By: Samuel A. Mullins – Senior Religious Studies and Spanish
Matthew D. DeVilbiss – Senior Mathematics
Recently, an editorial appeared in Flyer News entitled “Pros and Cons of Donald Trump.” Willingness to address complexity is important in evaluating any candidate, as is the willingness to employ critical thinking as the author of the editorial suggests. However, one must be cautious not to invent nuance where none exists in an effort to appear neutral. Donald Trump is unambiguously vile and listing untrue or meaningless pros while failing to address any serious cons does no service toward the cause of critical thinking.
The first con listed is Trump’s “brashness.” Trump is brash, but this isn’t the problem. The problem with Trump is not how he speaks, but the content of his speech. Trump refuses consistently to disavow the KKK and regularly retweets racist messages from white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. He repeatedly maligns groups like Mexicans and Muslims as dangerous to our country. He accuses women who challenge him of being on their period. To be clear, the problem isn’t that Trump is politically incorrect; we are not accusing Trump of using outdated terms or failing to employ inclusive language. We are accusing him of being a raging bigot.
The next con discussed is Trump’s inexperience. Again, Trump is inexperienced, but the problem goes deeper. The problem with Trump is his mind-boggling lack of knowledge on almost every issue. When challenged to provide even the most rudimentary details about his patently absurd plans, Trump retreats to talking points, self-glorification, childishly criticizing his opponents or bragging about his polls. The debates have routinely demonstrated his utter inability to explain things like how he’d get Mexico to pay for a border wall, how he’d ban Muslims from the United States and how he’d simultaneously withdraw troops from the Middle East and take their oil. The author’s point that he lacks a political science degree is comparatively insignificant.
The third con, that Trump is not representative of the American dream, is true but entirely irrelevant. So here, we would like to discuss a con somehow not mentioned in the editorial: His fascist tendencies. Trump wants to order the military to commit war crimes, including torture and killing the families of detainees. When challenged on what he’d do if the military refused to torture and kill innocent people, he said “They won’t refuse” and repeated variations of this response when pressed. Trump also wants to “open up libel laws,” so he can sue reporters who criticize him. Trump has absolutely no respect for civil liberties or basic freedoms. A leader who makes such promises is a threat to democracy.
The pros listed in this article are similarly flawed. The first is that Trump is generating unprecedented political engagement and “excitement.” Although true, this excitement is often based in spewing hatred against racial minorities and Muslims. This excitement leads to peaceful protesters being assaulted at his rallies. This excitement leads to his name being chanted by children to intimidate Latinos and African-Americans. We do not, as the author claims, “have to thank him for the excitement he’s creating.” Indeed, this excitement may be the most dangerous part of his candidacy.
The next pro is his resume. The author contends that Donald Trump’s stellar record as a businessman qualifies him to be president. Setting aside the fact that businesses and governments are different things and that skill in one doesn’t necessarily translate to the other, Trump is not nearly as successful a businessman as the author claims. Liz Mair points out in the Independent Journal Review that in the past 30 years, Trump’s casino empire has filed for more bankruptcies than any other company. His businesses are so mismanaged that he would be much wealthier than he is now if he had simply invested his $200,000,000 inheritance into a mutual fund of S&P 500 stocks. Trump is not a good enough entrepreneur to be placed “on the Mt. Rushmore of businessmen.” However, Trump is a self-promotion savant, as evidenced by the fact that he has somehow convinced the author of this editorial that gaudy hotels and casinos merit him a place alongside Carnegie and Rockefeller.
The third pro, that Trump’s narcissism will make him successful, is obviously ridiculous and need not be discussed at length. Narcissism does not lead one down an inevitable road to competence; wanting something is different from achieving it. Instead, here we would like to address another commonly alleged pro of Trump’s candidacy: “he tells it like it is” and “he says what’s on his mind.” These are not virtues. If what’s on your mind is incoherent racist drivel, it’s really best to keep it to yourself. Regardless, Trump does not tell it like it is. Trump lies shamelessly and brazenly, even for a politician. He’s changed his position on every hot-button issue within the last decade and often contradicts his own statements mere minutes after making them. Far from being a straight-shooter, Trump is the most dishonest candidate in recent memory.
Pros and cons in a candidate are relative to the outcomes you desire. If you want the country to move in a more authoritarian, bigoted direction, Trump presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If not, we did identify one pro of the Donald’s candidacy: He is likely too foolish and incompetent to enact his most dangerous proposals, a damning saving grace if there ever was one.
To read the full column to which these writers are responding, please visit here.