A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Thursday, November 10, 2016

This Time is Different (Or, Why I Hope I’m Really Really Wrong)

The Presidential Election of 2000 was nothing if not hard fought. George Bush and Al Gore had a vitriolic  campaign (well, as much as Al Gore can be vitriolic…he’s kind of a sleeper). After two Supreme Court decisions, hanging chads, and a mismatch between the popular vote and the electoral college, there was a lot of pain (some of which echoes to this day). When hearing about the ultimate outcome on the radio that fall, many weeks after the election, I was disappointed but not necessarily surprised. I had been pro-Gore, but accepted the outcome and hoped for the best.

Next time around, my first vote in a Presidential election was for a loser. I voted absentee for John Kerry in 2004, while I was in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) preparing to serve my mission. I was super excited, mostly because I was VOTING (*nerd alert*), but also because I didn’t particularly care for then-President Bush. Then, on the day I actually flew from the MTC to my mission, it ended up being Election Day. As we all sat down for a meal with all the missionaries who had trained with me, our Mission President (leader of missionaries in a given area) said that he had “great news” and President Bush had been re-elected.

Don’t get me wrong, that SUCKED. I was disappointed President Bush had been re-elected, and sad that I had to spend that day with a bunch of Republicans, when I would have rather spent it with my family and friends more sympathetic to the Democratic cause. But I didn’t feel an immobilized by it, or terrified, or disheartened for days. I shrugged it off and moved on with my life, knowing we’d live to fight another day. Since then, I’ve been more lucky, having voted for Obama twice.

But on Wednesday night as I drove home from work, I cried. Heaving and gasping sobs. I feel like I need to articulate why this loss mattered (and hurt) so much more than the others. This time is different. This time, my fellow Americans had elected a man so horrifically unqualified that it hurt. It hurt to think that this man would be representing me and representing this country I love so much. It hurt to think that over 50 million Americans either didn’t know or didn’t care what he is, and voted for him anyway. 

I’ve decided to narrow it down to three reasons why this loss hurt so much. It’s not a comprehensive list, but here it is. Mr. Trump is unfit to serve in the presidency due to his (1) blatant dishonesty, (2) mistreatment of women, and (3) xenophobia/Islamophobia. I’ve tried to support these with evidence as much as I’m aware. These issues are the reason I’m so distraught at the outcome of the election.

First, blatant dishonesty. During debates and public speeches Mr. Trump displayed strikingly little knowledge of current events or historical context and little or no willingness to learn, but he also repeatedly lied. He lied about things that were easily disproved, he lied about his opponent’s record, and he lied about his own record. Politifact, the fact checking service, rated 19% of his statements “mostly false,” 34% of his statements “false,” and 17% of his statements as “pants on fire,” the most mendacious rating. How can we trust this man to lead us when he lies so constantly and so blatantly? He does not have any shred of integrity.

Second, his mistreatment of women. We are all aware of his comments on the Access Hollywood tape, where he bragged about assaulting women. He also stated on the Howard Stern show that he liked walking in on naked women participating in his beauty pageant. His Twitter feed provides ample evidence of his views regarding women. He re-tweeted a nasty photo of Ted Cruz’s wife. To me, one of the most terrible example was his Tweet regarding Meagan Kelly, a Fox News journalist who had the audacity to ask him tough questions. His response was to say she was disgusting and must have asked these questions because she was menstruating. In his speeches and actions, Mr. Trump has displayed a disregard for women and made clear that he values them only for their attractiveness.

Third, his xenophobia and Islamophia. Mr. Trump kicked off his campaign by stating that Mexico is deliberately sending us rapists and murderers. He’s called repeatedly for a wall to keep out immigrants (which is cost prohibitive and wouldn’t work anyway). He said that he would ban all Muslims from the country, a blatantly discriminatory practice (which he later amended to “extreme vetting,” whatever that means). He refers to “radical Islamic terrorism,” thus giving the terrorists exactly what they want. Saying the phrase radical Islamic terrorism doesn’t mean you have a plan to actually fight terrorism, it just means that you are willing to let an entire religion practiced by 1.6 billion people be defined by a few thousand extremists.

For these and so many reasons, Donald Trump is not fit to serve as President, and it horrifies me that he will. Some have suggested that his campaign was full of bluster and that he doesn’t really want to deport immigrants or ban Muslims. They suggest that his daughter Ivanka is evidence that he supports women in the workplace and he doesn’t really disrespect women. But that, to me, only makes it worse – it means that he deliberately stoked the flames of racism, misogyny, and hatred in order to win this campaign. Even if he doesn’t believe those things, he didn’t have the decency or integrity to stand up to those horrible forces. Others have suggested that he’ll be checked by our separation of powers and checks on government overreach. I hope and pray that is so, but he can still wield enormous power as President and that depresses me. He has also displayed a striking regard for authoritarian leaders such as Putin, which makes me doubtful that he would accept a Supreme Court decision that goes against him. While I did (and do) disagree with John McCain and Mitt Romney, they were fundamentally decent men trying to serve their country. I can't say the same about Donald Trump with any confidence.

I know there’s a time for coming together. I get that this emotional reaction won’t last – that I can’t let it control me. I understand that we have work to do, to heal this country and bridge the deep divides among us and I need to be a part of that. Something inside me knows that this is not the end of the world and the sun will rise and we will move forward somehow. But for now, I mourn – I mourn that this man will be President for the next four years. I mourn that this behavior didn’t automatically disqualify him from the presidency in the eyes of the voters. For the first time in my life, I hope and pray that I am really really wrong about something. I hope that he won’t govern from a place of fear, that he’ll learn humility and reach out to those in pain. I hope that he isn’t as black as I’m painting him. But nothing that I have seen so far gives me confidence that that outcome will occur or that he actually has compassion for the downtrodden he says he wants to help. Forgive my cynicism while I cry a little bit that America has come to this.

In the words of Tom Hanks in a classic movie I love, here’s what I’m gonna do for now: 
Well, I'm gonna get out of bed every morning... breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out... 

Hugs, anyone?