Is it Unpatriotic to Root Against a President?
As the New Year begins and the inauguration of our 45th president approaches, there is much turmoil in these United States, perhaps more than has ever been the case. Before President-elect Trump is sworn in, I thought I’d review what has become of some of his stances and some reasons why his supporters should be as furious as his opponents. Or why they will be soon.
“Drain the Swamp”: Perhaps the most egregious betrayal of Trump’s promises to his supporters is his vow to “drain the swamp.” How has he done on that score so far? Pretty terrible if his soon-to-be cabinet is any judge. For one thing, it’s filled to the brim with the denizens of the swamp: billionaires, millionaires, lobbyists, fundraisers and party elders. It features the kings, princes and dukes of the swap, such as Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, and Reince Priebus, now-former chair of the Republican National Committee, and Steve Mnuchin, the darling of Goldman Sachs. Perhaps the only selection not making Americans want to harm themselves and others is Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis for Secretary of Defense, who is apparently mad at the President-Elect. While I’m not a huge fan of Mattis myself, many of my veteran friends see his nomination as a positive step, despite his difference in views with the President-Elect on many issues. I hope all the blue-collar voters out there are happy with the choice of Andrew Pudzer, an anti-labor CEO of two fast-food franchises.
“Divest From His Business”: Trump’s constant blathering on the campaign stage was about corruption in Washington, DC (remember: “drain the swamp”!), and how corrupt his opponent was (remember: 25 years of GOP investigations, zero indictments!). Yet what we’re seeing is a man who is deeply embroiled with a foreign adversary (more on that later) and refusing to relinquish control of his precious Potemkin village of a business. Trump is rumored to have holdings in something like 18 countries, yet he can’t conceive that this would be a colossal conflict of interest. His idea of a “blind trust” — the normal procedure for an incoming president — is to hand over control to his adult children, despite appearing to include them in early policy discussions and meetings with foreign leaders. Helen Keller was blind. This is plain for everyone to see.
Social Issues: Trump’s views on women’s rights and gender equality are reprehensible, obviously, but much to the chagrin of the extreme right, the President-Elect remains pretty wishy-washy on certain progressive social issues. Homophobes and their ilk may rejoice in his selection of bigoted-enough advisers — the anti-gay Vice President, Mike Pence; the aforementioned anti-Semite Bannon; the anti-public education Betsy DeVos; the anti-universal-healthcare Tom Price — but the buck does stop with Trump, terrifyingly enough. What do the evangelicals and white supremacists have to say? Or will they claim that he’s gaslighting?
Foreign Policy: Saying that one wants to redefine US trade policy to be more “pro-business” (however you define that and depending on the weekday) is one thing. Flattering one of America’s adversaries in a way that discounts and denigrates US intelligence agencies and foreign policy experts is another. Not that these agencies are infallible (see WMD intelligence, Edward Snowden, Valerie Plame, etc.), but to actively and publicly side with Vladimir Putin — as vile a demagogue as Russia has ever had — is literally unpatriotic. Some would call it treasonous.
I’m a shameless liberal, and I’d be much more comfortable if the President-Elect were extremely unsuccessful in any version of his agenda. This begs a question: Do we have to root for the president?
I remember the radical right’s uproar in 2008 and 2012 at President Obama’s election and reelection. There weren’t quite as many hashtags back in those days, but there was more than enough of the media equivalent of #NotMyPresident floating around. I remember being one of those Democrats who would say to moderate Republicans — when you could find them, if they had an ear to listen:
But he’s the president of every American now, and he’ll represent all of us, even if you didn’t vote for him or agree with him.
I hear similar rumblings — some sincere, some snarky — from Republicans of all stripes now, and I’m instantly defensive. And shouldn’t I be?
I look at Trump’s agenda — from his fear-mongering campaign to his silent-but-deadly rich-man cabal being assembled for the cabinet and senior staff — and hope that the man can restrain himself on Twitter long enough to avoid inciting global war. I don’t see a single agenda item or initiative that I can support. There is nothing there for me as a progressive Democrat, not even an aspect I can see compromising on. (Well, maybe infrastructure, only if paid for by something other than funds for climate change or tax hikes on the middle class.) How can I wish success for a president who wants to undermine all of the modest progress that Obama fought so long and so hard for? Trump’s version of success goes against everything I want for America. I want progress and humanity, empathy and prosperity for all; I want everyone given a fair shot at their unalienable rights. The GOP-Trump agenda does not bode well for that sentiment.
What do you think? Is it unpatriotic to root against the president, even if their agenda makes your skin crawl? We all want the nation secure, but there are very different ideological views on how to achieve that, or even what that truly means. Should the Democrats echo the GOP’s last six years of blockage and stagnation and fight him on everything, or look for an iota of common ground? I’m interested in hearing people’s thoughts and comments from both sides — if any Republicans read my column.