Peggy Whiteneck, Freelance Writer

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Wanted: A Working Government

Among my more ambivalent friends and family - those who have not firmly chosen a side across The Great Divide in contemporary culture and politics - there is a sentiment that, while they don't like the way he talks and much of the way he behaves, President Donald Trump "has done some good things." Much of this "good he has done" calculus results from an overheated economy that has done little enough good for average wages of average Americans. Common sense would tell us the economic ship of state doesn't turn on a dime. Still, Trump began taking credit for this "economic recovery" as early as his first year in office, despite the evidence that recovery from the so-called Great Recession of 2008 began with actions taken during the Obama presidency.

Now it appears Trump's economic Titanic has hit its iceberg. We face an international corona emergency that has already beaten the tar out of the national economy and disrupted the lives of American workers - a natural health disaster for which Trump is no more responsible than he was for the economic gains that preceded it. What he and his Congressional cronies can be held responsible for, though, is cutting the funding for the Centers for Disease Control and otherwise shredding the national safety-net, including his disbanding, in 2014, of the Pandemic Unit of the National Security Council. These are the actions that have put our country so far behind the 8-ball in responding to Covid-19.

The scriptural admonition to judge not notwithstanding, to vote is to make a judgment. So here's my own list of reasons Donald J. Trump not only should lose the election in 2020 but never should have been elected in the first place. What has come to pass in his Presidency was already clearly evident in his 2016 campaign rhetoric and promises...lest anyone should have thought he was kidding.

  • Putting the very best possible face on his motives (i.e., not to accuse him outright of lying), Mr. Trump's version of reality continually distorts and misrepresents, which leads his followers, who rely on him for telling them what to think, to conclude there is no such thing as fact, evidence, or truth. This is one of the greatest sources of Trumpian damage to the nation; more than a case of legitimate differences in interpretation, we can't even agree on basic facts.

  • Some of Trump's most despicable rhetoric trashes those among us who have historically been threatened by violence and exploitation: people of color; people living with disabilities; immigrants and refugees; and the poor, especially those on public assistance.

  • Trump's greatest skill is his use of the dog whistle: racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic language, coded or explicit, that calls to his white supremacist supporters. For example, he refers to Covid-19 as "The Chinese Virus" because, he says in an effort to parry outraged objections, it came from China - which makes about as much sense as calling him our German President because his family came from Germany.

  • Trump does nothing to address the chronic frustration and real problems that blight the lives of those who show up for his frequent pep rallies, those supporters who are well enough off, even if only just barely, to look down on those who aren't.

  • He lacks a moral compass: he conflates what's good for the nation with what's good for Donald J. Trump and is incapable of placing the country's interests before his own because he doesn't recognize them as being divisible in any important sense.

  • His behavior is a bad model for the nation's children, with his smug, self-satisfied facial expressions as he utters his most outrageous pronouncements in self-aggrandizing his own worst behavior.

  • He gets his information from the last person who talked to him or the last TV show he watched or the last Tweet he received; he doesn't read, never learned to discern the legitimacy of the information he is consuming, and uses his position to amplify false information - an especially dangerous flaw in a President during a time of national crisis such as the corona pandemic.

  • In part because of this free-floating hearsay competing for his attention, his decisions are erratic and unreliable. He governs by chaos, deciding then un-deciding, and considers this instability a strength.

  • He has welched on America's commitments to international treaties on climate change (the Paris Accord) and nuclear proliferation (the INF agreement) in favor of replacing them with his so-called "better deals" that have failed to materialize. In so doing, he has led the rest of the world to conclude that the U.S. is an unreliable partner in international collaboration because our nation's promises mean nothing.

  • On any given national issue, he defies genuinely expert conclusions of his own government (e.g., our national security and health and human services agencies), surrounding himself with sycophants and firing anyone "woke" enough to challenge him. Hence, his administration is a revolving door, with no one staying in a job long enough to gain experience in doing it.

  • Trump attacks everyone from Barack Obama (who hasn't been in office for more than three years) to Hillary Clinton (who was never elected President) to Democrats (who aren't the majority party) to refugees (who have no political power), blaming them for his personal shortcomings and/or potential setbacks in his own political fortunes.

  • Trump is provocatively divisive. He thrives on conflict, the more vicious the better. He exploits historical animosities between regions of the country. He doesn't build a bridge uniting opposing sides of any particular national divide, he builds a wall between them.

  • Trump favors symbol over substance, especially when it comes to his fondness for military imagery (a compensation, perhaps, for the fact that he never served). This goes back to the earliest days of his Presidency, when he referred publicly and more than once to "my generals" as if he'd created his own army and when he proposed a tank parade for his inauguration. In the present corona crisis, he has anointed himself a "Wartime President" (probably because he knows that nothing guarantees a re-election like actually being a wartime President).

  • And, yes, his behavior is just that cynical and opportunistic.

    Trump is not now and has never been qualified - neither by temperament, nor experience, nor cognitive capacity - to lead the country. The argument that one has to be a successful businessman to govern effectively is questionable. But even if you buy it, take note of that qualifying adjective successful, a judgment called into question in Trump's case by numerous failed business ventures, bankruptcies, and the pervasive whiff of corruption.

    But it's not just Trump who needs to get gone in 2020. Like any Mafia don, Trump is famously vindictive toward anyone who crosses him, which has made many governors and nearly all Republican Congressmen afraid of him. In failing to stand up to him, these politicians have rendered themselves impotent as stewards of the public trust and defenders of the Constitution. They should be replaced by women and men with backbone and moral stamina. Kudos to state Governors such as New York's Andrew Cuomo, Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer, and Vermont's Phil Scott, who have provided steady, reliable, and honest leadership during the corona crisis despite its lack in the White House.

    (Open source clipart in this article courtesy of

    More Peg's Blog Spot Posts

     · The Unacceptable Cost of Deferred Maintenance
     · American Voters and the Cult of Celebrity
     · We Have Met the Enemy and the Enemy Is Us
     · The National Divide: Immediate Gratification vs. Future Gain
     · The Trouble with That Anonymous Trump-Circle Editorial
     · Breaking News: We're All "Values Voters!"
     · Monuments Flap Is Not about the Monuments
     · Have We Always Been the Disunited States of America?
     · A Humble Defense of the Constitution
     · The Trump Presidency: Bigotry's Cause or Only Its Effect?
     · Race, Class, and Access to Women's Health Services
     · Trying to Learn from the Holocaust
     · Trump's Angry White Folks
     · Whatever Happened to "Look It Up?"

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