As Donald Trump prepares to become the most powerful person in the world, it is hard to know where to push back. There are so many aspects to the awfulness, you have to step back and prioritize the outrage. As bad as he is with women and other groups, the march on Washington is small potatoes. Who cares if he’s a sexist pig. Who cares if he builds a wall or not. Doesn’t matter if Jeff Sessions was a racists. In the larger picture, these don’t matter. So what does?
- Existential Threat to Human Existence: Nuclear Annihilation
After Reagan/Gorbachev/Bush, the world became significantly safer. Nuclear weaponry was gradually reduced and controlled. Successive administrations continued this trend. The threat of nuclear global war by superpowers has more or less gone away. The greater threat has been rouge actors. (In the 2004 election, Bush II and Kerry agreed the biggest threat to national security was nuclear proliferation via terrorist groups.) Follow The Doomsday Clock for a fascinating view of this threat.
Conversely, Trump has been consistent about expanding America’s nuclear capabilities, as well as our allies and the world in general. This is despite gross ignorance (not understanding Japans relationship with the military, the nuclear triad, or much of anything).
As I write this, Trump is again talking about disbanding NATO. Likely he holds this view primarily as a negotiating tactic. America has an enormous strength in nuclear weaponry, and we should leverage that threat to get what we want. In addition, unpredictability brings its own benefits. This is usually referred to as “The Madman Theory”, first played out by Trumps hero, Richard Nixon. The benefits of this strategy are real, but they pale against the possible consequence, the end of all human life. It’s amazing that sentence ever needed to be written. You don’t screw around with nuclear war. Policy that wagers human existence against geopolitical advantage is literally insane.
- Existential Threat to Human Existence: Global Warming
On all of Earth, there is only major political party that denies the existence of global warming and the role of humans in it. That is the Republican party of The United States of America. It’s incredible that this one political coalition could imperil life on earth, but there it is. Trump has taken on these beliefs as well. Per usual, it is difficult to understand if he has a clear stance
or has thought very hard about the issue. There may be “some connectivity”, but it’s all a Chinese Hoax. Or something.
Divining his stance is fascinating, but action is where the rubber hits the road. He has been consistently against efforts to control global warming: promising rollbacks of regulations, backing out of the Paris Treaty, nominating deniers to positions of power. Once again, it is hard to overstate how real a threat this is. The consequence of insufficient action is the elimination of our species.
- Threats to American Democracy
These are harder to categorize, but Trump and the current GOP represent a real threat to the American Experiment.
America under control by a foreign power: There is little doubt that Russia attempted to influence the election. There is little doubt that Trump and his inner circle have deep connections to the Kremlin and Russia, and will never reveal what they are. Whether you believe Trump is a willing participant or not, it is self-evident that he has allowed a foreign power to strike at the core of our democracy.
It is great to see elements of the GOP pushing back on this, though it’s a bit late. (Hey John McCain, you endorsed Trump, remember!?)
Corruption of the presidency: Trump is already monetizing the new presidency. The mixing of his commercial and political roles is self-evidently corrupt. His model is Russian kleptocracy. He has shown no remorse or any inclination to stop. Pushing through nominees before background checks and conflicts of interest are vetted.
Partisanship above country: The GOP in general keeps moving further down a bad road. Undermining of the democratic process, both in law and accepted norms: Gerrymandering, vote suppression. Casting unfounded doubts on the voting system, pre-emptively accusing opponents of cheating. Blanket refusal to consider Russia’s influence. Refusal to allow consideration of a Supreme Court nominee, and other judgeships. Refusal to fill executive positions. Playing blackmail and brinksmanship, notably the willingness to shut down the government or default on debt over narrow partisan issues. Escalation of filibuster and similar extraordinary procedures to everyday barriers. Refusal to compromise as an ideological position. Abandonment of positions if the other party supports them (health care, cap and trade for examples). One could go on.
Degradation of facts and free-speech: The modern GOP is anti-fact. (My last real post spoke to this.)
Building their own media echo chamber, banning research in forbidden topics (gun control, marijuana) ideological denial of global-warming, etc. Trump represents a new low. He doesn’t even pretend to deal with facts. I dare any reader to discover Trump engaging with any policy issue in a meaningful, in depth, fact-driven, way. I’ll be waiting. Even on his signature issues of Trade and Immigration he seems to not know what he is talking about or be able to speak past the catchphrase. And he doesn’t care. He lies consistently, continuously, on any topic for any reason. Politifact and similar organizations have been neutered. In any normal election, these graphs would matter.
In addition, Trump is actively pushing back on free speech. He consistently demonizes journalists and journalism. He will not give a press conference. He is open about using his wealth and power to punish journalists, and pre-emptively keep them from reporting on him. He wants to loosen libel laws so he can go after journalists.
Taken together, these add up to genuine threats to American Democracy. Taken together, these add up to genuine threats to American Democracy.
Threats to America, threats to humanity. These outweigh everything else.