A failed presidency, re-visited

See Disclaimer.

Yesterday’s campaign rally, in Tulsa, marks new lows for the US president. A political low, given the sparse attendance and hollow message. But also a leadership low, in  irresponsibly bringing together a crowd when physical distancing is a public health requirement (“COVID-19 has no social conscience, but our leaders must,” June 2020). And an ethical low, by coinciding with the president’s firing of a Manhattan federal prosecutor investigating his inner circle

The rally and the firing of US Attorney Berman prompted me to review, and ultimately compile here, articles that Mr. Trump has motivated me to write. The compilation is meant as a reminder of a phenomenon that has deeply changed our country and the world, but that we can still reverse by voting wisely this November (“Our crisis, our choice,” January 2020). It is also meant as a re-affirmation of our right and responsibility, as Americans, to speak truth to power.

It is important to start with “There is no excuse for racism. None!” (June 2020). Mr. Trump has not created racism. But he has benefited electorally from it, has been complacent towards it, and has arguably incentivized it (“Civility, not intolerance,” August 2019). Racism is not the only reason I do not support Mr. Trump. But it would be enough of a reason, even if it stood alone.

When he was elected over Mrs. Clinton, I—and the world, likely including Mr. Trump himself—was shocked. How could we collectively have chosen such an amoral, unqualified candidate? But he was democratically elected, according to the (yes, outdated) electoral laws of our Democratic Republic. Elections have consequences. I thus gave the newly elected president the benefit of the doubt for as long as I could.

On January 2018, I could no longer. In an “Open letter to a Republican congressman,” I explained why. Published in the opinion section of the local newspaper, the letter—addressed to my congressman (Greg Walden, R-OR2)—argued that Mr. Trump was unfit to be president. It further stated that, as an independent voter, I hold the Republican Party fully responsible for enabling him.

In that letter, I also expressed my preference for a multi-party system. I have re-stated that preference often, most recently in April 2020 (“Why Democrats should champion a multi-party system”). This article offered a (yes, long shot) electoral strategy suggestion for Democrats, aimed at simultaneously defeating Mr. Trump and reforming an increasingly struggling political system.

But even in this article—and consistently everywhere else—I defended that, as much as reform is needed, in 2018 and 2020 the priority should be to defeat Mr. Trump and give Democrats a majority in both houses of Congress (“To kneel, or not to kneel: That is not the question,” September 2017; “Dear fellow eligible voter,” October 2018; and “Thinking beyond a one-term president,” February 2019).

Mr. Biden was not my first choice to replace Mr. Trump as president. But he was the choice of the Democratic Party, and—given the moment—he is a strong candidate. Certainly by contrast with Mr. Trump, as recently argued in “November 2020: A simple choice” (May 2020), “Voting matters more than ever” and “COVID-19 has no social conscience, but our leaders must” (both in June).

But Mr. Biden’ is strong on his own merits, as I plan to argue until (hopefully) he wins the presidency on November 3. He is a consensus builder, with vast legislative and executive experience, and life experiences that make him a grandfatherly, empathetic unifier. Fortunately, the risk of a Democratic self-implosion (“Democrats: Don’t offer this president a path for re-election,” July 2019) seems diminished; unfortunately, it is still present.

Mr. Trump’s failing are moral and ethical, first and foremost. His actions are not based on a political vision built from knowledge, data or well-thought out policy conviction. They are based on a staggering ego (“Is this president the Chosen One, Mr. Walden?” August 2019), and a raw instinct of survival—all resulting in a presidential style that would be comic if it was not so tragic (“Reality-altering sharpies: A distraction we don’t need,” September 2019) .

Even in inaction or missed opportunities, Mr. Trump divides us (“What I wish the US president said,” October 2018; “How to follow an hollow speech?,” February 2019). But the consequences of Mr. Trump’s actions have been truly tragic tragic. They threaten the very foundation of our Constitution.

This threat is reflected in his attack on separation of powers (“Tweets, Constitution, and other impeachment tales”, “Please remember your Oath of Office, Congressman Walden“ and “What would John McCain think, Senator Graham?”, all in October 2019). It is also reflected on his attacking the right and responsibility of people to speak to power (“Thank you, Marie Yovanovitch,” November 2019). And on his encouragement of authoritarianism, racism, bigotry and fringe conspiracy thinking (“In the aftermath of Charlottesville,” August 2017)

Mr. Trump has proven an ineffective leader on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the argument is strong that his actions and inactions have and will continue to cost lives (“COVID-19: We are all in this together,” March 2020; “Life beyond COVID-19,” May 2020; “COVID-19 has no social conscience, but our leaders must,” June 2020). But COVID-19 and ongoing racial tensions are far from the the only two crises he has failed to manage appropriately.

Immigration (“De-humanizing migrants is not American” and “Celebrating immigration, this 4th of July,” both July 2019; “More bridges, less walls,” August 2019) and health care are obvious examples of his incompetence, if not lack of basic humanity.

Mr. Trump’s foreign relations and policies, too, have been misguided in many areas. Mr. Trump has acted has a bully, not a US President {“What a sad role model we have become. Let’s correct course this November,” October 2018; “Words matter, and so do votes,” October 2019). He has also used foreign policy in the service of personal self-interest, to such a blatant extent that he was impeached for it.

With implications for generations ahead, Mr. Trump’s handling of climate change (“Extreme events,” August 2017; “Climate action should be in our minds, when we vote,” September 2019) and environmental protections (“A weakened Endangered Species Act?,” August 2019) have been terrifyingly ignorant or ill-intended. They will be judged by history as profoundly against national and global interests—and against humanity.

It is too easy to lose hope, given America’s reality of the past nearly four years. But, this reality too shall pass. Ultimately, I trust that the vast majority of Americans will come together, harnessing the power of our differences to build a better, more fair and more sustainable nation and future. A nation of which our grandkids, and theirs, can be proud of.

To that end, speaking out constructively matters. Voting for Mr. Biden in November matters even more.

— Antonio Baptista


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