating that he could “grab them by the pussy.”

He has scapegoated Mexicans, Latinos in general, African Americans, Africans, and Muslims. He tried to ban all immigration from several Muslim-majority countries. He has cruelly separated children from their parents at the border. He wants to close our doors to refugees. Trump has stimulated a wave of racist violence with his coded and not-so-coded language. He has had, alas, several opportunities to denounce this violence unequivocally, and he has not done so.

Since his election Trump has abused his position as president to attack his perceived opponents in a manner unprecedented in our history. He has told four duly elected members of Congress to go back to where they came from. Most recently, he urged Benjamin Netanyahu to bar two of these Representatives from entering Israel, writing the astounding and dangerous libel that they hate all Jews.

The history of the 20th century has shown us that the assault on the press, calling it the lying press, is one of the first steps to totalitarianism. This is the path Trump has taken. Just as dangerous to democracy, Trump himself tells lies with great frequency.

Democrats have their work cut out for them, certainly, but we suspect that Democrats can’t save our representative democracy alone. We appeal to our friends and neighbors and family members who are Republicans to repudiate Trump and to help rebuild the Republican Party.

(Beverly Voloshin is Professor Emerita of English at San Francisco State University and past chair of the Department of English Language and Literature. Steven DeLue is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Miami University, and is currently a lecturer in Political Science at Sonoma State. Both are Petaluma residents.)

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