Thursday, October 27, 2016

That the Nation Might Live / Joshua Abbott

Those who argue that Republicans should support Donald Trump despite his personal flaws are largely missing the point. It's not his vulgarity, his shady dealings, or even his alleged sexual assaults, disturbing as those are, that ultimately disqualify him. The problem with Trump runs much deeper. In the two-hundred-twenty-seven years since the first presidential election, we have had many kinds of presidents: conservative and liberal, courageous and cowardly, virtuous and immoral, honest and corrupt. Our republic has weathered them all. But we have never had a president who, like Trump, directly challenges what America stands for as a nation.

The U.S. is unique among nations because, at its core, it is not defined by its territorial boundaries or by any cultural, ethnic, linguistic, or religious identity. Any of those could change over time, and it would still be America. Even the Constitution is only an expression of the people's will, subject to change. At its core, America is an idea. As Abraham Lincoln explained, it is "a new nation, established in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Thus, America is a great, ongoing experiment in human affairs, testing whether "any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure."

Yet in countless ways throughout his campaign, Trump has demonstrated that he rejects that fundamental proposition. His statements regarding Mexicans ("they're rapists"), Muslims ("a temporary ban"), women ("grab them by the p----"), his opponent ("the devil"), peaceful protesters ("punch him in the face"), journalists ("lying, disgusting people"), etc., etc., etc., are well documented and need not be detailed here. They reflect a deep fear of or contempt for those who are different. No one who says such things can honestly claim to believe the self-evident truths "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." And no one who rejects those truths should lead the nation that embodies them.

It is usually around this point in a political discussion that a Trump supporter will try to turn the conversation to Hillary Clinton and her multitude of sins, arguing that whatever drawbacks Trump may have, they're not as bad as hers. For our purposes here, let's just stipulate that every plausible accusation that has been made against Clinton is true--all of it--and that she would be the worst president in U.S. history. Even then, when it comes to the survival of American constitutional democracy, there is no comparison. It's not even apples and oranges; it's apples and the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs. For all of Clinton's misdeeds, real or imagined, no one can seriously argue that she poses a threat to American democracy. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Trump.

In 1860, when leaders in the South realized that a majority of voters in the U.S. actually believed that all people are created equal, including slaves, and that this belief would define the nation, they did what any rational person who disagrees would do--they opted out. The result was two percent of Americans killed, which for today's population would equal more than six million souls. Last week, when Trump refused to promise to accept the results of the election (unless he wins), he too was holding open the possibility of opting out. Thus, by rejecting America's founding principle, Trump represents the greatest threat to American democracy since the Civil War. That is what this election is really about.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for the voice of reason.

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  2. Trump did not call all Mexicans rapists. He said rape is part of the violence along the border. Regarding a temporary ban, we do not know who is entering our country. Doesn't a country have a right to protect its citizens? His immoral words are words; who hasn't made unguarded comments they shouldn't have? At least some of the accusations against Trump have been disproven. Bill Clinton has done what Trump has been accused of, and the Democrats have no problem with that. Double standard? America's founders did not create an idea: they created a republic. Most people don't even know what a republic is. A republic has a branch that is elected by the people (the House of Representatives) and an unelected senate. In the Roman republic, which lasted 500 years, the senate was hereditary. The constitution created a senate that was appointed by state legislatures. The senate's purpose is to push back the demagoguery that always surfaces with democracy. The "progressives" -- and Hillary is one -- destroyed our republic by making the senate popularly elected. Now we have two Houses of Representatives, which get elected by demagoguery (I heard some coworkers today saying they would vote for the candidate that would give them the most). The president was not supposed to be popularly elected, but that never worked. Hillary and the progressives are the threat. Have you looked into Trump's charge that Hillary's campaign hired demonstrators to threaten the audience in his rallies? Look at Trump's children, whom Hillary complimented. Does good fruit come from a bad tree. Look at the thousands of jobs he has created. Have you considered all the tax revenue his employees have generated? The "progressives" have wrecked our middle class, something that Hillary will continue to do. Democrat policies make more and more people dependent on government, which is what they want. That's the real threat.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment and for the important points you raise. It's unfortunate that your comment begins with a series of "straw man" arguments, which only serve to undermine credibility and diminish the force of your argument. It's a rhetorical trap that many of us fall into. (From Wikipedia: A "straw man" argument "creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition . . . and then refuting that false argument . . . instead of the original proposition. This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery, entertaining 'battle' and the defeat of an 'enemy' may be more valued than critical thinking or understanding both sides of the issue.") To illustrate: I argued that Trump's derogatory comments about Mexicans, Muslims, and others demonstrate a fear of, or contempt for, those who are different. That is a statement of opinion, a reasonable one in my view, and is fairly debatable. Instead, you responded that "Trump did not call all Mexicans rapists" (I never said he did); "Doesn't a country have a right to protect its citizens?" (I never said it doesn't); and "America's founders did not create an idea: they created a republic" (indeed, a republic based on ideas).

      Looking past the logical fallacies in your comment, you do raise an important issue about how democracies tend to be vulnerable to demagoguery, and that ours in particular has become especially vulnerable to that danger. In his May 2, 2016, New York Magazine article, "America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny," Andrew Sullivan thoroughly explores this idea. Although the focus of his article is to warn of a Trump presidency, it also serves as a compelling indictment of the political Left for creating the conditions that allow charismatic leaders to seize power and destroy liberty. Though long, it is well worth a careful read.

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  3. Thank you, Mr. Abbott for your letter. I hope many folks read this before they vote. I really do not understand how the Republican Party could have allowed him to represent them in this or any futsure election.

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  4. Thank you for the voice of reason.

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  5. Spot on. Well written and explained. I agree and am thankful for your detailed explanation.

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