The Trump campaign in America’s 2020 presidential election published a short manifesto under the banner President Trump: Fighting for You! It is an action plan, listing 50 “core priorities”, and it claims to be building on the “incredible achievements” of his first term in office. It is obviously designed to appeal to voters, but it begs several questions. Who is he fighting for? Has he been an effective Commander in Chief? Are his policies likely to work well for most Americans? What didn’t he say?
It is quite clear that he is only fighting on behalf of some Americans:
- Tax cuts mainly benefit those who pay the most tax: the wealthy. And he doesn’t mention the huge resulting increase in America’s national debt.
- The document didn’t mention the injustices faced by African Americans, or the Black Lives Matter movement, although it did emphasise the need to defend the police.
- It denounced ANTIFA – people who oppose fascism – as a “Violent Extremist Group” but it didn’t mention the neo-fascist white supremacists as a problem.
His effectiveness as a Commander in Chief can be challenged by looking at his failure to maintain law and order. He has used heavy-handed federal resources, with the effect of increasing the violence on America’s streets. As noted in an Economist article on 23 July, Donald Trump’s divisive method culminates in Portland: “Portland was seeing a hundred or so nightly protesters two weeks ago and is now seeing thousands”. As Dan Rather said, “The Trump re-election strategy seems to be to argue that only Donald Trump can save America from Donald Trump’s America”.
His leadership in the battle against coronavirus has been disastrous. A Statista.com report, Coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths worldwide per one million population as of September 2, 2020, by country, shows that America’s performance in the fight against the coronavirus has been five times worse than Germany’s, for example. Donald Trump initially denied that COVID-19 was a problem and he hasn’t guided the country’s defences wisely. America had insufficient stockpiles of personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses, and he usually doesn’t wear a mask even though mask-wearing reduces transmission of the disease; his followers also refuse to wear masks. He cannot evade responsibility for America’s death toll. Nearly 150,000 fewer Americans would have died if Donald Trump had been as effective as Germany’s Angela Merkel.
His fighting talk extends to trade. He is a protectionist, conducting a trade war against China for example, yet there are strong arguments for free trade. His policies will cost jobs.
The document doesn’t mention climate change. He has repeatedly referred to what he calls a “climate change hoax” during his presidency, despite there being no room for doubt on its importance for the future of the planet. The Economist briefing Global warming 101, for example, gives a good summary of the evidence. And America is already suffering from increased severity of wildfires and hurricanes.
Donald Trump’s fighting talk has cost American lives. He is a divisive leader, pitting some Americans against others. Most Americans would not benefit from another four years of his policies.