Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Smoking Gun That Brings Down Trump

Sorry about the clickbaity title, but if I've learned anything from my years spent on social media, it is that reasonable behavior is ignored in favor of the unacceptable. Human nature, I suppose.

But with the inauguration in five days, I felt compelled to address the subject of Trump's illegitimacy as a U.S. President. If you're angry with me for expressing my anger over the election of Donald Trump, I suggest you consider these thoughts:

First: No, he did not win the election - by his own standards.

Before the election, it was well known that Trump had stated (and his fans & surrogates had embellished with suggestions of violence) that if he did not win the election, that said election would be illegitimate. The only way he could lose, he claimed, was if "they stole it" from him. Had the vote been precisely reversed - had Hillary Clinton taken the Electoral College victory while Trump took the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes - Trump supporters claim that they would have taken up arms and taken to the streets.

Since the results did fall the way they fell, however, I have had to accept the Electoral College results. I do this because those are the rules I agreed to by being a citizen of this country, even while knowing that if things had gone the other way, all of the people now gloating and telling people to "get over it" would not have been remotely as gracious in defeat as they insist we should be.

Second: My stance is not a mere "difference of opinion" for you to ignore.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the words "we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal" he expressed an idea that was itself imperfect but which pointed towards the kind of society that we are still trying to build. Progress means ensuring that "all men" includes all people, and that "created equal" means equal treatment under the law. But Jefferson had to call these truths "self-evident" because he and the other American Revolutionaries were trying to create something that had never existed before, and which we are still trying to understand and define.

Our foundation was not actually based on any existing, widely accepted idea. It did not come from any existing tradition or pedigree that people of that time would have recognized. It was a direct and purposeful denial of the tradition of the "divine right of kings." Our democracy aimed from the beginning to place the power over the government into the hands of the people being governed, and not leave it in the hands of a king. And the only way for that founding ideal to be legitimate is for that power to be held and exercised by everyone who is subjected to it.

For me, supporting my country and my fellow citizens requires me to oppose anyone who seeks to take their power away and concentrate it in the hands of a king. I am required by the oath I took at the beginning of my career to oppose enemies "foreign and domestic" who attack that fundamental power.

I don't take that lightly, and I have lost friends over the years because they tried to dismiss what I had to say as a "difference of opinion." And my objection to Donald Trump's presidency is driven by his inattention to foreign enemies (specifically, Russia) as well as his tacit support for domestic enemies (specifically, the KKK and white nationalists using the label "alt-right").

If I have to, as my ancestors did, I will fight in any way I can to defeat those enemies.

Third: I will not throw flowers for Hitler.

For nearly a decade, the rhetoric I have heard from Donald Trump himself, and from people who now support him, has sought to indict Barack Obama's presidency as illegitimate, foreign, and monarchical. One of the friendships I lost during Obama's first term was that of a woman I knew in college who tweeted that the Obamas were behaving like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and that they should meet the same fate at the guillotine. I called her out on that, and she and her husband - a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, no less - attacked me for doing so. Another of the friendships I lost at that time was a colleague who declared me a "traitor" for voting for Obama. He and I did not speak from 2009 until his death a couple of years later.

I don't need friends who act that way.

Now I see a lot of parallels between that 2008 election and 2016, in that the same kind of people - and the president-elect himself - now want to claim a mantle of legitimacy that they tried to deny to a man who actually won his election. These are people who demonstrate daily that they have not read and do not understand our Constitution, even while they spent these past eight years running down a President who taught Constitutional law. I do not claim that President Obama's views and positions were always "right" — I think he made a lot of terrible mistakes regarding executive power and civil liberties — but I do assert that he was qualified to be a President. You might say I consider him qualified to make those mistakes.

But Donald Trump's behavior during his campaign, the policies he espoused, the people he chose to support, and his actions since the election have all proven him to be uniquely unqualified to be President. He has already declared himself to be above the law. He has already ignored foreign interference with our electoral process and demonstrated a pattern of putting his whims and his fortunes ahead of the country's needs. He is so ignorant of the law and of the consequences of his choices, he is unqualified to make the mistakes he is already making.

In short, he has so far behaved exactly like a monarch... and his defense of this behavior has not been to say, "No, I am not a monarch," but instead to say, in essence, "I accused Obama of behaving like a monarch, and you accepted him; so now you have to accept me."

After years of accusing a legitimate, sitting President of being a secret foreigner/sleeper agent and un-American dictator, Trump has demonstrated that he is going to behave like an un-American dictator while actual evidence of foreign manipulation of our media, our electoral process, and our president will be swept under the rug.

Last: Even you don't "agree with" Trump.

Over the course of my adult life, I have engaged in debates of various form and tone with any number of friends, family, and acquaintances. Individually, we share a lot of common ground when it comes to personal morals, integrity, and basic human values. We tend to disagree on "fundamental principles" which we struggle to understand, let alone defend. We are all pretty weak on economics; we all grapple with the philosophical purpose of laws; we have a hard time dealing with identity politics; and we differ on the existence of the supernatural.

I often complain about tribalism, and object to the loss of nuance that follows when we confine ourselves to addressing complex problems with oversimplified political talking points. I hate that many of you consider me to be "a liberal" and yourselves to be "conservatives" when those labels distract us from our commonalities. I regret how often I'm forced to rely on the dumbed-down shorthand of those labels.

Many of my so-called conservative friends and family are actually economic liberals, and their stated values of democratic government, individual liberty, and rule of law make them "liberals" by the standards of global history. But even those areas where you are truly "conservative" in a meaningful sense of that word are areas where Donald Trump promises to violate your values.

Where you and I agree that the economy should not be micro-managed by the government, Donald Trump has promised to personally interfere for the sake of "jobs." He has already claimed to do this several times, and as a conservative, you ought to be vehemently opposed to both his intent and his methods. He distracts from this by decrying "regulation," but again, he has no idea what those regulations are, or what they actually do, and if he fulfills his promises to eliminate them, our food supply, our air, and our water will all be put at risk. Let alone our jobs.

Where you and I agree that our political parties are corrupt and unduly influenced by money, Donald Trump has certainly shown them up. But instead of forcing reform, he has simply paved the way for an amoral "might makes right" form of political discourse. (Not to get side-tracked, but what he has done closely resembles what Vladimir Putin did in Russia during his first election.) His election has assured that those with power will be able to choose their electorate in order to keep power, instead of ensuring that the people have the ability to get rid of leaders who work against their interests.

Where you and I agree on morals, like "love your neighbor" and the Golden Rule, Donald Trump has demonstrated a complete lack of these morals. He is a bully who abuses the law in his business dealings and cheats those who work for him whenever he thinks he can get away with it. He doesn't even conform to the behavioral norms that those of you I disagree with consider desirable. He is an admitted sex offender ("grab 'em by the pussy"), a serial divorcee, a failed socialite and B-list celebrity who embodies all of the things in our society that you consider gross and offensive.

And where you might be piously religious, he is most obviously not. "Two Corinthians"? Even I have more respect for the Bible than that. The fact that I, as an atheist, reject his amorality and his pretense at belief instead of embracing him as some kind hero of non-belief should tell you something disturbing about him. He does not, and will not, represent you or your values.

My hope is that those of you who don't really support any of the things Trump represents will "get over" your distaste for those of us you would rather write off as sore losers, and recognize the peril that we are both in. You need to recognize that this isn't about Hillary anymore; her candidacy is off the table. But we are at a point where any alternative to the danger we are facing would be preferable. We just need a smoking gun to condemn the guilty party.

The smoking gun that will take down Donald Trump is you.

You need to contact your congressional representatives, particularly in the Senate, and let them know that you will not support them if they prop up a monarch and destroy our Constitution. For now, we still have the power to stop this; if we ignore the problem, it may be too late in just a couple of months.

And that is not just my opinion.