I blog rarely about politics but now that the two weeks of conventions are thankfully in the past, we have nine weeks to make some important decisions.
Both the Democrats and the Republicans put on their mercifully truncated shows, each speaking into the echo chamber of their constituencies. I truly wonder how many independent, undecided voters watched either and got swayed.
When I was in town politics, campaigning came down to two things: a reason to hire and a reason to fire.
The Dems’ Reason to Fire
The Democrats went first and showed their diversity, their compassion, and their unity behind the ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden, to his credit, spoke loftily, never naming President Trump, and avoided the fire and brimstone. They knew full well that Trump and the RNC were going to spew fearful imagery.
But no one who spoke gave us the facts behind the reason to fire Donald Trump. They never looked behind the personality, the serial liar, and the man who seems to prefer just 30% of the country.
They neglected to hammer home the failed response to the coronavirus, or how for the last three years, the administration has systematically made the air less safe, the water more vulnerable to contamination, citizenship more difficult to obtain, or even the repeal of protections for consumers.
The chaotic approach to foreign policy has left America as an isolationist country, one that is not leading in any category that matters.
The Democrats ignored pointing out that in October 2016, candidate Trump said, “It is time to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C. This is why I’m proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again.”
Yet, no ethics reforms were introduced or passed and instead of draining the swamp, he restocked it. We can start with the Mueller probe which resulted in 100 charges against 34 people, six of whom were Trump associates, while the other 25 were Russians accused of interference.
Or there’s Steve Bannon’s indictment, Corey Lewandowski arrested on misdemeanor battery charges, or his successor Paul Manafort, who was sentenced to more than seven years in prison in 2019 for a slew of charges. Then there’s Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Michael Cohen, and Roger Stone.
The Democrats could have eviscerated the Trump Administration for promises that went unfulfilled.
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, a man well-read by the President, noted in January, “Contrary to what he tells his fans, Trump has broken more key promises than he has kept. With our latest update, Trump has broken about 43 percent of 60 key promises — and kept about 35 percent. He settled for a compromise on 12 percent.”
Let’s start with the Economy where we were promised annual 4% growth of the GDP. We’ve barely cracked 2% in any of the four years. It was, at best, 2.3% in 2019.
Domestically, he promised six weeks of paid maternity leave to new mothers. Great idea, thank you Ivanka, but all he’s done is advance legislation as it affects federal employees, leaving 150 million other Americans still waiting.
He promised some red meat to his rabid constituents legislation making concealed carry permits the law in all 50 states. The Conceal Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 passed the House but was one of over 400 bills Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to act on.
Alarmingly, he wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. Now, with Betsy DeVos in charge, that’s a swell idea, but given how far we’ve slid in global competition, it’s a stupid idea but remains an unkept promise.
Internationally, he has soured relations with most countries, impeding our ability to work together. He has additionally imposed tariffs as a form of leverage, making goods more costly for American citizens.
He promised Mexico would pay for the Border Wall, the same wall that has been bored through and tunneled under before its completion. Instead, the Executive Branch has redirected funds, bypassing Congress’ power of the purse, starving the Pentagon from completing long overdue projects.
And then there’s the whopper. He promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Forget the notion that neither he nor the Senate Majority had a plan to replace it, a terrifying notion to those receiving benefits, but he couldn’t even get this done.
Reasons to Hire (or retain)
“I’ve completed more promises than I’ve made.”
— President Trump, during a campaign rally in Toledo, Jan. 9, 2020
Now, if I were the Republicans, especially Trump and Vice-President Pence, I’d be touting all the accomplishments because they did deliver a fair amount. Instead, they lied and made their viewers worry about every shadow, fear for their lives and property values. No substance was offered when any of the following could have been used.
About the only accomplishment that came up more than once involved the Judiciary. While McConnell stonewalled most legislation before the Senate, he successfully rammed through a mostly white, entirely conservative slate of 200 judges throughout the courts, reshaping it for the next generation or two. This is the administration’s most enduring legacy after everything else gets repealed or replaced in the coming years.
Trump got two Supreme Court picks, not insignificant although his candidates benefitted from a sympathetic Senate rather than a proper vetting process.
He promised to lower the corporate tax rate, going from 35% to 21% (he promised 15% but gets points for this). Here, Dems should be screaming about the deficit since the GOP seems to have stopped caring.
He promised to leave the Paris Climate Accord, and did so, keeping his head in the sand about Climate Change.
He promised to rip up NAFTA and replaced it with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and can crow about this, even if the final result is more like a revised NAFTA than a completely new deal. He promised to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and did so, allowing the Pacific Rim to settle a deal without the USA.
He pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and asserted maximum economic pressure on the Middle East country.
In the same region, he did deliver a surprise accord between Israel and UAE although Jared Kushner’s proposed peace deal arrived DOA. Instead, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is worth noting.
The Administration can certainly claim some credit for the reduction of ISIS influence but they’re far from eliminated as a threat.
He has promised to bring home tens of thousands of troops from around the world but events beyond his control prevent this from being fully enacted.
He promised a big, beautiful Border Wall and work is proceeding (slowly).
Plans for the Future
The acceptance speech from Trump lacked a vision for the future.
He totally ignored the pandemic. He said he’s hoping we’re close to a cure for Covid-19 by Election Day, but no one in the scientific community believes that’s going to happen. Everything related to the disease has been wishful thinking.
Rather than tackle the racial strife that seems to be an eternal flame from coast to coast, he has ignored it, offering words of praise to the police and no practical dialogue with the aggrieved. Instead, he launched a personal attack on Biden, naming him 31 times in 70 minutes, mostly repeating the same lies he’s been using for weeks. A CNN analyst listed about 20 lies and falsehoods off the top of his head from the speech.
In a week, the GOP pushed the mirror universe view that Trump is a compassionate, caring man, they uniformly pitched a dystopic view of a Biden Administration, totally ignoring it would be one inherited by the man who encouraged racial strife, accepted conspiracy theories as fact, and can’t be trusted to keep his word.
He could have discussed how he was going to help the millions worried about their jobs. Or the pressing need for improving our infrastructure (about the one thing I agree with him on).
We have clear ideas from Biden about his Day One Agenda, we don’t have the same from the incumbent and that should say something.
Both conventions were more showmanship than practical, with neither side offering facts in support of their slates.
That will have to wait until the debates. In June, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggested, “10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate, this [independent fact-checking] team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.
“Debates always have ground rules. Why can’t telling the truth and equal transparency on taxes be conditions for this one?”
It won’t happen, but it needs to happen. Once the two candidates shake hands, viewers will hear their favorite pundits spin one way or another. Instead, if everyone hears the misstatements and fabrications from both speakers, before those handshakes, it might change a few minds.
In many pieces I’ve read, it strikes me that the majority of voters have made up their minds, but can’t fully articulate why they like their candidate. It’s because they have “feelings” and not the full story, a complete understanding of what’s at stake. I dearly wish more Americans would vote with their heads, not their pocketbooks or their hearts. But they don’t. And that’s never been more true than today.
There’s probably no greater threat to American democracy.