The Substantive and Polite Case Against Donald Trump

Dear family members that are still considering voting for Trump,

Please, think twice about this.

I’m going to try to politely and substantively make the case here as to why you shouldn’t. I apologize up front if I fail to be either substantive or polite. I know you don’t trust mainstream/corporate media — and you’re not wrong to be skeptical — so I’ve tried to link to conservative sources on these stories wherever I can.

I understand if you can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton. You can vote for Evan McMullin, or for Gary Johnson. I’ve heard of a number of folks in Southern California are writing in Vin Scully, who just retired after calling ballgames for approximately 217 years. You could leave it blank if you want. The point is, you can not vote for Trump and still not vote for Clinton. I think she’s terrific and I’m proud to be voting for her, but I am focusing here on Trump.

The first reason not to vote for Trump is because racism and sexism are absolutely poisonous to democracy.

Every shred of my experience in politics has strengthened my belief that confronting racism and sexism is the biggest challenge in building a better democracy in this country. I’ve seen this at the local level repeatedly, and it’s true at the national level too.

I realize you probably feel like the world is changing too quickly around you. I don’t disagree. But some of the change, a lot of it, really, is good. The things Trump says that used to be OK things to say are not OK things to say now, and the fact that there are ramifications to saying things like this now is a good thing. He’s said things that would not be remotely OK for someone to say at work. If at my last job someone said “The sales team, it’s full of rapists, although some of them are probably good people” that person would have been fired on the spot.

The things he’s said should be completely and utterly disqualifying. This isn’t about “political correctness,” and it’s not even just about basic politeness. Whether we can integrate diverse voices is a fundamental question in determining whether our big, diverse, wonderful experiment in democracy is going to continue to survive and prosper.

But I realize that argument may not work for you, for whatever reason. Maybe you’re still stuck on thinking it’s “just political correctness” and that really doesn’t matter. Maybe you don’t believe the dozen women now coming forward about their experiences being assaulted by Trump. Maybe his behavior is just not the most important thing to you. Maybe you disagree with his behavior, but agree with him generally about women’s roles in society. Or maybe deep down you agree with him about whether it’s better for America to be a white country or a diverse country.

I hope to continue this conversation with you because it’s really important. But if his racism and abusive attitude towards women isn’t going to convince you, there are lots of other reasons.

If you’re unconvinced that racism and sexism are poisonous to democracy, there are other reasons not to vote for him.

The first one is that his ideas lead to bad outcomes.

Democracies run on ideas. This is the most important thing about any election. The media has a tendency to focus on stories about everything other than what matters the most, because that’s whats gives them the best ratings. But the ideas are what matter the most.

Trump’s ideas — with one significant exception, that I will get to — will lead to very bad outcomes.

Republicans have had eight years since GW Bush’s presidency to come up with different economic and foreign policy ideas than the disastrous ones Bush governed with. For reasons that genuinely mystify me, they’ve made no such effort to even start on this project. All they are promising are giant tax cuts for the rich, trickle down for everyone else, militarizing our borders, a bombing-first foreign policy (although Trump alternates between this and saying he’ll be an isolationist, which is baffling), ongoing denial of climate damage and repealing Obamacare with no clue how to replace it. Somehow, that’s still all they’ve got.

The Bush ideas made Americans less safe, less free and less rich than the ones that Obama governed with. Obama ideas were far from perfect: we still have a long way to go towards building a secure economy that works for everyone. (and I wish Democratic candidates, including Clinton, would acknowledge that more frequently) But by nearly every measure, albeit with a few significant exceptions, most Americans are better off today than they were eight years ago.

There’s one substantive area where Trump has broken with most Republicans, which is trade policy. He and Bernie Sanders are both correct that a) the economy is in lousy shape for too many people and b) NAFTA and the TPP are great deals for the rich and lousy for nearly everyone else. I’m grateful that Trump has helped make this an issue. But now that Sec Clinton is on board with opposing this (only President Obama still supports it, and there’s going to be a heck of a fight over it in the lame duck session, with only a few Dems and a very few Republicans opposing it), this one issue isn’t worth supporting Trump for, compared to everything else.

I’m not going to get into all the issues that Trump is wrong on. I’m just going to single out one: he is super wrong on what we should do about pollution and climate damage. I don’t agree with Clinton on issues like fracking, and ordinary citizens are going to have to fight her administration on that issue if she wins. But Trump is vastly worse. He seems to genuinely still believe climate damage is a conspiracy by China, which is a bizarre thing to think since China is taking big steps towards reducing their pollution too.

Having a six year old has made this issue even more urgent for me. Maybe you don’t understand the science of it, or you don’t think it matters, or you think we’ll figure it out somehow. But are you really willing to pass along a ruined planet to our kids, with more wars and more refugee crises and food shortages and who knows what else, just so oil companies can keep making money and taxes can stay low on rich people? A vote for Trump is a guaranteed vote to delay any national effort on renewable energy or repairing climate damage for as long as he’s President. We can’t take that chance.

Even if you disagree about his ideas, there are lots of other important reasons.

This isn’t all of them, but I’m going to start with the arguments I’ve seen the most.

Trump is NOT a successful businessman. It’s hard to say for sure how successful he is, since unlike every single other candidate for President over the past forty years, he has refused to release his taxes. The very conservative National Review made a convincing case that Paris Hilton is a better businessperson than Trump last year. He’s gone bankrupt six times and has an incredible history of stiffing little guys: Trump related businesses have been sued more than 3500 times for not paying their bills. Fortune Magazine estimated that his net worth would have been $13B (vastly larger than then several hundred million he is estimated to be worth) if he’d just taken all his money, invested it in index funds and taken off on a yacht. That isn’t success.

Trump has shown evidence of serious personality issues. Again, I think this is less important than the ideas he has promised to run the country on, but he’s so far outside the bounds of normal adult behavior that in this case, it’s a real factor. His third debate performance was the most telling: nearly every answer was about himself. He gets upset about tweets and gets up at 3am to write angry tweets, which even worried Newt Gingrich. This is the only time I’m citing the New York Times, but it’s not an opinion piece — they just made a list of all his insults:

This is not someone who should have access to the US nuclear arsenal:

Trump has secretive, authoritarian and anti-Semetic tendencies. His relationship to the Russians is troubling: he’s said numerous nice things about Putin but then denied knowing him. He almost certainly owes them money, although since he hasn’t released his taxes, we can’t know if there’s something going on there or not. (Trump’s son said in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”) He has openly proclaimed that he wouldn’t accept the results of the election, threatening the American tradition of the peaceful transfer of power that has been intact since the Civil War. He’s also hired staff with deep anti-Semetic ties.

His refusal to release his taxes should really make you ask questions. The current theories are that he’s not nearly as rich as he claims to be and gives far less to charity than he claims. But no one knows what else he’s hiding.

Trump is incredibly dishonest on a good day, and a bullshitter at his worst. Trump lies relentlessly. He lies even when he doesn’t have to, or when something is easily checked. After the first debate he lied about saying something he’d said only an hour earlier. Politifact certainly has its issues and a lot of these are arguable, but they have caught Trump in nearly five times as many lies as Clinton: 160 False & Pants on Fire for Trump vs 35 for Clinton. (I know you’re thinking: Clinton lies too! But the attacks on Clinton’s honesty were started by her political opponents in the 90s and don’t hold up under scrutiny) Trump has lied about donating money to charity, including to the 9/11 charities. He’s made up an entire fabricated story about the election being rigged against him — when really there is an incredible amount of voter suppression happening rigging it for him, from the Voting Rights Act being repealed to dozens of states passing voter suppression laws. There are already shamefully long early voting lines in North Carolina. The system is rigged: it’s rigged in his favor.

A bullshitter is someone who says things without caring whether they are true or not. He did this just the other day with wind power. The truth is that coal plants kill 35 times as many birds than wind and solar. Whether he’s lying or bullshitting, either way, these are not good qualities in a powerful leader. He doesn’t appear to have any idea how the US government works, he’s not even a good negotiator, and he’s suggested that he will order the military to commit war crimes like targeting families of suspected terrorists The former Dean of Army War College said Trump’s recent comments about the battle of Mosul in Iraq show “he doesn’t know a damn thing about military strategy.”

One last thing

You’re not wrong about the economy being hard for too many people, particularly young people. Regardless of who wins next Tuesday, there’s going to be a long haul to fix it. But leaving racism and sexism intact make all the problems we’ve got impossible to fix, including the problems inside the Republican party itself.

Regardless of what happens in the election, I hope we can somehow return the focus on substantive and mutually respectful discussion and our vision for a future of this country that works. Building real solutions to our problems is a long project, but the starting point is not electing Donald Trump.