As far back as twenty years ago, I became concerned that our nation was losing its sense of purpose and that the American people had begun to take democracy for granted. Democracy is a delicate concept that requires an equilibrium between freedom and responsibility. For democracy to work, people must share the same or at least a similar vision for our nation and its people. They must be willing and able to find common ground—a solution with which all parties can live.
When views become so disparate and extreme that people are unable to forge amenable agreements, democracy is put to a severe test. This is what we have seen in recent years with a Congressional gridlock where the best Congress can do is pass temporary legislation to hold off a government shutdown for a few weeks or months. Passing substantive legislation has become problematic, so great is the discord in Congress. This is also what happens when the focus of the principal players is to attack their opposition rather be a positive advocate for their own platform. It is a lack of positive leadership.
It has taken me 2 weeks to sort through my thoughts and feelings while watching parts of the Republican convention. I must confess that I could not make myself watch more than snippets of the major speeches during the convention. The rhetoric was simply too. . . . I cannot seem to come up with a word that accurately describes the disgust, fear, and even anguish of watching the Republic Party’s candidate for the Presidency of the United States calling people names, insulting their character, pandering to the racism and hatred in the minds of so many Americans, and making absurd promises that only the most gullible adults could believe. As I have written before, Donald Trump is the antithesis of positive leadership.
What I have come to realize is that watching Donald Trump at the Republican Convention is the scariest thing I have seen in my lifetime. It is not simply the things he says or the way he bullies people but something far more subtle but at the same time more profound. Donald Trump and many of the people who support him seem willing to trample the rights of people of whom they do not approve or with whom they do not agree. There is a viciousness to it that says no one matters but me and mine. This is hardly a recipe for democracy.
Throughout my lifetime, there has been simple concept that I have heard in many contexts and stated in many different ways that says “everyone counts or no one counts.” Is there anyone on God’s Earth that you would be willing to grant the power to pick and choose to whom we should extend the protections of the Constitution of the United States as delineated in the Bill of Rights?
During the entire Obama administration, attacks against our nation’s President have been nothing short of virulent and the overwhelming majority of the accusations are absurd and found to be untrue by any of the independent fact-checking services. The same is true of Hillary Clinton. You do not see Donald Trump attacking her ideas and accomplishments rather you see him brand her as a liar, much as he did with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio during the primary elections.
Our focus in determining to whom we wish to give our vote for President of the United States should be looking at their body of work and their overall integrity. In doing so we need to keep in mind that the longer one has been in public life or business the more mistakes they will have made and the more misstatements will have been uttered. It is simply a reflection of the fact that none of us are perfect, not even our candidates for the Presidency.
When we compare Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump you have two extremes in terms of career activity and objectives. Hillary Clinton has spent most of her life in some form of public service, whether working as a community activist or as a public official. Donald Trump has spent all of his life focused on his business interests. Both career choices are noble. If they are to be judged they can only be judged on the basis of the number and types of victims left in the wake of their respective careers.
Measuring overall integrity is problematic but what we can measure is the relative truthfulness of the two candidates. Truthfulness may not be the same thing as integrity but it is certainly a reflection of integrity.
Recently, Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize winning fact checking service that spares no one, found that 55 percent of Trump’s public statements were “false” which Politifact defines as “not accurate” and half of those received Politifact’s “Pants on Fire” rating which is defined as “A statement that is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.” (http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/)
This is compared to 13 percent of Hillary Clinton’s statements that were found to be “false” and only 2 percent of her statements were judged as “Pants on Fire.” (http://www.politifact.com/personalities/hillary-clinton/)
Looking at the two candidates from the perspective of truth, 72 percent of Hillary Clinton’s public statements have been judged to be “mostly true” compared to 29 percent of Donald Trump’s public statements.
If he acts true to form, one would expect Donald Trump to declare that Politifact is “unfairly biased against him.” It seems only fair to point out that other Republican candidates such as Jeb Bush and John Kasich were found by Politifact to be truthful roughly 70 percent of the time. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, by the way, were found to be 35 percent and 59 percent truthful, respectively. Bernie Sanders was truthful 72 percent of the time and had no “pants on fire” falsehoods.
In case you are wondering, President Barack Obama, according to Politifact, is mostly truthful 75 percent of the time, compared to Rush Limbaugh, who was found to be truthful only 17 percent of the time. I point that out only because so many of the outrageous accusations against President Obama and Hillary Clinton were originally voiced by radio and other talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh. That people are so willing to believe such people says a lot about Twenty-first Century America.
The rude surprise that awaits Donald Trump is that, should he be elected, his authoritarian approach will face the same gridlock as his predecessors. The only way he can implement any of the ideas reflected in his campaign promises would be if he were to circumvent or otherwise subvert the democratic process. This, my friends, is what makes Donald Trump so scary.
If the differences that divide the American people continues to expand, it is only a matter of time until someone like Donald Trump is elected to the Presidency who believes they have sufficient power to impose their will on the American people and the democratic process. This would mean the end of the American democracy as we know it.
When I began to grow concerned, twenty years ago, I began writing a novel about how things could go horribly wrong if we were to lose our faith in democracy and elect an authoritarian outsider to the Presidency on the basis of his pledge to restore domestic peace and prosperity (make America great again) at any cost. My novel, entitled Light and Transient Causes, was published in 2013. I encourage the reader to check it out. If we want to prevent something like this from happening we must understand just how bad things could be if we abandon our faith in democracy. You can check my novel out at http://www.melhawkinsandassociates.com/light-and-transient-causes-a-novel/