READERS of this page will know that I don’t do editorials. I do essays, sometimes long and turgid essays, on things that interest me, matter to me, worry me.
That is why I am playing against type and writing a short op-ed on Donald Trump.
I am deeply worried about something that everyone has said, and most have believed, but now in the wake of media “normalization” activity and legitimation maneuvers we are in danger of forgetting. After all, just as the media got simply everything wrong about the election, including the outcome, they persist in persisting to think that they can create a new narrative and a new frame for a man who by any normal measure comes up small and short. That “something” is that Mr Trump is unfit for office.
Some additional thoughts are printed at Ophelia Benson’s lovely site, Butterflies and Wheels, concerning Trump’s boneheadedness about China and what makes a country “great.” Despite Trump’s victory chat to Presidents Xi and Putin (within minutes of his election) China in the person of its environment minister Liu Zhen Min had the good sense to remind Trump that his claim that China “made up” global warming and thus could disappear it (while the US went on its merry coal-burning, carbon spewing way) was a gross fiction. Not an encouraging start to being being best buddies down the road,where deal-making handshakes and back-slaps aren’t a substitute for real policies that affect real people in a non-virtual world.
This little screed is short and painful. It rests on a simple premise. Just as no one on the Democratic side managed to say that Trump’s definition of greatness was an absurdity because it was nothing more than a crabbed and nostalgic vision of little America, they also never managed to come up with a coherent list of reasons supporting the unfit-to-govern meme they tried to sell, preferring instead to itemize his daily wowsers, tweets and untruths as though the American people are smart enough to judge for themselves and can make the distinction between moral reprobacy and an email server. But as we know from the outcome, they can’t.
The coalition of supremacists, gun-lovers and their wives, Hillary-haters and their husbands, low intelligence (it isn’t really only information they lack, is it?) voters who really think the future is with dirty coal and more oil, and Evangelical hicks who love reprobates because Jesus loves to forgive them–that coalition took the gold. They took it to be sure by 1,000,000+ votes short of a majority. But in America, in our inviolable constitutional system, that is close enough to call a win a win. It is why for the second time in less than twenty years the winner has lost the general election.
But that, as Parson Thwackum might say, is crumbs.
I don’t know what unfit for office really means. In a matter of weeks, the president -designate may well be indicted and convicted of a crime. That would indeed be a crisis because the Constitution doesn’t have a successor-role for an uninaugurated vice president-elect. I savour the possibility of that crisis, but I think the just deserts will come after a year.
Instead, let me push for the phrase “paradigmatically unsuitable” to describe Mr Trump. By that I mean not someone who is temperamentaly unfit to govern or have nuclear codes in his corset, but someone who epitomizes in his words, and deeds, and person the antithesis of those qualities that women and men since the founding of the Republic have identified with being suitable for high office . Not virtue. Not even intelligence, really. Quality.
Donald J. Trump is paradigmatically unsuitable for the Presidency –
- Because our children will be learning, in the normal course of their secondary and college education, science facts that he rejects–global warming and evolution being only the most conspicuous of these facts
- Because minorities and the vulnerable will be subjected to policies based on white paranoia
- Because he does not know the world at even a sophomore level–befriending China and Russia and quarantining Iran, whose doors are open to business with Iran and investment in Iran
- Because he supports tyrants like Assad and Erdogan and cannot take a principled stance about terror-exporting nations like Saudi Arabia
- Because he thinks a repeated or undetected lie is a truth
- Because he is carnal and disgusting in his view of women
- Because he claims to be smart and isn’t, religious and isn’t, compassionate and isn’t; because it is impossible to know the difference between what he believes and what he speaks
- Because he has no coherent view of American priorities in space, medical research, technology, trade, social progress, or national direction
- Because he does understand the Constitution and regards the Supreme Court as tool of ideological advantage
- Because he will not defend the arts and humanities and regards them as superfluous and merely decorative
- Because he does not think health-care is a right
- Because he considers federal assistance to the needy an extravagance, while the rich pay no taxes
- Because he is probably guilty of crimes and certainly guilty of moral lapses.
No leader can be a perfect model for citizens to follow. But no leader should be elected because a mob in an iconoclastic frenzy choose change at any cost, and in that frenzy choose the man that most resembles their unworthy, reprehensible, paradigmatically unsuitable selves.