You may remember that back in the fall, I did two articles on the Presidential election where I compiled mixtapes of theme songs for the various Republican and Democratic candidates in the race. I haven’t written about the election here since, but now that the dust is settling and most of those candidates have dropped out, there’s a bit of a problem; not only is Donald Trump still here, there’s a good chance that he’ll be the Republican nominee. And that’s a troubling thing to be saying roughly half a year out from Election Day.
Sure, there's still a chance he won't reach 1,237 delegates in time for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, but even with all the talk of a contested Republican convention, there’s no guarantee that the party leaders won’t hand him the nomination just to avoid him running third-party, which would split the conservative vote and practically guarantee a Democrat in the White House. And knowing Trump, if he loses the nomination, he won’t be able to quietly accept his defeat. Even if he doesn’t try to stay in the mix for the general election, he’ll rant and scream and throw a tantrum like he always does, then make some empty threats to sue the RNC. But if he is in that general election, he will almost certainly be the worst candidate ever to stand a serious chance at winning in November in recent memory, if not of all time.
Let’s talk about his background for a minute.
Many Republicans, even before Trump arrived, liked to talk up how we should “run government like a business,” and many a private sector bigwig, from Carly Fiorina to Herman Cain to Mitt Romney, has run with the GOP on such a platform, citing their business experience as proof positive that they can lead. However, this talking point leaves out that just because you ran a business doesn’t mean you were very good at it, and Trump is a perfect illustration of that fact. His track record as a businessman is riddled with failure after failure, to the point where he would actually be billions of dollars richer if he’d retired in 1982 and invested his money in the stock market without ever hosting The Apprentice, putting his name on The Art of the Deal, or opening so much as one Trump Tower or Trump Casino.
Let me give you an example: back in the ‘80’s, Donald Trump wanted to own an NFL team, but nobody wanted to sell one to him. So he went to the United States Football League and bought the New Jersey Generals--a team that, if this gambit had actually succeeded, would have had to share a stadium and media market with two established NFL franchises--then spent like crazy on players, forcing the other owners to spend just as recklessly to keep up. Then, with the league already failing, he convinced the other owners to move the league to a fall schedule, where they’d have to compete with the NFL directly, and sue the NFL for almost $2 billion. That lawsuit succeeded, and the USFL won a whopping financial shot in the arm of...three dollars. Not three million. Three. There is a distinct possibility that you have more money in your wallet right now than the USFL won in that lawsuit. Needless to say, the USFL was done for, and Trump didn’t get his NFL team.
And keep in mind, that’s when Donald Trump is just working with a business. As the actual owner, he’s made plenty of other blunders. Remember that Trump Mortgage company John Oliver brought up on Last Week Tonight? He didn’t even mention the best part: Trump gave the position of Chief Executive of Trump Mortgage to a man who, as it turned out, only had six days’ experience as a Wall Street broker. If Trump appears to be a business genius, it’s because the way he promotes himself and his brand is so much louder and attention-getting than the way his business ventures flounder and fold.
Sure, when he’s talking and hyping himself up, he’s all over CNN, but when he’s making bad moves, he doesn’t get that same amount of attention.
This pattern is repeating itself once again in his campaign. From day one, Trump has said and done offensive things, including mocking a disabled reporter and insinuating that Megyn Kelly was on her period during the first Fox News GOP debate. While he may have won plenty of states, he’s also created a nasty situation for himself, with key members of his campaign staff bailing and atrocious polls. His net favorability ratings have been consistently negative since he started his campaign, and in head-to-head hypothetical general election matchups, he loses no matter who he’s up against.
And let’s not forget that Trump has been, by a long shot, the most inconsistent candidate on either side of the aisle when it comes to policy. And I don’t just mean that he’s abandoned all the Democratic-leaning positions he used to have, like being pro-choice and supporting single-payer healthcare, for the sake of getting the Republican nomination. I mean that he said the federal government should be involved in education, then said it shouldn’t be involved in education not even fifteen seconds later. That’s the kind of flip-flopping not even Mitt Romney could pull off. He and his supporters like to spin this as him being unpredictable and make it seem like a strength. Of course, they then like to turn around and say that Trump speaks the truth, but I’m just gonna sip this tea and move on. (Earl Grey with sugar and cognitive dissonance. Mmm, delicious!) However, to be fair, there are some instances where Trump has stayed consistent on an issue. Let’s talk about them.
You know we had to mention this. Let’s talk about the hu--no, I’m sorry, YUUUGE wall he’s going to build and make Mexico pay for.
Again, he hasn’t been very clear on how exactly he wants to do it. At one point, he went on MSNBC and said, “When I rejuvenate our military, Mexico won’t be playing with us with war, that I can tell you.” That’s a vague statement, but the implication seems to be that we build up our military and threaten to go to war with Mexico if they don’t pay up. The policy paper he released back in August, on the other hand, lists various economic sanctions and punishments to potentially put in place until Mexico agrees to pay for the wall. Then, a couple weeks ago, he sent a memo to the Washington Post on how to get Mexico to pay for the wall. According to them, the plan went something like this:
In the memo, Trump said he would threaten to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act antiterrorism law to cut off a portion of the funds sent to Mexico through money transfers, commonly known as remittances. The threat would be withdrawn if Mexico made “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” to pay for the border wall, he wrote.
But no matter what scheme he’s come up with this time, the theme of coercion, whether through trade or through metaphorically putting a gun to Mexico’s head, is constant. Trump will gladly screw up our relationship with Mexico in the name of building his wall--which, by the way, will be extremely expensive. Trump has, surprise surprise, not been very good at describing the wall’s fiscal impact; the various answers he’s given as to how much the wall will cost have ranged from $4 billion to $12 billion. Meanwhile, people who actually operate in reality tend to come up with rather different numbers. One civil engineer estimated that the raw materials alone would cost $17 billion. That’s before paying people to design the wall, getting the materials on site, buying up land to build the wall on, paying the builders and/or contractors...do you see how this might be expensive? Do you see why Mexico might not want to pay for all this all by themselves? Hell, the one-time payment Trump wants might not even be anywhere near enough to cover it. What will Trump do then? Make Mexico cough up another $10 billion? Or will he have America start to use its own money, thereby eating into the federal budget and provoking a backlash because he didn’t actually make Mexico pay for it?
I’m sorry, but if you’re a Republican and you support building the wall, then zombie Ronald Reagan should have already come to your house and taken your fiscal conservative card away. The wall would be extremely expensive, take years to build, require constant surveillance and repairs, and an all-around terrible investment that reflects poorly on America as a whole. We can’t go around calling ourselves a nation of immigrants and then yell “Go away!” when people decide to move here and become Americans. That’s not how fundamental American values work. You have to at least pretend to back these things up through policy. And speaking of American values...oh, man, does one of his other consistent positions not gel with them at all.
Trump has been attacking immigrants, legal and illegal alike, since his campaign launched, accusing them of being mainly criminals and drug users--which, statistically speaking, is untrue--and promising to deport every last illegal immigrant.
Now, when he’s talking about illegal immigrants, he’s not thinking of people who come here legally and overstay their visas--who are usually estimated to make up about 40% of all illegal immigrants. He means people who physically crossed the southern border without going through the proper channels. But most people who make that perilous trek from Mexico and Central America want to escape crime, not bring it here like Trump thinks they will. A town that’s been taken over by a vicious drug cartel like Los Zetas or MS-13, where the severed heads of people who publicly oppose the gang are displayed openly in the street, is generally not a safe place to live. If people would rather come here, pay taxes, follow American laws, and become American citizens than see themselves or their loved ones become victims of ruthless gang violence, then they deserve that chance.
And let’s not forget, these people actively want to pay taxes and do the crappy jobs nobody else wants to do. Deporting all 11 million illegal immigrants would not only take valuable members of the workforce out of our economy--especially in industries that rely on migrant workers, like agriculture and restaurants--it would also require a massive investment of time and resources, even without the deployment of military personnel, in order to physically track down and deport every last illegal immigrant. This will inevitably include millions of people whose only crime is that their application for a visa renewal or a green card is sitting in a bureaucratic backlog and won’t be looked at for another few years. Sure, we’ll get a few actual criminals out of the country, but for the most part, deporting every illegal immigrant would be, in the words of Frank Zappa, “the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation.”
And keep in mind, this isn’t the sort of task we can reasonably expect to ever complete. There will still be people whose visas expire. There will still be people whose paperwork doesn’t get processed for years. There will still be people who manage to cross the border, no matter how many checkpoints, surveillance cameras, and walls we put in their way. Again, this isn’t fiscally responsible, nor is it morally responsible.
Removing productive workers from the economy and breaking up families won’t ensure our national security; it’ll only take funding and energy away from the real threats. Like, let’s say, the resurgence of debilitating diseases that had been effectively eliminated decades ago.
That brings me to the last of Trump’s consistent positions I’d like to mention. Since at least 2007, Donald Trump has been openly anti-vaccine. More specifically, he believes that vaccines cause autism. For almost ten years, he has been public about this belief, including during one of the Republican primary debates this election. Now, as someone whose younger sister is severely autistic, to the point where her level of brain function maxes out somewhere around that of an 18-month-old, and who has multiple cousins and friends with other forms of autism ranging all over the spectrum of the disorder, this issue is one that I take very seriously.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. The idea that vaccines are dangerous, harmful, or otherwise risky enough to outweigh the benefits of using them is bullshit. The idea that vaccines cause autism specifically is complete bullshit. It was first put forth in 1998 by Mark Wakefield, whose “research” “paper” on the topic turned out to be wrong, unethically conducted, and an overall sorry excuse for science. In fact, the paper was so completely wrong that he got his medical license taken away and the journal that published the paper retracted it in 2010--which is basically the medical community’s way of saying “You learned nothing in med school." That should have been the end of it, but then Jenny McCarthy just had to go on television and start repeating Wakefield’s discredited claims. So as a result, we have an entire movement of scared, misinformed parents and celebrities that denies centuries of medical research and the nigh-universal consensus on vaccines because they were fooled by a quack. That, in turn, leads to kids getting measles, mumps, polio, and various other diseases that should have been left back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s--not by any fault of their own, but because their parents--or someone else's parents--were gullible as hell.
See, when you don’t vaccinate your kids, it’s not just your kids who are at risk of getting all these diseases. It’s people around your kids. It’s other kids at school. It’s babies who aren’t old enough to get vaccinated. It’s people whose immune systems are too weak for vaccines and get their protection by relying on everyone around them being vaccinated. When you don’t vaccinate your kids, people get sick. People die. The fact that small children are still dying from nearly-eradicated diseases due to other people’s willful ignorance is disgusting. But since Donald Trump lives in his little bubble of wealth and ignorance, he won’t have to face these consequences. He can just hawk this anti-science fearmongering without a care in the world. But someone else’s family will.
That’s the thing about Trump. He lives in a world where he can blunder all he wants because he won’t lose anything meaningful as a result.
He lives in a world where he can say things that are completely wrong, listen to his yes-men and thousands of people aspiring to his wealth cheering him on, and then insult the people who don’t agree. He should have been out of this contest the day he entered it, and yet here we are, still having to listen to this man hype crowds up on substance-less slogans and prejudice, misrepresent his record, and act like a playground bully to his opponents. He’s instigated prejudice and violence, acted as un-presidential as any presidential candidate in the last thirty years, pissed off every single person he can possibly piss off, and yet he’s most likely going to be the Republican nominee for president and could very well be given the most powerful governmental position in the modern world. With that power, he has the potential to ruin America’s relationships with its allies, send us into a recession that would leave millions out of work and cripple young people’s ability to get valuable jobs and work experience--just ask the people who graduated from college in 2008 how many jobs there were--and start yet another costly, destructive war. We can’t risk having this man in the Oval Office for so much as one second, and the damage he’ll do to this country and this world if he gets the job will hurt our generation, the ones with so much of our lives ahead of us, the ones whose potential has yet to be reached, more than anyone else.
If he wins, we have to suffer the consequences, and that might take decades to resolve.
So if you’re a Democrat, vote for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton in your state’s primary, if you haven’t already done so. If you’re a Republican, vote for John Kasich if you haven’t already done so. And do not, I repeat, do NOT stay home on Election Day this November. Get registered to vote. Get your friends registered to vote. Make sure you and your friends actually vote. Literally pick them up and throw them into the voting booth and keep them in there until they vote against Trump if you have to.
We have to be the ones that turned out at the polls and put someone sane in the White House. We have to be the ones that stood up and said, “No, Donald, you don’t represent the values we as Americans believe in.” We have to be the ones that stumped the Trump.
Lead Image Credit: Gage Skidmore // Flickr Creative Commons