Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Three Failings of Trump

It seems that the Republicans have selected Trump as their candidate for President of the United States.

I was caught entirely by surprise - as were a great many others.

The reason for my surprise is because I did not think people would actually vote for such poor candidate. I was confident that voters would ultimately turn away from him and give their vote to somebody worthy the office of President.

I was mistaken.

(1) He has a total disregard for people outside of the United States.

In fact, both Trump and Sanders seem to regard those who are not native to the United States as mere things - entities that have no value outside of their usefulness. They certainly are not to be thought of as human beings. Consequently, they cannot be treated inhumanely. Their suffering is not human suffering, and they possess no human rights.

For Trump, this means that the families - the children - of suspected terrorists are legitimate military targets. It means they can be tortured.

By the way, one of the implications of embracing a moral principle is that, by their nature, moral principles are universal. If it is legitimate for the American government to torture suspected terrorists, then it is legitimate for foreign government to torture American soldiers. We cannot consistently say that this is a legitimate practice and then assert that others are wrong to use this practice on us.

Do you recall the person in the movies who would round up everybody in a community and slaughter them because they are suspected of aiding the enemy. Nothing Trump has said suggests that he would find this morally objectionable.
In fact, nothing Trump has said suggests that he finds anything morally objectionable.

Worse, is the fact that it seems that if he were to do such a thing – if he were to destroy a whole town in Pakistan or Syria on the grounds that it supported potential terrorists – a depressingly large number of Americans would likely cheer it as an example of bold and decisive action that proves that America is not a country to be messed with. After all, we must assume that those who vote him into this position share his views.

(2) He has a simple-minded “us” versus “them” way of looking at the world that is the very essence of bigotry.

Sanders was always painting millionaires and billionaires as the enemies of civilization – people whose only goal was to enrich themselves at the expense of everybody else. He painted the whole class as nothing but evil, disregarding the differences among individuals.

Trump thinks the same way about women, Muslims, and Mexicans. They are all lesser human beings – if they may be thought of as human beings at all – and should all be considered (1) emotional and incompetent and as having worth only in terms of how good they look, (2) terrorists, (3) rapists and murderers respectively. While he seems to acknowledge the theoretical possibility of there being individuals who do not fit the mold, this possibility has no implications for policy. Anybody who is not white and male is presumed inferior unless proven otherwise – and the bar has to be set unusually high to make sure that nobody who can fake their way across.

There have always been some Americans who have thought the same way. If not, then the KKK and Jim Crow laws would never have existed. However, it is depressing to see that there are enough of these kinds of people still in the United States to give Donald Trump the Republican nomination.

(3) Trump is an intellectual light-weight.

He knows nothing about the issues that he presents.

He thinks that the National Enquirer is a reliable news source. He retweets nonsense as if it is true, and when challenged on the fact that they are false (and, not only false, but lies that are used to promote immoral attitudes such as racial bigotry), he merely says that he does not have an obligation to check the accuracy of everything he passes on. He does not care about truth or facts.

He does not base his conclusions on the evidence. Instead, he holds the evidence up to his pre-conceived notions (including the bigotries I mentioned in the previous section) and uses those beliefs to evaluate the evidence.

He does not need advisers – in matters of foreign policy or economics, for example – because to count as a good adviser is to tell him what he already believes, and he doesn’t need anybody to tell him what he already believes.

The Limits of Analogy

Comparing Sanders to Trump in these qualities is unfair to Sanders in a way. Sanders does have all of these same failings, but not nearly to the degree that Trump has them. Sanders’ failings made it possible for him to commit significant mistakes – errors that had consequences he did not foresee or (in the case of harming the global poor) did not care to see. With Sanders, it would be a case of good intentions having bad consequences.

Trump, on the other hand, seems capable of intentional evil. He shows no evidence of having a moral compass at all. He praises the tyrants of the world for being strong leaders. He jokes about killing reporters who print things he does not like (and seriously supports laws that would make it easier to imprison such people).

Consequently, his actions seem not to be limited by any sense that some things are immoral. The only restraint he will likely recognize is what he can get away with. Making such a person President can have some very unfortunate consequences.

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