Who is harming America?
President Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention suggested that the election of Joe Biden would harm America. It went down well with many of his supporters, judging by some interviews published in the BBC report What Republicans made of Trump speech, but there are good grounds for challenging its content and asking which party leader is more harmful. Leaving aside several factual errors, some of the statements in Trump’s speech are misleading or false.
There are two totally false assertions in this excerpt, for example:
“Joe Biden spent his entire career outsourcing their [blue-collar workers’] dreams and the dreams of American workers, offshoring their jobs, opening their borders and sending their sons and daughters to fight in endless foreign wars, wars that never ended.”
It is utterly untrue to suggest that Democrats were the initiators of the outsourcing that comes with globalisation. America has supported free trade since 1776 and Ronald Reagan, for example, was strongly against protectionism: he originated the NAFTA agreement. And most economists support it because everybody benefits from cheaper goods and the economy grows even though some jobs are lost overseas.
As for foreign wars, President Eisenhower launched the war in Vietnam and George W Bush decided to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Both were Republican presidents.
Trump promised that “I will cut taxes even further for hardworking moms and dads. I will not raise taxes; I will cut them, and very substantially”. This implies that his earlier tax cuts were for the benefit of working people but in fact they were mostly for the benefit of those who were already rich. And he didn’t mention the downside of his tax cuts, as highlighted in articles such as Trump and the National Debt and While Trump boasts of economic growth, inequality deepens.
His stance on law and order is equally questionable. Social unrest in America has increased sharply under his presidency. His response to protests against the police killing of George Floyd has escalated tensions, as described in the Economist report Donald Trump’s divisive method culminates in Portland, by deploying Department of Homeland Security enforcers who were “trained for shoot-outs with Mexican gangsters on the southern border”:
“The DHS operatives are untrained for civil policing, aggressive and their presence has already made a fraught situation worse. Portland was seeing a hundred or so nightly protesters two weeks ago and is now seeing thousands”.
When he said, in his speech at the Republican National Convention, that “No one will be safe in Biden’s America” he was trying to build on fears of a conflict that he himself has made worse.
Donald Trump, like President Putin, is an ‘authoritarian populist’. He presents himself as a strong nationalist leader who will solve people’s problems – particularly appealing to people who feel resentful about the status quo and uncertain about the future. Cracking down on opposition is authoritarian. Misrepresentation and empty promises are typical populist techniques.
Most (but not all) Republicans have decided to back him as their best chance of winning the election – yet his dishonesty and divisive tactics are harming American society and its democracy.
When Trump praises right-wing supporters and rails against protesters, as reported by NBC at https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-rails-against-protesters-following-unrest-portland-n1238808, he is trying to further escalate tensions so that he can dash to the rescue with federal resources and appear to be a strong leader. 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”.
Everything you say is judicious and pertinent. To many it will seem unarguable. However, it leaves unanswered the most important question as I see it, which is how to counter “Trumpism” in an age when, as Anne Appelbaum puts it in her recent book “The twilight of democracy”, voters no longer just have different interpretations of the facts – they have different sets of facts.
Why is the number of Republicans who have spoken out against Trump relatively speaking so low? I find it hard to believe this is just naked opportunism – except in the sense that, choosing an easy path and a slippery slope – most have convinced themselves of the truth of Trump’s lies because it is in their interest.
I have no answer to these questions myself. It seems however that in the US dialogue between opposing factions. has broken down even more radically than in other countries. it will be a very hard task to re-instate it, and the current election bodes ill for the prospect of that.
Many thanks for your comments. I have to agree with you. I have read, though, that America has managed to cure its democracy after several previous crises since its inception – so one hopes that it can do so again.