Most of us who are following the Presidential election find ourselves puzzled at the numbers. We elect a President every four years and by this time in the campaign we expect to know that our next leader will be found among a half dozen of the candidates. We also expect that we will choose from politicians we’ve known for a long time.
Last year at this time most of expected that the primaries would present us with a clear choice: Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush.
It made some sense. Both come from families familiar to us and their resumes are well known. The 2016 campaign was supposed to be fairly predictable.
But it’s not. Turns out large segments of us are tired of “the same old thing” and “the same old politicians,” and they are looking to outsiders. Many of us honestly believe we need to look outside those with political skill sets and choose leaders who have different skill sets.
For many, Donald Trump speaks to their frustrations. His father succeeded in real estate and Donald joined him after graduating from college. Given a fair amount of seed money, Donald parlayed it into the millions he now enjoys.
So here’s the problem: Don touts his own success because he is a “self made man.” Except he isn’t. His father’s wealth gave him a headstart and now he runs on a platform that claims that as President he can give all of us his same success.
He can’t. For better or for worse we’re all going to learn a lesson from junior high school: if you elect the class bully to be class president, all he knows how to do is to bully. Don’s success comes from telling us that he will “stand up” to our enemies but he doesn’t understanding that he needs to negotiate with our enemies and partner with our allies.
We need to use our entire skill set in our negotiations, and power is only one of those skills. We need to convince our allies and our adversaries that their advantage lies in following our lead.
But that never works when we lead with our ability to bully.
Bullying gives us enemies and negotiation gives us allies. The “better angels of our natures” rises when we convert our enemies into allies instead of converting our allies into enemies.
Donald Trump, simply put, is a bully. I wrote about this in a previous post where he said this about Mexican immigrants:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
On July 18th he said this about Senator John McCain who was a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973: “.. He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you that.”
Last month he called for a ban of all Muslims entering the United States.
So why is he polling so well? Simply put, he is tapping into a deep anger in many Americans who feel that their American Dream has passed them by.
And their anger comes from a reasonable place. The Washington Post published an article in 2014 that explains that economic growth in the last few decades has disproportionally favored those who were already wealthy while leaving behind the poor and middle class.
Many listen to Don and believe his lies that he will “make America great again.” He won’t. In moments of candor all politicians will admit to a limited ability to grow the economy and basic equality does not come from unfettered capitalism. A Trump America looks xenophobic, isolationist, and much poorer. Wage equality achieved through making everyone poorer is nobody’s dream.
Frankly put, the best route to a better America for all lies with the Democrats. Bill Clinton served from 1992 to 2000 and was the last President to offer a balanced budget. By all accounts his 2 terms made everyone’s lives better. When he left office we were operating at a surplus of $307,000,000,000. Eight years later, when George Bush left office we operated at a deficit of $458,600,000. Seven years into the Presidency of Barack Obama we carry a deficit of $439,000,000.
But it’s not that simple. President Bush passed the keys to the President Obama on January 20, 2009 and the deficit grew to $1,413,000,000 as he was forced to increase spending to end the Great Recession.
Simply put, Presidents Clinton and Obama made America great by growing our economy for everyone, not just the wealthiest. Republican mantras of less government and keeping out people who we fear will not make us great, it will make us poor and weak. It’s always done that before.