This election cycle has always given me a sense of deja vu. In the lead-up to the Republican convention of 2012, there was a frantic debate about how to get Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri senate race following his controversial and bizarre comments on abortion the week before. This year, we have the same situation but probably on the largest scale possible.
Trump even has his own controversial comment on abortion. Trump is the guy who entered “serious” policy discussions by becoming the most notorious Obama birther. But we don’t have to go through the litany of examples here: everyone knows that Trump is the great big new Todd Akin—even if they don’t think of it that way. In fact, they like him for it; his being Todd Akin is seen as evidence that he’s not bought off, not just a political hack. That’s just Trump being Trump, we can imagine someone saying. In this way, he’s sort of the Republican version of Joe Biden, but it has to be admitted that he far surpasses Biden in this regard.
But, there are a few examples we will consider.
Recently, Trump was asked by the New York Times whether the Republican Party “maintaining its majority in the Senate meant anything to him.” He responded, “[w]ell, I’d like them to do that. But I don’t mind being a free agent, either.” One has to wonder, then, how he feels about the policy agenda he has been promoting for the last year.
On January 19, 2016, Trump was asked by Field & Stream about transferring public lands from the federal government to the states. He said, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land.” Ted Cruz released an ad featuring these comments from Trump, and Trump responded to that ad at a campaign rally on February 22, saying that “[federal lands are] not a subject I know anything about” and that Cruz is “sick” and a “liar.” The political leader of a country deals with many of the most serious things in life, and the prospect of a world leader behaving in such a way should be troubling to say the least.
Much is said about how much Trump loves the country, but he gave to the Washington Post what may be the most vapid, superficial praise of Lincoln ever recorded. He said, “[w]ell, I think Lincoln succeeded for numerous reasons. He was a man who was of great intelligence, which most presidents would be. He was a man of great intelligence, but he was also a man that did something that was a very vital thing to do at that time. Ten years before or 20 years before, what he was doing would never have even been thought possible. So he did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at that time.”
Clearly, then, if Trump loves the country, he means that he loves [what exists in his life]. He loves the plastic, meaningless caricature that is made every Fourth of July when people sarcastically refer to ‘Merica. Stephen Colbert aptly said of him that, “one of the reasons I can’t do [my] old character anymore [is that] he’s doing it better than I ever could.” If someone took public life seriously and said that they love the country, then they would be referring to a perspective that viewed the entire history of the United States in its proper historical context—i.e. from the perspective of the entire history of mankind and the universe. Such a person would probably have something to say about Lincoln other than superficial nothings.
After using over 80 words to say pretty much nothing about Lincoln, Trump said that “Nixon failed, I think to a certain extent, because of his personality. You know? It was just that personality. Very severe, very exclusive. In other words, people couldn’t come in. And people didn’t like him. I mean, people didn’t like him,” apparently forgetting that Nixon was re-elected with a massive 49-state landslide in 1972.
Even if you find the idea that you have to vote for Trump to stop Hillary convincing, you should still know Trump well enough to see that his nomination does not bode well for the future of what is right. People are good at what they are good at—no one is good at everything. I’m sure Trump is good at something. He’s good at getting some people to support him, but, aside from that, he seems completely unfit for the serious kind of public life.