Saturday, November 5, 2016

What Trump has already cost America: And how much steeper the price will grow if he wins

NY Daily News   by Tom Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College and teaches in the Harvard Extension School.

At this point, the brief against Donald Trump becoming President of the United States has been well rehearsed. There is no point in rehashing Trump's positions or policies: He doesn't have any.

And so rather than make the case that Trump would be a bad President (something accepted even by many of those nominally supporting him), we should look at the damage Trump has already done to our nation even by running. We need no clearer warning of a Trump presidency than to look at what he has already inflicted on us as a country and as a people.

Let's start with foreign policy, something most voters don't usually care about very much. Insofar as Trump has a foreign policy, it is based on an almost complete and fawning adoption of Russian President Vladimir Putin's anti-American view of the world.

Trump claims that Hillary Clinton would start World War III, but it is Trump who has already shaken and endangered our friends and allies with his reckless and stupid rhetoric.

This fall, I had the chance to talk with ordinary citizens, students, journalists, and others in cities and towns in Central Europe. Almost all of them expressed the same fear: that America was going to elect Donald Trump and abandon them — our NATO allies — to the same fate Russia has inflicted on Ukraine, Georgia, and especially Syria.

They found it incomprehensible that the United States of America could even think of electing a man so obviously enamored of Putin, whom they fear for good reason. They were mystified at the rise of right-wing nationalism, a problem they assumed was localized to Europe but to which America, at least at the level of presidential politics, seemed immune.

Worst of all, they were disappointed and scared. These are people who once lived behind the Iron Curtain. They hoped in us, believed in us, and admired our system of government. It's partly why they bound their fate to ours. Even if Trump loses, they will never look at us the same way, because they know what we're capable of tolerating in a presidential candidate.

At home, the Trump campaign has scarred us in ways that no future President will be able to heal soon. Trump's entire campaign was based on exploiting divisions in American society, flooding our public debate with fantasies and statistical fakery, from the myth of a rising crime rate to the promise of a wall that will never be built.

Underlying it all was a crass appeal not only to race, but to religious, ethnic, regional, and class prejudices. He has tried to inflame every one of the basic differences in American society that our system of federalism and our charter of universal liberties has overcome since the Civil War to bind us as a republic.

Through all of this, I was determined not to vote for Hillary Clinton. I am a Republican, but I could not mark a ballot for a family I have been hoping for over two decades would leave our political life. That all changed, however, when Trump turned from trying to exploit our differences as a nation and directly attacked our system of government itself.

When it became clear to Trump that he was likely to lose, he decided to lash out and see how many of our constitutional traditions he could take down with him. He made wild claims of electoral "rigging," trucking in conspiracy theories usually relegated to the darkest (and stupidest) corners of the internet. Heedless of the consequences, his bloated self-esteem demanded the destruction of the American electoral system if it would not produce the results he wanted.

Trump might well be too ignorant to understand the danger he was courting, since he seems unable to understand anything that is not directly and immediately about himself. But the various hangers-on around Trump knew exactly what they were doing. People who had once sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution gleefully abetted attacks on our most sacred traditions so scurrilous that even Moscow's propagandists were left in the dust trying to keep up.

Trump's deep corrosion of our national identity, both at home and abroad, has been immediate and it will be lasting. Trump has ground away at what was once the basic decency of American voters, trying to erode their faith in their own institutions rather than risk any affront to his spun-glass ego.

While I was overseas, I had to explain over and over that elections in the United States are administered locally, and that most Americans did not really have the stomach for accusing their own friends and neighbors of fraud.

I said that because I believe it, but also because I need to believe it.

Trump's boosters tell voters not to worry, that a new and more responsible Trump would emerge from the Oval Office, that his staff and other Republicans can moderate his behavior. This is a lie. There is no better Trump. A man willing to set over two centuries of constitutional tradition ablaze is not going to find sudden depth and new respect for our system once he is sitting at its pinnacle. [...]

A President should inspire us and encourage us to be better than we are. Trump has degraded us, urged us to be as bestial as we wish, and to immerse ourselves in the kind of hatreds and prejudices that would make our lives in a community and as a nation utterly impossible. He has encouraged us to abandon our duties as citizens of a republic, our heritage as Americans, and our very souls as human beings.

Electing him President will convince him that he was right, and that his coarse, bitter appeals are the right path to power. On Election Day, we must fight back, and tell Donald Trump that we and our country will not be sold so cheaply after being bought, long before he descended a glittering escalator, at a price greater than even a rich man can ever imagine.

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.