TRUMP’S THOROUGHLY WRONG VIEW OF AMERICA AS WEAK ON SECURITY
A considerable portion of Trump’s advocates and many other Americans on the left and right are under the false impression that burning our current political system to the ground is the best option. One liberal journalist, who voted in the primaries for Sanders, described the situation:
“What’s needed now in American politics is consternation, confusion, dissension, disorder, chaos — and crisis, with possible resolution — and a Trump presidency is the best chance for this true progress. This is a politics of arson. I’d rather see the empire burn to the ground under Trump, opening up at least the possibility of radical change, than cruise on autopilot under Clinton….It’s the risk of the wild card. TRUMP! Let the fire burn how it will.”
There is no positive historical precedent for this. By looking at virtually innumerable examples in cultures from all eras, one can see that when one destroys the infrastructure and foundations of a system or society, there is nothing close to a guarantee that it will be put back together in any reasonable or healthy form. It’s been much more common for societies to fail at recovery and reconstruction. As has been said many times, modern republican democracy is the worst system of government – except for all of the others. Anarchy has been tried, along with revolutions of numerous types. Most of them have caused so much pain and destruction and created such a weak environment for improvement because they were starting from scratch that it’s clear to most people in hindsight (when they’re not stirred by particularly worried feelings about the future) that it would have been far wiser to work within the system to gradually enhance quality of life for everyday citizens. The French Revolution and America’s recent Iraq War and subsequent “nation building” are prime examples of this misguided attempt to reinvent the culture from the ground up without recognizing the basic principles demonstrated at many points of history in how to develop sustainable social and political change. When the structure of civilization is annihilated during mass upheavals, the poor and marginalized people that many extremist activists with sincere motives likely sought to help will suffer the most. The rich and powerful have the resources to protect and sustain themselves in diverse and deep ways.
In real comparison to something like 99% of political arrangements in global history, the American system has been incredibly successful. What is needed and sane is for us to challenge qualified leaders to be more ethical, transparent and respectful of facts and evidence. We must put pressure on them to behave more humanely and honestly. We also must be realistic, something that Trump is apparently incapable of. He sincerely believes that our nation’s problems are apocalyptic and only his magnificent wisdom and expertise can rescue us from continued disaster.
In response to Trump’s doomsday negativity and years of similar speech on the right, the level of anger within the conservative movement is so intense as to easily mix with hate and violence. For example, Slate has compiled a list of 20 violent incidents during Trump rallies. Trump encourages this kind of behavior by the aggressive and paranoid language he uses regularly. He continues to say things like “maybe he should have been roughed up” and “knock the crap out of them” and “I’d like to punch him in the face”. When speakers at the Democratic National Convention said things he didn’t like, he declared that he’d enjoy hitting them “so hard…one guy in particular…so hard his head would spin.” Whether or not he would ever act out these statements, it’s clear that several of his followers have done so. He stated, “I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself or if other people will.” And even, “Try not to hurt him. If you do, I’ll defend you in court, don’t worry about it.” In an interview, Trump explained that regarding a rally attendee arrested for sucker punching a protester, about paying his legal fees: “I’ve actually instructed my people to look into it.”
Appealing with nostalgia to an earlier time in American life, he asserted:
“In the good old days this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, they would not do it again so easily. We’ve become weak. We’ve become weak.”
And this is what he sells to the public: We are all vulnerable to a disintegrating society and anti-American attacks from many corners, foreign and domestic. We must toughen up and hire him as our strongman leader. He’ll save us.
By tapping into a trend of more than 20 years by right wing media and political leaders, Trump is exacerbating and accelerating the ill-will, fear and lack of self-control. The kinds of narratives passed around this community are often filled with terror, helplessness, suspicion, victimhood and anger. It’s “Us vs Them” at the most primal level. Much of this dystopian mood and sense of epic anxiety was developed through particular GOP talking points and sources like conservative talk radio and Fox News. The Washington Post explained the situation in their article, “Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein monster. Now he’s strong enough to destroy the party”:
“Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker. Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements, the persistent calls for nullification of Supreme Court decisions, the insistence that compromise was betrayal, the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at? Was it not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among others, who set this tone and thereby cleared the way for someone even more irreverent, so that now, in a most unenjoyable irony, Cruz, along with the rest of the party, must fall to the purer version of himself, a less ideologically encumbered anarcho-revolutionary? This would not be the first revolution that devoured itself.”
Trump continually asserts that Americans are more unprotected than ever in the face of increased crime and violent attack by terrorists, refugees and illegal immigrants under President Obama. Yet this is far from factual (supporting detail below). The 2016 Republican Convention illustrated well this cloud of urgency and dread. It included very little policy proposals or typical Republican praising of military, small government and business topics. Instead, it presented an incredibly fearful view of the world.
PROGRESS IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM AND HIGHEST MILITARY SPENDING SINCE WWII
The Pentagon announced in August 2016 that approximately 45,000 ISIS soldiers had been killed by U.S.-led coalition attacks since Operation Inherent Resolve began in June 2014. U.S. Armed Forces have lost 4 service members. Less than 70 American civilians have been killed by allegedly “ISIS related” incidents, 49 of that by the Orlando shooter who had no contact with this organization (according to the CIA). ISIS has lost half of their territory and revenue. More than 14,000 airstrikes have been launched against them. As of November 2015, the U.S. had dropped 3-4 times more bombs and missiles on ISIS than all other coalition forces combined, so many (20,000) that our stockpiles were running low. U.S. military leaders reported that their forces had carried out 6,471 airstrikes against ISIS by November 19, 2015. The total attacks completed by all other coalition countries at that time was 1,818 (Russia, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates). In defiance or ignorance of these facts, Trump kept saying throughout the campaign that Obama wasn’t doing enough and we were losing terribly.
Terrorism is obviously a very serious problem, causing tremendous suffering around the world, disrupting the stability of governments and free markets. It’s especially worrisome in case of these extremists potentially acquiring nuclear weapons. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, modern advanced nations have prevented proliferation into the hands of people who would very likely use these devices to mass horrific effect. To those who think our nation is especially weak and ill-prepared in defending itself, one can point out that no major terrorist attack killing hundreds or thousands has occurred on U.S. soil since 9/11. That devastating strike was very much preventable and thankfully the agencies that failed to communicate beforehand have greatly improved their cooperation. The fact that this kind of calamity has not happened in the past 15+ years is a testament to successful efforts of the American government and many civilians against thousands of terrorists around the globe who are vigorously attempting to do us harm.
Not in an effort to make light of the very real threat of terrorist brutality, but simply to put it in honest and realistic perspective, we should compare the alternative dangers and adjust our level of fear and proactive response accordingly. The statistical chance of an American dying from of long list of other ways is far higher that that of a militant Islamic terrorist attack. It’s about 2 times as likely to die at the hands of an armed toddler, 3 times by lightning, 7 times by lawnmowers, 29 times being hit by a bus, 82 times by falling out of bed and 1,304 times by another U.S. citizen:
When the GOP has been asked what they would do differently with ISIS, they’ve rarely (if ever) been able to offer an alternative formed strategy and of course they don’t acknowledge the progress and efforts just mentioned above. Libertarian online magazine Reason.com illustrated this with their article, “Republicans Plan to Defeat ISIS With Rhetoric”. They noted, just like many observers of the GOP presidential debates during this past election cycle, that “most of the Republican candidates continued to mistake rhetoric aimed at a militaristic-minded domestic audience for actual foreign policy”. The GOP candidates like Trump and Cruz wanted to bomb ISIS very heavily and repeatedly and widely, as if this was a new battlefield approach. Leaders of the party have continually said that Obama is gutting defense spending and leaving America weak and vulnerable. In actuality, military budgets under Obama have been the highest since World War II (with dollars adjusted for inflation), ranging between being greater in size than the next 7 to 13 largest national defense spenders combined.
Trump and many other chieftains in his party continually accuse Obama of exiting Iraq too early and thus opening the door for ISIS to expand its power in the region. ISIS was formed in 2004, one year after a highly disorganized and mismanaged occupation of Iraq directed by the Bush Administration had begun. In 2008, the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government was signed by Bush, ensuring that all American soldiers would be out of the country by the end of 2011. Obama attempted to keep 5,000-10,000 military advisers (special forces) in Iraq, but local leaders and American public opinion strongly opposed his efforts.
VIOLENT CRIME HAS RADICALLY DROPPED IN MAJOR CITIES AND NATIONALLY DURING LAST 25 YEARS
The U.S. crime rate is half of what it was in the early 1990s (after a high crime wave started in the late 1960s). This includes cities notorious for elevated levels of illegal activity like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, San Diego, New York City and Los Angeles. The average number of homicides in the latter two cities dropped by an astonishing degree, about 85% and 70% respectively. Even with the recent rise of murders in Chicago, referenced often in the news and in diatribes by Republicans like Trump claiming that crime is out of control because of local and national Democratic leadership, it’s still about half as many as the average from 30-50 years ago. This happened even though the population for the City of Chicago has remained nearly the same size since the crime decline began. In 2016, the murder rate in Chicago was very high, yet still considerably lower than in many years during the high crime wave mentioned above.
Trump has continually spread false information about the current rates of crime in Chicago, nationally and by blacks versus whites. As Politifact explained, “A day after a black activist was kicked and punched by voters at a Donald Trump rally in Alabama, Trump tweeted an image packed with racially loaded and incorrect murder statistics.” The meme wrongly claimed that 2% of blacks were killed by whites instead of the correct number of 8%, blacks killed by blacks at 97% instead of correct rate at 90%, whites killed by whites at 16% instead of actual number at 82%, whites killed by blacks at 81% instead of the correct amount of 15%. It also asserted that the rate for blacks killed by police was 1% and whites killed by police was 3% instead of the fact that 4 times more blacks are killed by police, even though whites make up a 5 times larger portion of the total U.S. population. The cited source for the erroneous data was the “Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco”, an organization that doesn’t exist:
Former Speaker of the House and Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich demonstrated the less than genuine approach of the GOP this year by acknowledging to a reporter that these statistical facts are not congruent with how people in their electorate “feel”, so he’ll stand with those people. This is a well educated and informed man, choosing to emphasize misinformation and fear to achieve a political aim. Unfortunately, the journalist only knew about the national decline in violence and so Gingrich was able to get away with inaccurately saying that crime had increased tremendously in major cities.
ALL 859,000 REFUGEES THAT WENT THROUGH OUR VETTING SYSTEM BETWEEN 2001-2015 COMMITTED NO TERRORIST ATTACKS
Another constant mantra of conservative media is that refugees from Syria and elsewhere present a dire threat to America. GOP members continue to make reckless claims that our vetting system is incredibly ineffective when it’s actually one of the most rigorous in the world. As one more example from hundreds of Trump’s statements confirming that he’s gone even further into an alternate fact-free reality, he’s claimed that our government is incompetent and aimless on this vital issue, “without any effective system to screen” incoming refugees from the Middle East. The truth is that it takes between 18-24 months to get through, involving 9 different government agencies. About 50% of all applicants are denied access. Syrian refugees must go through an even more thorough investigation. Among them specifically, Time has reported that “roughly half the refugees admitted have been children. Around 25% are adults over 60. Only 2% of those admitted…have been single males of ‘combat age.'” In Germany, where compared to the U.S. the rate of overall crime is half the size and murder is 5 times lower, refugees are involved in criminal activity less than the average citizen. Official government statistics in that country for 2015 reveal that even though the number of refugees increased by 440%, the number of crimes only rose by 79% among these people. Those from the Western Balkans were charged with a crime much more often than immigrants from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. This is an issue much like voter fraud: a far right wing fantasy, a virtually non-existent problem contradicted by mountains of verifiable evidence and numerous wide scale studies that they continue to irresponsibly or ignorantly distort for political gain. If they can solidify Americans together through hyped up fears, these leaders can more easily get elected and securely retain their office. Consider this quote from the Cato Institute, a well-respected conservative libertarian think tank regarding the potential level of danger with refugees being accepted into America through our current system of processing:
“Of the 859,629 refugees admitted from 2001 onwards, only three have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks on targets outside of the United States, and none was successfully carried out. That is one terrorism-planning conviction for every 286,543 refugees that have been admitted. To put that in perspective, about 1 in every 22,541 Americans committed murder in 2014.”
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS COMMIT LESS CRIME THAN AVERAGE AMERICANS AND HAVE BEEN COMING TO AMERICA IN MUCH SMALLER NUMBERS FOR YEARS
The Tea Party, Trump and all of the 16 other Republican presidential candidates for the 2016 election hold and fiercely advocate for viewpoints far to the right of Reagan and Bush Sr. on several social and economic issues. This is certainly true in contrast with the substantially more compassionate and realistic illegal immigration policies of those two presidents. In this video from the 1980 debate between Reagan and Bush Sr. for the Republican presidential nomination, they compete with each other in trying to be more forgiving to illegal immigrants and toward finding ways to effectively and ethically integrate them in American society:
Reason.com summarized the exchange between these two revered conservative icons:
“George H.W. Bush, expressed support for giving illegal-immigrant children the same social-welfare benefits as native-born Americans, then portrayed the issue as one fundamentally about prohibition rather than lawlessness: ‘[A]s we have kind of made illegal some kinds of labor that I’d like to see legal,’ Bush said, ‘we’re creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law.’…Ronald Reagan, meanwhile, championed a version of open borders: ‘Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems? Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they’re working and earning here, they’d pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back. They can cross. Open the borders both ways.'”
Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which enabled 2.7 million undocumented people to gain a path to citizenship.
Illegal and legal immigrants from the south (especially) and all other areas of the globe are less violent than average Americans. The Wall Street Journal, certainly not a liberal organization, and many other sources point out the data showing that:
“Newcomers to the U.S. are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or be incarcerated….regardless of nationality or legal status….A new report from the Immigration Policy Center notes that while the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. more than tripled between 1990 and 2013 to more than 11.2 million, ‘FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48%—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41%, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary.’…A separate IPC paper from 2007 explains…[the] data show that ‘for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants,’ according to the report. ‘This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.’…Mr. Trump wants to have an unserious debate about immigration, one that involves scaring voters and scapegoating newcomers for crime problems that are mostly homegrown.”
Further, as the Pew Research Center explained in 2015 about illegal immigrants from Mexico: “The number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has declined….More non-Mexicans than Mexicans were apprehended at U.S. borders in 2014….deportations of Mexican immigrants reached a record high in 2013.”
USA Today reported:
“While fewer Mexicans are moving to the U.S., there has been an increase in those leaving the U.S. and returning to Mexico (including those who have been deported). According to the Pew Center’s analysis of Mexican census data, between 2005 and 2010, 1.4 million Mexicans who had previously resided in the U.S. returned to Mexico. This is almost double the number who returned from the U.S. to Mexico from 1995-2000.”
The president has been called the “Deporter in Chief” by America’s largest Latino advocacy organization, The National Council of La Raza. As The Economist elaborates, “America is expelling illegal immigrants at nine times the rate of 20 years ago…nearly 2m so far under Barack Obama, easily outpacing any previous president.”
The 2016 Democratic National Convention emphasized how far away the Republicans had traveled from normative American values. President Obama’s speech there presented a case for what he saw as the utterly un-American behavior and value system of Donald Trump. Though hateful and ignorant views have always been around during American history, a lot of it has been overcome through generations of hard work and perseverance. It seems that the Trump campaign has been a major step backward. Or, at least, Trump’s wide appeal has revealed a continuing presence of intolerance against people different than the traditionally normative looking and behaving American. The reactions of his followers to the campaign has been similar, yet more intense, to that of many voters when conservative pundits and organizations like Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Glenn Beck and the Tea Party first rose to prominence – they took a host of legitimate contemporary concerns most citizens had and heightened the drama to a frenetic level. The recent Trump phenomenon has uncovered even another layer of deep fears, pessimism and bitter frustration with a country that has been changing dramatically both in values and demographics. The influence of secular and liberal mindsets has grown substantially since the 1960s and social conservatives have been keenly aware of and heartily resistant toward this cultural transformation. On top of that, the majority white ethnic group that has existed since America’s inception has been shrinking, down by 1/5th compared to 1990, from 76% to 62%. Meanwhile, the percentage of the U.S. population that is Hispanic has greatly expanded from 9% to 18% and experts say this will grow much more in the next few decades. By the middle of the 21st century, whites are expected to make up less than 50%.
Given that today’s conservatives and Republicans are overwhelmingly made up of whites, these sociological changes can matter a great deal for them. Both groups have been criticized, rightly or wrongly, for allowing or aggravating racial tensions to affect the fervor and cohesion against what they perceive to be threats to the American way of life.
This article series is continued in Part 3, covering:
THE REPUBLICAN PARTIAL EXODUS AWAY FROM TRUMP
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, IN MANY WAYS, MAY BE THE CONSERVATIVE OPTION IN THIS ELECTION