Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II.
Mr. Trump’s ruinous tenure has already severely damaged the United States at home and around the world. He abused the power of his office and denied the legitimacy of his political opponents, shattering the standards that had united the nation for generations. It subsumed the public interest for the profitability of its commercial and political interests. He showed a stunning disregard for the lives and freedoms of Americans. He is a man unworthy of the office he occupies.
November 3 can be a turning point. This is an election on the future of the country and the path its citizens want to choose.
The resilience of America’s democracy was strained by Mr. Trumps’ first term. Four more years would be worse.
But even as Americans wait to vote in lines that span blocks across their cities, Mr. Trump is engaged in a deep assault on the integrity of this vital democratic process. Breaking with all his modern predecessors, he has refused to engage in a peaceful transfer of power, suggesting that his victory is the only legitimate outcome, and that if he does not win, he is ready to challenge the judgment of the people. American in the courts or even in the streets.
Kathleen Kingsbury, Interim Editorial Page Editor, wrote about the Editorial Board’s verdict on Donald Trump’s presidency in a special issue of our Opinion Today newsletter. You can read it here.
The enormity and variety of Mr. Trumps’ misdeeds can seem overwhelming. The rehearsal has dulled the feeling of outrage, and the accumulation of new outrages leaves little time to dwell on the details. This is the time when Americans must rediscover that sense of outrage.
It is the purpose of this special section of the Sunday Review to remind readers why Mr. Trump is unfit to lead the nation. It includes a series of essays focusing on the endemic corruption of the Trump administration, celebrations of violence, gross negligence with public health, and incompetent governance. A selection of iconic images highlight the presidents’ record on issues such as climate, immigration, women’s rights and race. And alongside our judgment on Mr. Trump, we are publishing, in their own words, the damning judgments of the men and women who served in his administration.
The urgency of these trials speaks for itself. Repudiation of Mr. Trump is the first step in repairing the damage he has caused. But even as we write these words, Mr. Trump is saluting the ground and even if he loses, reconstruction will take many years and tears.
Mr. Trump stands without real rivals as the worst American president in modern history. In 2016, his bitter account of the nation’s ills struck a chord with many voters. But the lesson of the past four years is that he cannot solve the pressing problems of nations because he is the most pressing problem of nations.
He is a racist demagogue who presides over an increasingly diverse country; an isolationist in an interconnected world; a showman forever bragging about things he never did and promising to do things he never will.
He showed no ability to build, but he managed to do a lot of damage. He’s just the man to bring things down.
As the world runs out of time to deal with climate change, Mr. Trump has denied the need for action, abandoned international cooperation, and attacked efforts to limit emissions.
He launched a cruel crackdown on legal and illegal immigration without proposing a reasonable policy as to who should be allowed to come to the United States.
Obsessed with reversing the accomplishments of his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, he sought to persuade both Congress and the courts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act without proposing a surrogate policy to provide Americans with access to affordable health care. In the first three years of his administration, the number of Americans without health insurance increased by 2.3 million, a number that has surely risen again as millions of Americans have lost their jobs this year.
He campaigned as a champion of ordinary workers, but he ruled on behalf of the rich. He promised an increase in the federal minimum wage and new investments in infrastructure; he delivered a series of tax cuts that mostly benefited the rich. He indiscriminately erased regulations and answered corporate prayers by suspending the application of rules he could not easily erase. Under his leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stopped trying to protect consumers, and the Environmental Protection Agency stopped trying to protect the environment.
He has forged long-standing alliances while embracing dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russians Vladimir Putin, whom Mr. Trump treats with a degree of warmth and deference that defies explanation. He has moved away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a strategic agreement between China’s neighbors meant to pressure China to comply with international standards. In his place, Mr. Trump has waged a tit-for-tat trade war, imposing billions of dollars in tariff taxes that are in fact paid by Americans without securing significant concessions from China.
Mr Trumps’ shortcomings as a leader have been particularly painful during the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of working to save lives, Mr. Trump has treated the pandemic as a public relations issue. He lied about the danger, challenged the expertise of public health officials, and resisted the implementation of necessary precautions; it is still trying to force the resumption of economic activity without controlling the virus.
As the economy grew, he signed a first round of aid to Americans who lost their jobs. Then the stock market rebounded, and although millions of people were left out of work, Mr. Trump lost interest in their plight.
In September, he said the virus affected virtually no one the day before the death toll from the disease in the United States stood at 200,000.
Nine days later, Mr. Trump fell ill.
The foundations of American civil society were crumbling before Mr. Trump descended the escalator of Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his presidential campaign. But he escalated the worst trends in American politics: under his leadership, the nation became more polarized, more paranoid, and more wicked.
He pitted Americans against each other, harnessing new broadcast media like Twitter and Facebook to rally his supporters around a virtual bonfire of grievances and flood the public square with lies, disinformation and propaganda. He is relentless in his denigration of opponents and reluctant to condemn the violence of those he sees as allies. During the first presidential debate in September, Mr. Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists. He responded by asking a violent gang, the Proud Boys, to step back and be ready.
It has undermined trust in government as a means of mediating disputes and reaching compromises. It demands absolute loyalty from government officials, regardless of the public interest. He openly despises expertise.
And he has mounted an assault on the rule of law, exercising his authority as an instrument to secure his own power and punish political opponents. In June, his administration fired tear gas and kicked peaceful protesters from a street outside the White House so Mr. Trump could pose with a book he doesn’t read outside a church he doesn’t attend.
The extent of his misconduct may take decades to emerge. But what we already know is shocking enough:
It has resisted legal oversight from other branches of the federal government. The administration routinely defies court orders, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly asked administration officials not to testify in Congress or provide documents, including Mr. Trumps’ tax returns.
With the help of Attorney General William Barr, he protected loyal collaborators of justice. In May, the Justice Department said it would drop charges against Mr Trumps’ former national security adviser Michael Flynn, even though Mr Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in July, Mr. Trump commuted the sentence of another former aide, Roger Stone, who was convicted of obstructing a federal investigation into Mr. Trumps’ 2016 election campaign. Republican Senator Mitt Romney Utah, has rightly condemned the commutation as an unprecedented historic act of corruption.
Last year, Mr Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into his main political rival, Joe Biden, then ordered administration officials to obstruct a congressional investigation into his actions. In December 2019, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Mr. Trump for serious crimes and misdemeanors. But Senate Republicans, with the exception of Mr. Romney, voted to acquit the president, ignoring Mr. Trump’s bribery to advance plans to fill the federal bench with young conservative lawyers as fenders. fire against majority rule.
Now, along with other Republican leaders, Mr. Trump is mounting an aggressive campaign to reduce the number of Americans who vote and the number of ballots that are counted.
The president, who has long spread baseless accusations of widespread electoral fraud, has stepped up his rhetorical attacks in recent months, especially on ballots submitted by mail. The outcome of the Nov. 3 election may NEVER BE PRECISELY DETERMINED, he tweeted. The president himself voted by correspondence, and there is no evidence to support his claims. But the disinformation campaign serves as a rationale for purging voter lists, closing polling stations, throwing postal ballots and preventing Americans from exercising their right to vote.
It is an intolerable assault on the very foundations of the American experience of government by the people.
Other modern presidents have behaved illegally or made catastrophic decisions. Richard Nixon used the power of the state against his political opponents. Ronald Reagan ignored the spread of AIDS. Bill Clinton was indicted for lying and obstructing justice. George W. Bush took the nation to war under false pretenses.
Mr. Trump has passed decades of presidential wrongdoing in a single term.
Frederick Douglass lamented during another of the nation’s dark hours, Andrew Johnson’s presidency, We should have our government formed in such a way that even in the hands of a wicked man we will be safe. But that is not the nature of our democracy. The implicit optimism of American democracy is that the health of the republic rests on the judgment of the electorate and the integrity of those voters.
Mr. Trump is a man of no integrity. He repeatedly violated his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
However, at this time of peril, it is incumbent on the American people even those who would prefer a Republican president to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting.
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