Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Case Against Trump

I've been vocal on Facebook and Twitter, making no attempt to hide my utter contempt for Donald Trump. It's time to do that in a more formal way.

When Trump first announced his candidacy, it was laughed off - I mean, Pat Paulsen ran too, right?

But he started rising in the polls, and the curious phenomenon grabbed my attention. I listened to him, and while his antics were mild and entertaining, I heard the message: Americans are angry and they need someone who will say it as it is.

In The Spirit Of Transparency: I will state here and now, I have never wavered from my hopes that Senator Ted Cruz would enter the race, secure the nomination, and go on to become the 45th President of the United States. I had been watching Cruz since his rise in politics, and he appeals on all levels. More about him later.

But Trump was Everyman. He said it without eloquence, but he said it. He expressed the no-holds-barred anger of Americans in what their president had done to their country, and he made some points, I had to admit.

Then things changed. He became extremely derisive of those who either criticized him, or threatened his political aspirations.

  Nasty On Steroids 


 It began with Dr. Ben Carson - a mild-mannered man who also wants to help in the fight to make America great.

Aside: I leave off the "again" - unlike Trump, I happen to feel America's great by virtue of her values, her history, her beautiful land, her people, and that she needs healing, not transformation. Also, by giving into Trump's catchphrase, one would have to admit that Obama has succeeded in "fundamentally transforming the United States of America" and while things are bad, America's basic roots and founding principles stand strong. I know many Americans who love their country and happen to believe, as do I, that she's pretty darn great already.

Back to Dr. Carson. He is a Seventh Day Adventist, and back in October of 2015, Donald Trump questioned that faith:
"I'm Presbyterian, he said. "Boy, that's down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about."
It was an odd statement, because Trump was clearly taking a shot at Dr. Carson. He also derided the doctor for his past:

Dr. Carson, in his autobiography, told a story of how, in his troubled youth,  he had attempted to stab a classmate but that the knife had hit a belt buckle. Trump not only called Carson a liar, he mocked Dr. Carson at rallies.

He also compared the "pathological" Carson to a child molester.

I began to take note. This was not politics, this was ugly and cheap. And while politics CAN get nasty, this was out of the ordinary. Dr. Carson had done nothing to Donald Trump but exist.

Then it got worse.

As Senator Cruz was in the race alongside Trump, Trump was asked in a September interview whether he felt the Canadian-born Cruz was eligible for the presidency.

(For the record - and in case you've just returned from your trip to Outer Space: Cruz was born in Calgary to an American-born mother, and the Constitution states very clearly that his mother's citizenship makes him a natural-born American citizen)

But, as Cruz began to surge in Iowa, and it looked as though he could be a threat to Trump's heretofore runaway candidacy, Trump flip-flopped.

Suddenly, he was not only questioning, he was making veiled threats that he would sue Cruz for eligibility.

The attacks escalated. And when Donald Trump came in second place to Ted Cruz in Iowa, he turned full-force hate on Senator Cruz.

I won't recount every detail. It's not only well documented everywhere across the Internet, I'm sure you're all familiar with the attacks and accusations.

But it's when I decided that no matter what, I couldn't fathom ever supporting Trump.

It got worse, still. In New Hampshire, Trump used a vulgarity to describe Cruz. Oh, he'll say he didn't use it - but he did. A woman in the front (likely a plant) used the word. He feigned shock, fake-chastised her, asked her to repeat it, and then repeated it himself so that everyone could hear it.

There's no call for that. It's the shock-jock mentality of his supporters who love every crass statement that crosses his lips.

The Trump Temper and a Question Of Conservatism


 Trump has a temper(ament) problem. He gets angry and when he does, he turns into a victim. Suddenly, he's the one being attacked - and this is when normal, politically motivated discourse even lightly criticizes something he's said.

(He never sees it as wrong when he attacks his opponents, with either ordinary criticism or the all-out ugliness I outlined above; he epitomizes the Double Standard)

When he is attacked at a debate, or a rally, he comes out with the same whiny "they're not fair to me" complaint we have heard from Barack Obama.

Obama complains that Fox News isn't fair to him when they ask him hard-hitting questions (like why the IRS targeted Conservatives or why Obamacare was such a misleading premise from the start). Fair game for those who dare to practice journalistic integrity.

Trump complains that his opponents cite his deeply-liberal record. Also fair game.

How does someone who has spent most of his lifetime as a far-left liberal, who has contributed millions of dollars to liberals and their organizations, supported partial-birth abortion, still supports funding Planned Parenthood, promises socialized healthcare suddenly become conservative?

On February 17, 2016, in a town hall he scheduled on MSNBC in order to directly compete with the one on CNN in which Ted Cruz was appearing, this happened:

I'm not sure how anyone can look at that and not start to question his conservatism.

But Trump is teflon. His minions seem blinded to his glaring flaws. I recently learned of a term coined to describe a typical Trump follower: "Trumpanzee". No term could be more descriptive or clever, and no image could be more glaring: appealing to the basest instincts, with no need - or concern - for diplomacy or finesse; unleashed, uninhibited, poo-flinging misbehavior.  They don't even seem to care if he's conservative or not.

This came into my timeline this morning - and it is terrifying:

Why is it terrifying?

Because this election is critical. It is crucial to pulling a country that has been steered so far to the left it is almost unrecognizable, back to at least the center, if not toward the values on which it was founded.

Conservatives who once held fast to the desperate need to regain control of the House and Senate, to defeat Democrats who were taking the country to lawlessness, socialism, and values so liberal they were alarming, who would criticize any politician, pundit, voter, or analyst if there were a (D) after his/her name, are now saying that the Party doesn't matter as long as their leader-of-choice runs the country.

How is there to be any differentiation between ideologies if party lines are blurred? Yes, it's commendable for any leader to cross party lines and work with the opposition.

But politics are about ideologies. Doctrines that describe the very spirit of each Party. Conventions are held with full days spent outlining those doctrines and their tenets. People who have deep connections to their party ideologies stand strong for what represents their values, their very way of thinking, and for how they will vote in order to influence their very lives.

And if those ideologies are put second, so does the entire body of the party being impersonated.

These are your values, people. And the conservatives I know hold those values so deeply, it is written in their DNA. If that ceases to matter, if there is no need for party, just person, how will your values ever count?

If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.

Misleading is one thing; masquerading is entirely another.

Donald Trump may be tapping into the anger of the people, but so have a lot of other candidates. Saying it "like it is" is not particular only to Trump.

He has made a statement that is extremely alarming:

That was after the vulgarity he used about Senator Cruz, and an example of his odd, misguided notion that people who use profanity are those who eschew political correctness (more about that below).

But he doubled down on the 18th of February, stating in a CNN Town Hall: "I can  be different with different people."

That, to me, reeks of a lack of honesty, lack of integrity, and lack of trustworthiness.

If he can change so rapidly, how do voters know which Donald Trump they are electing? What happens if he is (*shudders*) in the Oval Office and decides to change to pro-socialism? Pro-Communism? Pro-Palestinian?

Given his statement this week that he will remain neutral on the Israel-Palestinian issue (a deal breaker, for me), he is certainly capable of that chameleonesque transformation.

(Aside: Israel is a key issue in my mind, no matter which side of the border; Canada elected an anti-Israel government; the USA has one now. For anyone to suggest neutrality is to suggest that there is moral equivalence on this issue, and when there is one nation fighting for its very survival, and another trying to see it destroyed and its citizens dead? There is no neutrality. Not standing up for Israel is a decidedly liberal stance in both the USA and Canada. Jewish Canadians who voted liberal did so despite Trudeau's lack of support for Israel; Jewish Democrats in the USA stand up for politicians who easily snub Israel. This is a topic for another article, but I had to mention this in regards to Trump, who raised yet another red flag this week with his neutrality statement)

Narcissism In Red

But principles seem to be less of a valued commodity to him than his power. His ego is enormous. Asked any question, he begins with how he "loves" whatever-it-is-in-question. He goes on to talk about how every time he addresses it at a rally, he gets a standing ovation. He skirts the question but seems to feel that if he tells his interviewer how much his audience loves him, and how well he gets along with others, it is enough to convince the listener that he has a handle on whatever-it-is-in-question. And perhaps encourage the interviewer not to follow up with "But Mr. Trump, you didn't answer the question." (That, by the way, rarely happens)

I made this in August; it was probably when the pattern of bristling-when-criticized began to emerge:

But Trumpanzees don't see this. They like his personality. The parallels are invisible to them.

He spends most of his time talking about himself, not the country. His website has an "issues" section but each issue is addressed via a video of - you guessed it! - Donald J. Trump talk about it. He knows his followers want All Donald, All the time.

Serious candidates will talk about themselves vis-à-vis their positions on the issues. Trump's site has a "positions" section but it is lacking, to say the least (nothing on healthcare anywhere on the site, which is a huge issue with many voters).

Trump's Appeal

Trump has appeal to people who laugh at Jackass, nut-shot videos on YouTube, and fart jokes.

His ideological record and continued twisted-journey through changing stances put Lombard Street* to shame.

*Lombard Street, San Francisco, narrow road, eight hairpin turns

His candidacy could have been serious, had he displayed an ounce of finesse. He says he's not politically correct. But that's the wrong term. Tell me: if your kid came home using the kind of vulgarities Trump used to describe Senator Cruz, you likely wouldn't praise him for being politically incorrect. You'd lecture him about common decency and having manners.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe that being the leader of a country - especially a super power like the United States of America - requires a certain personality as well. A polished, diplomatic, personable aura that is in place even when being attacked by one's critics.

A true leader will rise to the critics, taking them on by systematically proving them wrong, answering their charges and coming back with a thoughtful clarification.

Donald Trump turns on his critics, attacks them, insults them, fabricates rumors about them (see Tom Coburn incident, just this week), and then threatens frivolous lawsuits.

Or there was the time he made fun of a disabled journalist (and women, and a war hero who was a POW):

This is not presidential. It is high-school level taunting, petulance, and arrogance. It is Bullying.

And it is a major reason I feel he is unsuited to be a candidate, much less the nominee or (*shudders*) elected to Office.

Teflon Trump, Substance-Free 

Watching Trump at his rallies (in small doses - I cannot take more), I am struck by how he presents himself. He delivers his stump speeches more like a stand-up comedian than like a serious candidate. He loves to get a rise out of his audience.

 And he can talk about anything, prove nothing, provide nothing but slogans and catchphrases ("Build a wall!" "China!" "Make America Great Again!") without any red meat whatsoever; but what baffles so many is that his poll numbers rise. His followers are impervious to their idol being substance free.

They don't want boring old issues. It isn't why he draws the crowd. So he manipulates them with his faithful standby line. He told the New York Times:

You know, if it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, ‘We will build the wall!' and they go nuts.

They want the stand-up routine. Issues are irrelevant.

Telling, as well, is his unabashed egotistical arrogance:

 "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?" Trump remarked at a campaign stop at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. "It's, like, incredible."

Another problem with Trump's followers was beautifully phrased just this weekend, by Jonah Goldberg:
Trump’s total lack of ideological or intellectual rigor and consistency is making fools of people who once claimed they cared about such things.
(I urge you to visit the Goldberg link; he describes how Trump's supporters follow him blindly, no matter how much he shows his bull-in-a-china-shop clumsiness and warns about the "Middle Finger Politics" being toxic)

I see people - including those I have known as staunch conservatives - suddenly, unconditionally defending Trump.

But a problem I've found is that so many defend him by stating he's "what the country needs", by trouncing his competitors, and by attacking his critics. I don't see a lot of principled, substantive debate going on.

Sadly, this is too reminiscent of my own country's elections just a few short months ago. I challenged those who supported the inexperienced, bumbling Liberal candidate to please state why they wanted him in power.

Not one person gave me substance. They gave me fluff. Lemming Logic that wouldn't stand up at any elementary-school debate, much less on the national stage of politics.

He's also shown an utter lack of substance in his attacks on his opponents. His current line is to accuse Senator Cruz of lying. That's what he says, over and over, with his inarticulate high-school whine. But he never addresses the reasons. He accuses without merit. I just wish more media would ask him to clarify what it is being said about him that is untrue. Because Ted Cruz, in a press conference this week, outlined exactly what he's been saying, with evidence backing up his statements. 

Same with Trumpanzees. I've had to block followers on Twitter for the personal attacks, the vitriol, and the zombies who, almost in monotonal unison, chant the name and slogan of their Hero as though that is enough to ward off the coming storm.

Liberals did that during the 2008/12 elections in the USA. Liberals did it in the 2015 election in Canada.

Now, it is conservative against conservative, because it's Trump. Whatever appeal he holds has no basis in conservatism. He is making a mockery of conservatism, the Party, the process, and the country. His followers are encouraging him to do so, even as he encourages them to behave badly.

I do stand by my defense of Senator Cruz; I will outline my reasons in my next piece.

And I am praying that people wake up, see how the right is being torn apart, and see the true conservatism in Ted Cruz who is being called "the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan."

I'm not sure many conservatives care about the fate of the country; or if they do, and they believe Donald Trump is the solution, society is in worse shape than anyone could have predicted.

I welcome your thoughts, as always, in civil discourse.

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