There are people very dear to me that voted for Trump in 2016. Below are some of my arguments against a Trump vote in 2020, which I wrote down in hopes of persuading them, and perhaps others, to vote Biden/Harris.
I will be the first to admit I am no policy wonk, and there are plenty of other takes on Trump and the GOP that are more informed and more comprehensively argued. There are also many important issues not mentioned below. Furthermore, convincing GOP voters to cast their ballot for Biden is obviously not the way for the Democrats to win in 2020. Rather, this is my plea to people I love to exercise their democratic right in a way that aligns with what I know to be true — that they are good people.
What kind of person do we want as the leader of America, to represent our nation? Some would argue that the person doesn’t matter — as long as they get policies in place that we like, we could have Satan himself as Commander in Chief. Some probably think that all politicians are corrupt and fake and self-serving, so what difference does it make? But I’m not that pessimistic yet. I think it does matter who represents our country, as I want them to be a model to American citizens and an ambassador to the wider world, and because one’s character will certainly influence the decisions one makes for the country. And Trump is about as far from a morally upright, stable, honorable, honest leader as I could imagine. Below I’ll highlight a few of the aspects I find most abhorrent; there is a lot more to be read beyond the brief examples I go over.
I think we would all hope for a President that has at least some minimal amount of empathy. Trump often cruelly mocks others and shows little concern for the feelings, fears, or trials of anyone other than himself. He has shown a remarkable lack of empathy for victims of the pandemic — one would think his own brush with COVID-19 would humble him somewhat, but after receiving health care that almost every other American could only dream of, he continued with his message of downplaying the virus and bragging about his own strength. And yes, of course people are also mean to Trump — but he is the President, and we have to expect more from our President than a daily punching down at his opponents and aggrandizement of his own achievements.
Trump, who took five deferments for military service in Vietnam, including a highly dubious one for “bone spurs,” had this to say about Sen. John McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Not to mention his alleged disparagement of the troops in general. Or his decades of history of disparaging remarks about women, including this genuinely sickening quote that we have on tape: “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Or the multiple documented occasions he has walked into beauty pageant dressing rooms unannounced in order to catch a glimpse of half-naked women.
What does it say about a man when he cheats on his wife a few months after the birth of his son, Barron? If the alleged affair didn’t happen, then why pay $130k in hush money to cover it up?
Multiple sources confirm that Trump spends large parts of the day watching TV and not actually working. Despite routinely criticizing Obama for playing golf during his presidency, Trump’s golf days FAR outpace Obama’s.
How can someone incapable of self-reflection, who calls himself the “greatest of all presidents” (not once, but repeatedly), lead well? He eschews expertise and seeks only to protect his ego. He takes no responsibility at all for our country’s embarrassingly inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump has shown astonishingly little regard for the truth (even for a politician). The list goes on and on and ranges from the absurd (eg, size of his inauguration crowd) to the concretely harmful (eg, his completely irresponsible dishonesty regarding COVID-19). And when confronted with his lies, he merely doubles down.
A Godly man
If religion is important to you: there is an ark-full of evidence that Trump is faking his religiosity in order to get the evangelical vote — let me know if you want more examples than this document provides. One of the most hilarious is here, where despite saying the Bible is his “favorite book,” he cannot seem to quote a single verse. There’s a much longer consideration of the Christian ethics of a Trump vote here.
Trump ran in 2016 as a successful businessman who would whip the US government into shape. Even if you buy that the government should be run like a business, the evidence just keeps accumulating that Trump is a terrible businessman. In 2016, we already knew his businesses had declared bankruptcy six times — not a good sign. His most successful business venture is simply licensing the TRUMP name as a symbol of excess extravagences to other people’s projects. We now have extremely good evidence that most of his businesses have been losing money consistently for years, that he pays pitifully little in income tax, and that he is in extreme debt (which is a serious national security concern in and of itself). (And if the NYT story isn’t true, why won’t Trump release his tax returns or even simply tell us the exact amount he’s paid?) Is this the “titan of industry” that we want running the American experiment?
In 2018, the Trump Foundation was forced to cease operations by New York’s attorney general, after evidence that the nonprofit was largely used to further the Trump family’s business and political interests. Furthermore, given how rich Trump says he is, it seems quite stingy that “over the past quarter of a century, he has given away less than $5 million of his own money. According to his own estimate, he is worth in excess of $10 billion. If we take him at his word, that means his charitable contributions come to about 0.05 per cent of his fortune, or five cents for every $100.” That’s a lower percentage than I donate making $54,000 per year. But given that his businesses are losing so much money maybe we should cut him some slack.
In the Boy Scouts, there is a list of principles one should seek to abide by: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent — I think this is a pretty good list. Can you honestly say that Trump abides by any of those? Well, I guess he’s decently clean…but that’s the only one I can see.
Commander in Chief
I’ll let these military leaders speak for themselves.
America in the global community
America is losing allies and this is a major threat to national security. Trump regularly praises dictators like Putin while pushing us away from important alliances like NATO. His foreign policy failings are many. America has long stood for decency, democracy, and opportunity across the world — what does a Trump presidency stand for on the global stage?
We really, really need a stable leader sitting in the Oval Office who won’t trade schoolyard insults with Kim Jong-un on Twitter or rant unpredictably about important economic policies that send the stock market reeling. It often seems like a child is occupying the highest office of the most powerful country in the world.
A competent administration
Trump’s administration has been marked by chaotic firings/resignations (e.g., “the Trump administration has had 28 acting cabinet secretaries over three years – more than the total number of acting secretaries in either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama’s eight years in office”) and a clear tendency to appoint loyalists rather than experts (see the EPA and Dept. of Education as examples). He has failed to appoint numerous positions and instead installs “acting” heads that circumvent Senate approval.
A unifying leader
The president should serve the country, not his party. Trump has made it clear that he is only interested in serving his base, regularly attacking Democrats, “blue states,” and framing the election as a war where his “patriot” supporters must fight against everyone else. He makes no attempt at unity, while Biden is strongly making the argument that he can be a unifying president. Gen. James Mattis speaks eloquently about Trump’s divisiveness here.
I can’t put it better than David Frum, who was a speechwriter for G. W. Bush. We can also look at his obvious attempts to obstruct justice.
Abusing the position
Trump refuses to mitigate the numerous conflicts of interest that emerge from his businesses and properties, like foreign governments or lobbyists hosting events at his hotels, or even his own extremely frequent patronage of his own properties that costs taxpayers so much more money than if he simply stayed in the White House. From a recent NYT report, we learned that “just 60 customers with interests at stake before the Trump administration brought his family business nearly $12 million during the first two years of his presidency. Almost all saw their interests advanced, in some fashion, by Mr. Trump or his government.” Is this the swamp draining Trump supporters were hoping for?
As this is getting long, I’ll focus mainly on what I think many Trump supporters see as his biggest policy strengths/wins. (It’s worth noting that the GOP did not even bother updating its platform from 2016 to 2020. You can make of this what you will, but I’d say the world has definitely changed over the past four years…)
Let’s throw Trump a bone and look at pre-pandemic data, glossing over the ways the Trump administration’s inadequate response to COVID-19 compounded the economic cost of the pandemic. Trump always touts that he built the “greatest economy ever” — first of all, this is a highly debatable claim. Second of all, he acts like he was given a terrible economy and built it back from the ground up, but almost all signs point to him inheriting a very strong economy from the Obama administration and merely continuing the trends (until the pandemic). The GOP’s 2017 tax cut mainly benefited corporations and the wealthy while adding $2 trillion to the national debt. The financial deregulation Republicans are so fond of is what brought us the Great Recession. It’s also worth noting that, though the reasons are unclear, there is very strong evidence that the economy has historically (since 1947) done better under Democrat presidents than Republican presidents. Here you can compare the Trump and Biden economic plans.
Can we imagine what it’s like to be a young mother trying to escape poverty and crime in Mexico? We need to overhaul the US immigration system, but we also have to approach this problem with empathy. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and policies are empowering actual white supremacists, leading to cruel family separation at the border, and wasting money on a border wall that supposedly Mexico was paying for. This is an immigration policy rooted in cruelty and that is not how I want America to be.
The Trump administration is intent on slashing environmental regulations and opening up treasured public areas for mining and drilling, like the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and coastal waters. They have no climate change plan and refuse to recognize the massive jobs opportunity in renewable energy. What kind of natural world do we want to leave for the generations after us?
The Republican party is becoming increasingly anti-democratic in order to hang on to power. Widespread gerrymandering is leading to minority rule in many places. The GOP is stealing a SCOTUS seat. They are actively trying to make it harder for citizens to vote. The party increasingly seems to run on resentment and I don’t know what their vision for America is.
In the end, for me, it largely comes down to two things.
- Life is inherently unfair — we don’t choose our genes, our families, the country we’re born in. How do we make life more fair? Most people simply want health, happiness, and a modicum of prosperity. How do we ensure that for the largest number of people? Who really wants to live in a world where there are billionaires and homeless people living on the same street? A very modest amount of wealth redistribution has the potential to unleash a torrent of human potential that is stymied by basic bad luck.
- We only have one Earth. How do we protect it? Not just for ourselves, but for future human generations, and for the beautiful diversity of life on this planet?
Joe Biden is far from a perfect candidate. But he is at least a comparatively decent human being who respects facts and doesn’t suffer from debilitating narcissism. If I were to break the choice down to one hypothetical / metaphorical question, I’d ask myself, who would I want to raise my 6-month-old son, Donald Trump or Joe Biden? There is no question in my mind.