Two years into Trump
BY DR. HENRY FRADELLA PH.D. Shortly after the 2016 election, I penned an open letter to my friends and extended family members who voted for Donald Trump that iPinion was kind enough to publish. In it, I explained not only why I was fearful for what might come, but also why I was upset with people who claimed to love me, yet voted in ways that would likely diminish my rights, as well as those of women and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Nearly two years later, things are much worse than I imagined they would be. I write today to share my grief about something intensely personal for me — the loss of respect toward my friends and family members who remain supportive of Donald Trump and his administration.
Over the past few months, several of my friends and family members shared a post on social media outlets that read as follows (note that the numerous grammatical errors were in the original and I will not correct them here):
Some of the most incredible people I know voted for Donald Trump and some of the most incredible people I know voted for Hillary Clinton. The people that I know who voted for Trump are not racist, misogynistic, or hateful, and the people that voted for Hillary Clinton are not hateful and intolerable. If you are someone who woke up this morning and is going to start seeing people as whom they voted for, and not as the person you have always known them to be, then you are what is wrong with America. I will never think any less of any person who has different views than me, because some of the most beautiful, inspirational people I know will disagree with what I believe all day long, but at the end of the day, they are still that beautiful inspirational person I have always known them as. Don’t think less of people because some of their beliefs don’t align with yours, and don’t lose quality people in your life because you choose hate over love.
It’s taken me a while to calm down enough to write a response that isn’t a profanity-landed diatribe.
First, I agree with the sentiment that we should not judge those who have different beliefs than us. In my lifetime, I have been a registered Republican, Independent, and Democrat — largely because I have become more progressive as the Republican Party has become more fiscally regressive and socially repressive. Nonetheless, I have always had friends and family members who subscribed to a wide range of beliefs, many of which varied from my own. And that was fine; we loved each other for the good people we knew each other to be. But this is different. This is not a matter of debating or supporting conservative or progressive values, policies, and candidates. This is moral matter — one of right and wrong. And there’s the rub for me. I can no longer view my friends and family members who continue to support Trump as good people. At this point, their support of our ignoble president constitutes complicity. You cannot be a good person and support the oppression of the poor, as well as racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious minorities. And coming to the realization that people I love hold beliefs that are antithetical to the principles of equality, fairness, and social justice causes me genuine pain. It is not an exaggeration to say that I am genuinely in mourning.
Second, in 2016, I absolutely thought less of people who voted for Trump because he was unqualified for the job and he spewed sexist and racist rhetoric as a candidate. But I understood the false lure of Trump’s populist lies. But what has transpired since the inauguration is really what has caused me to lose respect for friends and family who continue to support Trump. And that loss of respect hurts because I care deeply about these people — some of who have been in my life since I was born. But sadly, I feel these people have proven themselves to be unworthy of my respect. Here are just some of the reasons why:
• Because we shouldn’t need to debate why neo-Nazis and White supremacists aren’t “very fine people.”
• Because racism ought to be condemned, not supported, even tacitly. It does not matter if racism is directed at would-be immigrants from Central America, refugees from war-torn nations in the Middle East, or a U.S. Senator of who was demeaningly referred to as “Pocahontas.” And it’s certainly not acceptable to pardon a law enforcement officer convicted of criminal contempt of a federal court order for racial profiling. All of this behavior is inexcusable.
• Because it’s wrong to rip children away from their parents. Those presenting at the border seeking asylum are not acting illegally, yet they are being punished with forced family separation — something we did not even do during our shameful internment of Japanese people during World War II.
• Because judges should be critiqued based on their decisions and temperament, not their ethnicity.
• Because Haitian immigrants do not “all have AIDS.” Moreover, we should have compassion for anyone, regardless of nationality, with a potentially life-threatening viral infection. And don’t tell me we cannot afford to help such folks — that we need to take care of our own first. Trump has caused the national debt to skyrocket in order to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. We had money for that, and we have money for endless wars and the military industrial complex, but we do not have money for health care, education, and humanitarian needs? Those who fail to understand that our priorities are misplaced are either willfully blind or moronically stupid, neither of which causes me to feel respect toward them.
• Because our veterans deserve better than $154 billion of cuts to veterans’ services over the next decade (which is what Trump proposed in his budget). Moreover, he has proposed $72 billion in cuts to disability benefits that support more than one million U.S. veterans and he supported the gutting of a program that helped homeless vets.
• Because “no collusion” was a lie. The meeting was not about Russian adoptions as Trump falsely stated; he has now admitted there was collusion. His refrain has now morphed into “collusion isn’t a crime.” But it is. Working with foreign nationals to influence an election not only violates U.S. campaign finance and election laws (which calls in doubt the legitimacy of Trump’s entire presidency), but also potentially violates federal conspiracy laws. And, depending on the scope of the agreements reached, there may also be criminal accessorial liability for a host of cybercrimes.
• Because presidents are not supposed to interfere with special counsel investigations. Doing so constitutes obstruction of justice — a criminal offense.
• Because the media is not the “enemy of the people.” Reporters are human and make mistakes, but The Washington Post, The New York Times, ABC, CBS, and NBC are not “fake news” sources. Criticizing them as fake is right out of the Stalin-Hitler playbook.
• Because the NRA is not supposed to make national gun policy, especially when it comes to something as dangerous as undetectable and untraceable 3D-printed plastic firearms.
• Because an ill-conceived trade war will hurt American workers and our economy. Inflation is rising faster than wages. Yes, the economy is still adding jobs, albeit at a slower rate in Trump’s first year in office than in Obama’s final year. (Look it up!) But job layoffs are increasing — especially in the retail, steel, and solar energy sectors. And we haven’t even really begun to feel the effects of rising tariffs.
• Because Russia attacked us and continues to attack us, but Trump treats Russia as an ally. Yet cyberwarfare continues to target our election systems, our national power grid, our national security systems, and federal government email servers. Yet neither Trump nor his cronies in Congress are doing anything to beef up our cybersecurity.
• Because Trump did not “drain the swamp,” he made it deeper and murkier, then filled it with unqualified and unethical scoundrels who are personally benefiting from their positions at the expense of taxpayers and the environment.
• Because our national monuments are important to tourism and our national pride, and the preservation of endangered species is essential to our ecosystem.
• Because climate change is not only real, but also already causing devastating consequences in terms of increasingly violent hurricanes, stronger snow storms in colder climates (even though scientifically ignorant people continue to confuse weather and global climate), increased drought, and rising sea levels. But Trump rolled back automotive fuel efficiency standards, which will lead to dramatically increased greenhouse gas emissions. And targeting California’s strict emissions standards? It’s clear that “state’s rights” only matter to Trump and many Republican lawmakers when regulating women’s bodies, circumventing nondiscrimination laws, providing unfettered access to firearms, and counteracting criminal justice policies ranging from decarceration to decriminalization (especially concerning marijuana).
• Because Trump is using government as a financial scheme for the personal enrichment of himself and his family in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
• Because Canada is our best friend and most important trading partner.
• Because Western European countries are some of our closest and more important allies.
• Because war heroes are supposed to be honored, not dissed by being called a “loser” for being captured.
• Because the president is not supposed to spend more than one-third of his days in office on vacation at one of his own properties and bill U.S. taxpayers tens of millions of dollars for the cost of putting up his family, secret service detail, and governmental entourage, payable to Trump’s own businesses.
• Because the president is not supposed to lead us into a post-truth era. Trump told more than 3,000 lies in the first 466 days he’s been in office. That’s an average of 6.5 verifiable false or seriously misleading claims each day. This corrodes our democracy.
• Because Trump is systematically seeking to dismantle my rights and those of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Roughly one-third of his nominees for federal judgeships have a proven track record of hostility to LGBTQ equality. He tried to reinstate a ban on trans people serving in the armed forced even though the military brass supports the inclusion of trans service members. He repealed educational regulations protecting trans children in school and trans workers under civil rights laws. And his administration’s so-called “religious liberty task force” seeks to justify fundamentalist beliefs as a lawful basis for legalized discrimination with the imprimatur of the federal government.
In short, Trump isn’t just a bad president implementing bad policies. He is a bad person who is insidiously destabilizing the country and the Western alliance. To be clear, I don’t think less of people because their beliefs differ from my own. But I am not the one who has chosen hate over love. That is on the Trump supporters. Of course, they are free to think that I am what is wrong with America because I no longer respect those who support the most corrupt, uncommonly indecent, petty, and dangerous president our country has ever had. But those who truly believe that should do me, and themselves a favor and live their lives without me in it. I truly do not want friends or family members in my life who are too obtuse to see how their unwavering support for Trump is hurting our nation’s future and me, personally.