A guide to the 2020 presidential election

I’m a Republican. I’m a conservative in the classical sense of the word, meaning I think it prudent to be thoughtful and cautious about change. Other than that, though, I share nothing in common with the current Republican Party.

I’m a Christian above all else and readily recognize that Jesus has damning critiques for both major American political parties. My only undying and unswerving allegiance is to him – anything less than that is idolatry. I have to be ready and able to admit when any human institution – which will be every human institution – diverges from what he cares about.

For that reason, I’m of the opinion that typically a Christian – unless he or she is personally running for political office – shouldn’t necessarily openly advocate for a particular political candidate in a democracy or a republic, as doing so can create division over issues that are usually secondary to the Kingdom of God. As with most rules, though, there are exceptions.

I think this American presidential cycle, just like the one in 2016, is monumentally more important than likely any other two election cycles in American history. That’s not hyperbole, though I know the temptation is to tune out such talk, because Democrats and Republicans have been proverbially crying wolf every four years since at least 1996. And that’s part of the problem.

Let’s lay it out there and tell it like it is: both parties have intentionally been polarizing the American public for over 40 years. This is chronicled expertly in Ezra Klein’s 2020 book “Why We’re Polarized. Not all of this polarization is necessarily bad – the reason it began in the first place, as Klein relates, was to help people more easily lump complicated policy issues together so that a person wasn’t required to be an expert on a multitude of obscure items. It has become problematic, though, because human nature is to become tribalistic, so in creating two increasingly opposite political camps, we have been encouraged to latch on more tightly to our own tribe and vilify the other.

In reality, there normally aren’t nearly as many differences between Republicans and Democrats as each would have you believe. In theory, Republicans are supposed to represent small government and fiscal responsibility, when actually the size of government has increased under both Republican and Democratic administrations over the last 25 years, while the national debt has likewise skyrocketed under both (and the last president with a balanced national budget was Democrat Bill Clinton). In theory, Democrats are supposed to champion greater investment in infrastructure and a more open immigration policy, when actually national infrastructure has been crumbling under both political parties and the immigrant detention centers made infamous by the Trump administration for separating children from families were in fact originally constructed by the Obama administration.

In truth, between the vast majority of politicians, differences in policies will not tangibly result in drastically different real life outcomes – it’s only at the extreme ends of each party spectrum that we see major distinctions. That is why, indeed, during most presidential elections, frankly, the choice between both party candidates typically doesn’t matter all that much. But there are differences, so let’s be honest about what they are without resulting to the polemics both parties like to throw at the other (and these are just general differences not yet touching on the specific sins of particular administrations).

  •  Abortion – yes, Republicans tend to support making abortion illegal by overturning Roe v. Wade while Democrats tend to support its continued legalization. As I’ve written before, though, I think this issue is much ado about nothing because whether it is illegal or not likely has little impact on the number of abortions per year (see my “Abortion has compromised Christians” and also see David French’s “Do Pro-Lifers Who Reject Trump Have ‘Blood On Their Hands’?“). Abortions won’t magically disappear if they’re illegal and may not even drop in number – the real issue as always surrounds the reasons why women want to have abortions, which has nothing to do with whether they’re legal. Abortions will only significantly decrease by advocating policies that Democrats typically push: increased access to and broader provisions provided in healthcare for low-income individuals; increased and more-easily available free contraceptives; and a more robust, incentive-driven program for adoption. This point thus shouldn’t be the single-defining voting factor for many Christians that it has been.
  • Taxes – it’s absolutely better to be a rich person under Republicans as the tax rate on those of us making the most money is generally much lower than it is under Democrats.  As for the vast majority of us – it’s about the same. Republicans like to pull out Reagan’s old mantra of “trickle down economics” by claiming that tax relief on the richest means increased job opportunities and a better market for all of us, but that’s a belief that has no proof. Maybe there is some merit to it, but it can’t be shown. What is proven is that our national debt is mounting while government spending is completely out of control, and the larger the debt grows, the more tax revenue has to be thrown at it, creating a vicious cycle.
  • Economy – Republicans like to paint Democrats as socialists, something that goes back at least as far as the FDR and Truman administrations of the 1940s. While it’s true that there have been increasing tendencies toward more socialist-like thought among some Democrats, it’s also true that zero Democrats come anywhere remotely close to actual socialist policies. American politics on the whole compared with all other world governments is remarkably conservative, so much so that extreme American liberals would be considered either left-leaning conservatives or moderate liberals elsewhere. That aside, it’s true that the stock market seems to do better in general under Republican administrations. The economy itself, however, is a wash – it boomed under Reagan, slowed down and cost Bush 41 reelection, boomed under Clinton, eventually crashed under Bush 43 with the Great Recession, recovered under Obama, and was doing exceptionally well under Trump until the pandemic destroyed it. 
  • Military – it’s also true that Republican administrations generally spend more money on the military than Democratic ones. Yet, even still, military spending is ridiculously out of control and accounts for approximately $700 – $900 billion per year, or more than the next top-ten defense-spending nations combined. I’m all for keeping a competitive advantage, but, with all our other budget problems, that seems, to put it mildly, a bit excessive. Stay tuned for a future post that spends a lot of time on military spending. The bottom line for our present concerns is that, while spending has been higher under Republicans, the military has not been anywhere close to being neglected under Democrats. 
  • Foreign policy / national image – overall, Republicans like to say they portray an image of strength both militarily and diplomatically, while internally they like to focus on the positive aspects of American nationalism. It’s true that more Democrats are attuned to the continued struggles for basic rights of minorities inside the U.S. and that President Obama was portrayed as going on an “apology tour” in which he apologized to other nations for the ways in which America has dictated international policy in ways that have often been disastrous for other countries. Perception aside, though – both domestic and foreign critiques by Democrats are correct: America does have continued issues with civil rights and has played God and nation-maker often with awful results (Iran as Exhibit A). While I understand the discomfort at that portrayal, and perhaps it can be expressed with more nuance, it’s nonetheless true – sweeping it under the rug or pretending it isn’t real won’t make it go away. That’s not how healing happens. It’s also true that our international relations, coalitions and partnerships tend to be stronger under Democrats than Republicans.
  • Immigration – Republicans tend to uphold stricter immigration standards than Democrats (though none more strict than Trump has been), but to say that Democrats have flung wide the doors to the country is likewise a partisan spin job – as already mentioned, the detention centers for immigrants put to horrible extremes by the Trump administration were built by Obama. Yes, in general, Democrats are more lenient on restricting immigration, but to say there has been a drastic difference (again, until Trump) is to heavily overstate the case.
  • Cultural change – I think this is ultimately the fear that underlies the vast majority of Republican voters’ motivations: the rapidity with which American culture is changing for myriad reasons. And, to be fair, I share much of that concern. The America of today is very different from the one of 10 years ago; 20 years ago; 30 years ago; 40 years ago. And it is continuing to change more rapidly and drastically. Some of those changes have been positive. But some remain questionable, and going full speed ahead may not always be the most prudent answer. The problem is, politics is not the arena that changes culture. True, we can make laws that make particular things legal or illegal, but that has zero affect on what people choose to believe. Thinking that politicians – either Democrat, Republican, or something totally different – can give a political solution to a non-political issue is foolhardy at best. Yes, there are many things we as a society have to grapple with culturally and socially. But no, expecting our politicians to legislate answers to matters of philosophy, theology, anthropology, and art is a losing proposition. Political parties always only react to the culture around them – they aren’t the source from which that culture arises. 

All of this ultimately to say: whichever political party is in power has zero influence over the course of social belief other than perhaps acting as an antagonizing force that only makes people double-down on their beliefs – we see that when both conservatives and progressives feel attacked. Instead of trying to communicate with each other to find common ground, we dig our trenches deeper and make the “other side” that much more of a perceived enemy. Likewise overall, the particular political party in power doesn’t drastically alter every day life differences in the country. You should not fear a Republican or a Democratic government – we’ve had both, and both have by and large acted the same.

BUT.

This is where we leave the realm of theory and go into the realm of the practical, the specific. While the parties themselves more or less keep every day life the same, the particular people in power can make a world of difference. And when we look back over the last 20+ years, it’s the particular people who have been responsible for the messes we’ve gotten ourselves into. Where politics is essentially the same (as it is with all competing sides in America, though we’ve been led to believe otherwise), it is the people we are voting for themselves – their intelligence, their compassion, their leadership – that truly matter.

And it’s the rhetoric of hate and dissension used by both Democrats and Republicans that have led us to the rise of a man like Donald Trump. Traditional America has been “losing” the “culture war” – though I hate that phrase and disavow the fight – a reality to a lot of people who, instead of loving their neighbor and trying to empathize with those that disagree with them, choose to make them their enemies and destroy them. When looking at the last three Republican presidential candidates prior to Trump, it’s a testament to the growing desperation and resentment at base levels of the Republican constituency that resulted from Democratic vilification of arguably three of the best candidates in recent memory.

George W. Bush was not a good president, but he was and is a very good human being. I think if not for the events of 9/11, he might have even been a good president – agree or disagree with his stance on particular issues, his heart always seemed to be in the right place, even if many of the choices he made were completely wrong. The Iraq War was disastrous and completely avoidable, though of course the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. I think his tax cuts exacerbated the growing gulf between the rich and poor, but they were consistent with Republican economic theory. Those and other aspects of his presidency are relatively easy to forget in the wake of his wars, but remember that before the events in 2001, Bush was trying to usher in an era of “compassionate conservatism” that unfortunately didn’t really have an opportunity to play out.

And, honestly, it was Democratic panic from the Bush years that coincided in timing with their own rising populist demagogue that completely swept aside the two best Republican presidential candidates since Eisenhower. The irony of President Obama is that, while he certainly isn’t as extreme or nearly as stereotypical as Trump, a large part of his power came from the same populist, demagogic appeal he made to his own base that defeated John McCain and Mitt Romney, two men I was happy to vote for. Both McCain and Romney epitomized moderate to left-leaning Republicans who have had successful political careers working with Democrats. The majority of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s major policy achievement, was based on a Romney plan as put together while governor of Massachusetts. Romney to this day is basically the only Republican office holder with any backbone left who stands up to Trump. Other than their unfortunate choices for running mates, I think a McCain and Romney presidency would have both been quite successful.

But the Democrat’s glib dismissal and vilification of both – which, to be fair, has been the play book for both parties now for quite some time – coupled with the populist appeal of Obama led to the completely unexpected nomination of the Republican’s own populist demagogue of Trump in 2016, who had the good fortune of running against the worst Democratic presidential nominee since Walter Mondale in Hillary Clinton. A sizable enough conglomerate of parts of the Republican base decided they’d had enough with “run-of-the-mill” politicians and instead chose intentionally to nominate a bully who pitched himself as a political outsider to nihilistically implode the establishment and supposedly hit a reset button on Washington by “draining the swamp.”

Only, he didn’t.

But before trying to take a fair stock of the positive and negative President Trump has done, let’s first look at his opponent, Joe Biden. He’s been a senator since 1972, and he’s made his fair share of mistakes. But he is widely respected as a person by both Democrats and Republicans (Trump cheerleader Senator Lindsey Graham called Biden “the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics” in 2015) and has a long history of bipartisan cooperation. In fact, he has frequently been criticized by the more liberal aspects of the Democratic Party as effectively being the equivalent of a center-right Republican.

These are some of the best things Biden has done in his political career:

  • Violence Against Women Act – Biden co-sponsored this law with Senator Orrin Hatch which approved $1.6 billion to prosecute violent crimes against women and allowed victims to sue their attackers in civil court.
  • 1994 Crime Bill – Biden likewise co-sponsored this law with Hatch, which was a sweeping reform of the criminal justice system that included programs to prevent crime.
  • Dodd-Frank Act – Biden was instrumental in getting this act passed through Congress in his role as vice president, which increased regulation on the financial sector in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.
  • Cancer Research – his oldest son Beau died of cancer in 2015, and Biden created a national task force for cancer research in 2016 during his last year as vice president. 
  • Drug Control – he crafted the laws that created a “Drug Czar” to oversee drug control policy and worked over several years to control the spread of date rape and party drugs.
  • Foreign Relations – he twice served as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is widely regarded for his knowledge, experience and skill as a diplomat, having good relations with many foreign leaders. He encouraged early NATO intervention during the Bush and Clinton administrations in the Balkan Wars that eventually helped end the genocide.
  • Financial Recovery – Biden’s relationship with Senate Republicans as vice president was instrumental in getting compromises passed that had otherwise been stuck in stalemate for financial aid packages following the 2008 recession and during looming potential government shutdowns.

The worst things Biden has done politically:

  • Anita Hill Hearings – Biden and Hatch oversaw Hill’s testimony of sexual harassment by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 in an entirely unfair manner in which no independent experts were called and Hill was forced to defend herself. Biden has since apologized for how he conducted the testimony, and Hill has recently forgiven and endorsed him.
  • 1994 Crime Bill – this law was also unfortunately largely responsible for contributing to the dramatic increase in mass incarcerations, overcrowding the prison system and, by far more critically, disproportionately jailing thousands of African Americans.
  • Reformed Welfare – this wasn’t a problem insofar as welfare likely needed (and needs) some level of reform as part of a broader attempt to slowly get the country out of debt (and in a position in which it could then increase welfare benefits), but the specific ways Clinton and other Democrats like Biden did reform welfare in the 1990s – while cutting costs – did have a large impact on hundreds of thousands of people, including single-parent families and children.
  • Voted to Overturn Glass-Steagall – this act dated back to the Great Depression as a preventative measure blocking banks from speculating with savings. It was overturned in 1999 again by Clinton and congressional Democrats, including Biden, and was thus one of the main reasons financial institutions became “too big to fail” during the 2008 Recession. This and the next issue are two others Biden has apologized for and says he regrets.
  • Voted for the Iraq War – Biden certainly wasn’t alone in this regard as there was vast bipartisan support at the time supporting the invasion of Iraq based on misleading and incomplete understanding of intelligence information. It was only many years later that the nature of the intelligence and the failure of the Bush administration to collect objective information to present to the president, congress, and the American people became clear.
  • Opposed “Forced Busing” – during his first years in the Senate in the early 1970s, Biden supported school integration but came to oppose what became called “forced busing” – which was transporting students to schools in different areas as a way to desegregate. He claimed he did not believe busing was a means to successfully achieve equal opportunity. This has drawn criticism because Senator Strom Thurmond and other segregationist congressman used the issue of busing as a means to continue the segregation of schools. Biden has stood by his decision on busing and maintained that he was nonetheless always in favor of integration, which is likewise reflected in the record.

Looking at all this, I’d say Biden is a pretty typical human being: he’s had some successes and made some mistakes that more or less balance out. Consistently throughout, though, he’s remained someone people are willing and able to work with, a person who – rather uniquely in today’s world – is able to work and communicate with those who disagree with him, even while sometimes strongly disagreeing. That’s what a good leader is able to do. And to be liked even by those who oppose him is not a common trait. As Lindsey Graham said, “he’s a good man.”

Let’s turn to look at both the good and bad things President Trump has done. For there are some things that have been good, though that isn’t anything special, because it’s impossible for any leader to have not done something that would benefit some group of people. Even the worst leaders in history have done some things that were a boon to particular groups. 

The Good

  • The Judiciary – this is good only if you’re a conservative, as Trump has reshaped much of the federal judiciary by appointing nearly as many lifetime justice appointments during his first term as Obama did in two. What makes it “good” is, whether you’re a conservative or not, from what I’ve read, most of Trump’s appointments have been largely seen as highly competent and deserving choices – with some high profile exceptions admittedly among them, most notably Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 
  • Pressure on NATO – The U.S. has long footed the vast majority of the defense bill in this alliance, including covering the costs of our partners when they haven’t met their agreed-upon expenses. Trump pressured our allies more so than past administrations to actually pay their fair share, which has resulted in them increasing their payments by over $130 billion since 2016.
  • Prison Reform – Trump’s First Step Act had massive bipartisan support as one of the first legislative victories in years seeking to reform the criminal justice system, including reducing mandatory minimum sentencing for drug felonies and expanding early-release programs in an attempt to begin addressing America’s mass-incarceration crisis.
  • Illegal Immigration – there is a lot of negative that will be tackled regarding Trump’s immigration policies, but the positive side of his pressuring Mexico with tariffs has been motivating them to crack down on illegal immigration along our border.

The Mixed

  • Tax Reform – the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is Trump’s signature legislative accomplishment, and it is indeed the most massive change to the tax code in decades. In theory, by cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and decreasing the amount the richest Americans are taxed, this was supposed to increase our GDP to more than compensate for the decreased revenue. Even before the pandemic, it did not, and there are few signs that it ever will. Instead, it has increased the national debt by reducing tax income.

The Bad

  • The Pandemic – of all the mistakes Trump has made, this is the worst. One of the two journalists who broke the Watergate scandal produced tapes of Donald Trump plainly stating he understood how deadly the coronavirus was in early February and not only did not immediately act to enforce a strict shutdown, encourage wearing masks and social distancing, and enact the Defense Production Act to distribute desperately short medical supplies, but did the exact opposite – assured the nation there was no real threat, everything would be fine, go about life as normal, because he “didn’t want to create a panic.” Regardless of his actual intentions, this was a criminal dereliction of leadership duties that has literally resulted in the deaths of thousands upon thousands (potentially hundreds of thousands) more people than would be the case had he promptly and strongly led the nation courageously like any other president has in the face of a crisis (and no, the death numbers are not inflated, according to multiple sources). For a detailed rundown, see former National Review writer David French’s recent piece here. This is of course not to mention the utter destruction of the economy (which is slowly recovering; the stock market interestingly never collapsed, and was likely the true intended recipient of Trump’s desire not to create a panic) and the ongoing neutering of our society as normalcy is still a long way off when it didn’t have to be had proper precautions and responses been followed (also note that Trump had previously disbanded the NSC’s pandemic unit, decreased CDC staff in China by two-thirds, and otherwise slashed the CDC’s budget).
  • Protests and Riots – Trump’s handling of the protests and riots in the wake of the George Floyd murder has been disastrous. The vast majority of the active public response has been peaceful protesting with a mixture of rioting coming from protesters and extreme-right groups taking advantage of the situation to stir up disorder. A proper presidential response would acknowledge empathy and understanding with peaceful protesters and spearheading the systemic reforms that are needed in law enforcement while simultaneously denouncing rioters. Instead, all Trump knows how to do is antagonize, issuing as strong a crackdown as he’s been able to on all protesters without violating the rights of states and continually stoking racial discord with his Tweets and speeches. As a consequence, it encourages continual protests and riots. It’s completely counter-productive. The vast majority of Americans disapprove of his handling, as laid out in this piece by Vanity Fair. He also previously had failed in nearly the same manner with the far-right, neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, when the clash between the right-wing extremists and protesters led to him stating there were “very fine people on both sides” of the confrontation. Even Sen. Graham said Trump was “dividing Americans, not healing them,” and “President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist, neo-Nazis and KKK members.”
  • Rampant Corruption – Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, and while he has decreased the number of career bureaucrats working in his administration, he has drastically increased overall corruption. His administration is objectively the most corrupt since at least Warren G. Harding in the 1920s and in the running for most corrupt ever. He broke precedent by never divesting of his business interests, and has used his office to make millions. According to The New York Times, and as quoted from a synopsis on Wikipedia, “As of November 2019, President Donald Trump (R), his children, the 2016 Trump election campaign, the Trump Inaugural Committee and/or the White House were being investigated by 10 federal criminal, eight state and local, and 11 congressional investigations…The Mueller investigation resulted in 34 indictments, and seven convictions or guilty pleas.” Some of those arrested are part of the eight Trump associates arrested or convicted of crimes. The list of his “petty” corruptions while in office is even longer. But the most damaging corruption is concerning the target of the Mueller investigation, Russia.
  • Russia and Bounties – a Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee report that was nearly 1,000 pages long details “an extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Kremlin officials and other Russians, including at least one intelligence officer and others tied to the country’s spy services” according to this New York Times article. During the 2016 election, “the Russian government disrupted an American election to help Mr. Trump become president, Russian intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Mr. Trump’s advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary.” This is just one of many disturbing Trump connections with Russia. It’s also been established that Russia offered to pay bounties to Taliban operatives for killing U.S. soldiers, though it is uncertain whether this actually resulted in any American deaths. Regardless, Trump either knew of the bounty program early on or ignored intelligence reports about it and did nothing to condemn Russia or enact economic reprisals. This is yet one other strain between Trump and veterans.
  • Disrespect for the Military – A Business Insider opinion column lists the many ways Trump has “insulted war heroes and their parents, lambasted generals as ‘dopes and babies,’ and blithely dismissed the symptoms of soldiers with traumatic brain injuries.” According to the USA Today editorial board, “Where President Barack Obama went to military hospitals 29 times in eight years, Trump has made three visits in more than three years.” Several days ago he criticized military leaders by stating, “I’m not saying the military is in love with me – the soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs, and make the planes, and make everything else, stay happy,” which drew some indirect defensive comments from the Army Chief of Staff. And then there’s the recently reported alleged comments Trump made specifically about visiting a cemetery of U.S. World War I dead, in which he allegedly declined to visit, stating Americans who died in war are “suckers” and “losers.” Trump and several of his staff vehemently deny that report, though it has been confirmed by several anonymous sources by news outlets ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Fox News (though the organization has waffled on supporting the reporter who corroborated the story) to The Associated Press to The Washington Post to The New York Times. As Vox reports in its explanation of the controversy, “It’s the word of reporters relaying what unnamed people are saying against the word of untrustworthy people being open about where they stand.”
  • Impeachment – then there’s Trump’s impeachment. As opposed to Bill Clinton, who was impeached for lying under oath about having a sexual relationship with an intern, Trump was impeached in late 2019 for abuse of power by soliciting foreign (Ukrainian) influence in the 2020 election and obstructing justice in Congress’ investigation. The Senate, with a Republican majority, voted to acquit Trump on both articles of impeachment, but that the president delayed military aid to the Ukraine in an attempt to elicit a quid pro quo in return for implicating Joe Biden’s son Hunter in a corruption scandal hardly sounds out of character for him. 
  • Foreign Relations and Wars – Trump nearly led us into disaster with a war with Iran by approving the assassination of one of its top generals in January 2020 despite the warnings of many. Similar to the result of the Iraq War, that the world is a safer place without Iranian general Qassem Suleimani is hard to debate, but risking open war with a sovereign state and outright assassinating one of its legitimate leaders is, big-picture, crazy and unethical. While conservatives love that Trump pulled out of Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, it has been a massive blow to U.S. foreign relationships as it has alienated many of our top allies who had also signed the deal. While increased U.S. economic sanctions on Iran have crippled its economy, Iran has likewise abandoned the 2015 deal that was intended to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon (critics would suggest Iran was never following it in good faith, regardless, but now we know with certainty it is not). Trump abandoned our Kurdish allies in the Syrian Civil War and fight against ISIS by withdrawing the majority of U.S. troops out of northern Syria last October, though he did leave behind less than a thousand. That induced a humanitarian crisis in the war-torn region and broke the trust of the Kurds, who were the brunt of the fighting force in the struggle against ISIS, further tarnishing our foreign image. While drawing down the number of soldiers involved in foreign wars may overall be a noble endeavor, this was neither the time nor the place to do so. It’s just one of many moments in which Trump has severely diminished our international standing. According to Business Insider, “America’s global image has declined significantly under Trump, who has repeatedly insulted key US allies while cozying up to dictators. The president’s tendency to push important allies away and isolate the US, including by pulling out of landmark international agreements like the Paris climate accord, has had a palpable impact.”
  • The Environment – speaking of the Paris climate agreement, Trump’s pulling out of this nearly-unanimous international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the rise of global warming was, well, stupid. That global warming is a reality is the verifiable scientific consensus (see here, here, and here). To what extent humans are contributing to the warming vs. how much of the warming may be a natural result of normal climate change is somewhat more open for debate. I have failed to understand the motivation for those who claim global warming is a hoax, because that’s an awfully large conspiracy theory that’s assuming the vast majority of climate experts are colluding to give false information for…what reasons, exactly? The American West is on fire; Australia is on fire; the Arctic ice is melting at record paces; and we increasingly see more numerous and powerful hurricanes from year to year. Regardless of how much humans are contributing to the crisis, it is indeed a crisis, and wouldn’t it make sense to do all we can to ensure that we are indeed negatively impacting the environment as little as possible? I see no reason to not aggressively address global warming – that Trump has only removed us from international agreements and drastically reduced environmental regulations while boosting oil and gas production is asinine.
  • Immigration – well, that wall didn’t get built, and Mexico didn’t pay for the partial wall that did get put up. In his drive to squash both legal and illegal immigration, Trump separated at least 5,500 families, put children in cages, and has been accused of human rights violations and violating international law by the UN. Per Business Insider, at least six children have died in custody. Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights chief and former president of Chile, said “As a pediatrician, but also as a mother and a former head of state, I am deeply shocked that children are forced to sleep on the floor in overcrowded facilities, without access to adequate health care or food, and with poor sanitation conditions.” There aren’t strong enough words to express how reprehensible and inexcusable this is for a nation as wealthy as the U.S.
  • Out of Control Spending – despite cutting funding for the agencies that may have decreased the impact the coronavirus had, Trump’s spending is utterly out of control. His budgets are historically high, running massive deficits that pile on the ever-increasing national debt. This on top of cutting taxes that would help the government meet his spending needs, thus making the deficit larger than it need be. This is setting up the nation for near-term disaster: payments on the interest for the national debt are already 10% of the entire federal budget and will only continue to grow with every year that the deficit grows. We are boxing ourselves into a corner, where payments on our debt will continually prevent us from paying for our real needs. We need fiscal responsibility in order to long-term provide for the welfare of our citizens and the infrastructure of our nation. Trump has demonstrated none of this and is pouring gasoline on the fire dramatically more than his predecessors.
  • Attack on Truth and the Media – the majority of my previous two posts address the importance of the media, and Trump has routinely attacked it, going so far as to call it the “enemy of the people.” That’s in stark contrast to, say, the Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, who said “The only security of all is in a free press.” Though, to be fair, Jefferson also railed about what he considered to be lies in the press. But Trump’s attacks don’t stop at the media – he calls into question the nature of truth itself, by consistently lying, going back on what he’s said previously, supporting extreme conspiracy theories, and questioning the integrity of those who are the most trustworthy. It’s very postmodern in a sense because he essentially is creating his own reality and asking those who follow him to enter into it with him, believing in only whatever he says within each present moment and excluding whatever he may have said in the past. It’s making himself alone the arbiter of truth, and that’s an extremely dangerous and foreboding move.
  • Intentionally Divisive – “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try,” wrote Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. He continually Tweets inflammatory remarks to anyone who disagrees with him or draws his ire, including large groups of American citizens. It’s part of how he appeals to his base (somehow), but it’s also not how a president – who, like any American politician, is supposed to be a leader for everyone under his or her jurisdiction – should behave. 
  • Lean to Authoritarianism – Trump’s adulation for despots ranging from Vladimir Putin to Kim Jong-Un is disturbing to say the least. He routinely heaps praise on them in speeches and on Twitter which is, well, unprecedented and incredibly bizarre for a U.S. president. He regularly “jokes” about staying in office beyond his constitutionally-limited two terms. He has said on several occasions that he questions the validity of U.S. elections and would be ready to support popular rejection of a close election result in which he loses, an attack on the foundation of our government. If he had his entire way, he would send out the national guard in full force to tramp down all protests and riots. These are all incredibly troubling signs of a flirtation with authoritarianism.

Taken altogether, it’s clear to me that as a person, Donald Trump is a danger to humanity when in a position of power. The damage he’s already done and the threat he poses while in power far surpass any potential benefit a Republican thinks might be gained by having a representative of the party in power. And it’s not just me who thinks so.

There have been more defections from the Republican Party over Trump than there has been for any major party candidate since either 1992 (George H. Bush), 1972 (George McGovern), or 1912 (William Howard Taft / Theodore Roosevelt). Multiple conservative or Republican coalitions – including the Lincoln Project, Republican Voters Against Trump, Republicans for Joe Biden, and Republicans and Independents for Biden – have formed opposing Trump and endorsing Joe Biden. The list of these Republicans is massive (see Wikipedia’s full list here) and includes:

  • President George W. Bush
  • Governor Jeb Bush
  • Senator Mitt Romney
  • Secretary of State Colin Powell (endorsed Biden)
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis
  • Secretary of Defense William Cohen (endorsed Biden)
  • Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (endorsed Biden)
  • Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte (endorsed Biden)
  • FBI Director James Comey (endorsed Biden)
  • Bill Kristol (endorsed Biden)
  • George Will (endorsed Biden)
  • Meghan McCain (endorsed Biden)
  • Ann Coulter 
  • Senator Jeff Flake (endorsed Biden)
  • Governor John Kasich (endorsed Biden)
  • Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Then there are the over 70 Republican National Security Officials who issued a joint statement endorsing Biden and claimed among many other things that “We are profoundly concerned about our nation’s security and standing in the world under the leadership of Donald Trump. The President has demonstrated that he is dangerously unfit to serve another term.” They include:

  • CIA and NSA Director, Gen. Michael Hayden
  • CIA and FBI Director William Webster
  • National Counterterrorism Director Michael Leiter
  • Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley
  • Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage
  • Secretary of the Navy and NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe

Then there are the former staffers. Trump has a long list of people who worked for his administration who advocate for his defeat. They include:

  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis (aforementioned)
  • National Security Adviser John Bolton
  • White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
  • Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff Miles Taylor (his video testimony here)
  • Department of Homeland Security General Counsel John Mitnick
  • Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention Elizabeth Neumann
  • Peace Corps General Counsel Robert Shanks
  • Vice President’s Advisor for Homeland Security, Counterterrorism, and COVID-19 Task Force Olivia Troye (her damning video testimony here)

Then there are the former generals and admirals who have spoken out against Trump, as quoted in this piece posted on Medium:

  • Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Adm. William McRaven – “As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation…Trump is actively working to undermine every major institution in this country.”
  • Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. John Allen – “June 1, 2020. Remember the date. It may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment…There is no precedent in modern U.S. history for a president to wield federal troops in a state or municipality over the objections of the respective governor.”
  • Gen. Barry McCaffrey – “We are dealing with a lawless President who has no allegiance to our Constitution or values. We have never encountered such a terrible man in the Presidency.”
  • Commander of Joint Special Operations Command / Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan Stanley McChrystal – “I don’t think [Trump] tells the truth… I think he is, [immoral].”
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen – “[Trump] laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”
  • NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Wesley Clark – “According to The New York Times, Russian operatives offered bounties to the Taliban and organized criminals to kill American troops…Trump’s response to bounty, even if not briefed, was weak…[his] first reaction was not, ‘How can I protect the troops?’ It was, ‘How can I protect myself?’

Then there are the the mental health professionals. A Duty To Warn is a large group dedicated to warning us about Trump’s psychiatric disorders that make him unfit for office. They’ve produced a well-received documentary entitled “Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump” that can be streamed through a number of services. Trump’s own freaking niece, Mary L. Trump, has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and wrote Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, chronicling the dysfunction of the Trump family and how it contributed to the pathologies present in the president.

For those who haven’t been gaslit by a bevy of right-leaning propaganda masquerading as news, the choice in this presidential election is abundantly clear. This isn’t a choice between “the lesser of two evils.” No, Joe Biden is not perfect. But with all due respect, I see a lot of friends and acquaintances acting as if they’re having to pick between Hitler and Stalin, and that is simply not the case. I normally support a person’s desire to vote third party or however they want, but I strongly disagree now as I did in 2016 – these are extraordinary circumstances. This is not “just another election year.” Donald Trump has been an historically awful president who has through his incompetence and impotence contributed to the needless death of thousands upon thousands of people and the suffering of every single American as we’re forced to live through this prolonged purgatory of existence distancing from one another when any leader worth a grain of salt would’ve provided guidance and direction to the country in a way that would have enabled us to start to return to some semblance of normalcy like every other well-governed nation in the world. Despite that, it could’ve been worse – I’m pleasantly, mildly surprised that he didn’t also inadvertently or intentionally lead us into war. Who’s to say he wouldn’t with another four years? Or who’s to say what more damage he could do, culturally if nothing else?

This is very much akin to being faced with a choice of voting for either Hitler or Nixon. No, Trump isn’t anywhere close to being like Hitler, and Biden isn’t anywhere close to being like Nixon, but the degree of the contrasts between the two holds as a good analogy. If your two choices in an election were Hitler or Nixon, would you vote for, say, The Jolly Green Giant because your principles just couldn’t let you choose either imperfect choice between the other two? No, you’d bloody well vote for Nixon, abject corruption and all, because you’d damn well do everything in your power to prevent the monstrosity of Hitler from winning. That is what this election is. This isn’t Bush v. Gore, or Obama v. McCain, or Ford v. Carter, or Reagan v. Mondale. This is not a normal election.

When I face the Judgment Throne, I want to be able to tell God I did all I could to prevent an objectively terrible leader from continuing to destroy lives. I placed my vote for the person that could stop him. That’s why I’m voting for Joe Biden. That’s why I wrote this post, as a further expression of me “doing all I could.” I’ve donated to a political campaign for the first time in my life. God help me, I hope I never have to become this overtly political again, that I can return to silently observing presidential elections because one of the candidates isn’t an anti-Christ (literal definition of the phrase: opposite of Christ – who could possibly be more the opposite of who Jesus Christ is as a human than Donald Trump?). I’d love to freaking be able to vote for a conservative again someday.

I encourage you to vote for Joe Biden. And not only that, to stand up and implore those you know to vote for him, too. Early voting starts in Florida in October – check to see the dates and locations for when it starts where you live. Get a group of people to meet and vote as an excuse to actually see people in a healthy, socially distant manner. If you’re comfortable doing so, offer the back seat of your car to drive people to vote. Help people register to vote. Help people with voting by mail. Just vote, for God’s sake, vote. Turn out and vote. Write letters through Vote Forward encouraging others to vote. Share this post on your social media feeds. Share other thoughtful pieces. Engage people in calm and loving conversation. Be active. And maybe in the end we will all be able to return to some semblance of sanity and normalcy as a result.

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