Who Is Donald Trump?

After the election results came in, one of our readers asked – what should we be doing now? Here is an extended and modified version of my response.

First some perspective is in order. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost two million votes. She lost in the electoral college. The margin was about 1% or less in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. There was no mandate for Donald Trump. All of our comments should be understood in the context of a need for marginal improvement by the Democrats.

The first step in figuring out what we should do is to try to understand why people voted for Trump.

1) There are a lot of angry people who feel that our system has screwed them economically. They feel that Wall Street caused the depression (Great Recession) and they are the ones who are paying for it. The big banks were bailed out with tax payer money and are making large profits again. Meanwhile their wages are not keeping up with inflation – if they have a job. In many cases, their jobs have disappeared. It’s no wonder that they are angry and want to blow up the system.

I blame this anger on the Obama administration. If Obama had gone after the criminals on Wall Street when he came into office, a lot of this rage would have dissipated. The bond rating services clearly engaged in crooked activities – giving AAA+ ratings to mortgage tranches that were worthless.

2) Many of the Trump voters are upset with the religious/social values being promoted by the Democrats. Although Trump is a very flawed vessel for promoting values of decency, this group is more comfortable with the Republicans than with the Democrats. We see that in our religious community. Perhaps we should be supporting elements in the Democratic party that are more involved with economic issues and less involved with religious/social values.

Historically, when the Democratic Party was economically liberal and socially conservative, it was the majority party. Donald Trump took that observation to heart. That is not to say that all social issues should be ignored – but the consequences should be considered. Lyndon Johnson (one of my heroes) pushed through the voting rights act in the full knowledge that it would destroy the Democratic party in the South. One might legitimately ask if political capital should be expended on the issue of who uses which toilet stall. That could be left to the courts.

3) There is another obvious reason for the Democratic loss. Hillary Clinton is not an effective campaigner. She just does not connect with voters. It’s not her personal baggage (using a personal server for classified information or Clinton Foundation sources of funding) that cost her the election. Trump has many more albatrosses around his neck – racism. xenophobia, misogyny and a mile long string of lies. But he does connect with his voters and enough of them turned out to elect him as our next President.

Joe Biden would have won this election in a breeze. He connects. In a Washington Post article written during the campaign, Paul Kane writes, ‘In St. Louis this month, Biden began his day at Launchcode, a nonprofit trying to help underprivileged workers become technology code writers. Biden belittled having “a lot of economists work for me, Rhodes scholars” who calculate the middle class by salary. “

“The middle class is not a number; it’s a value set. It’s being able to own your house and not have to rent it; it’s being able to send your kid to the local park and know they’ll come home safely,” he said. “It’s about being able to send your kid to the local high school and if they do well they can get to college, and if they get to college, you can figure out how to [pay to] get them there, and when your mom or dad passes away, you can take care of the other who is in need and hope your kids never have to take care of you.” That’s Joe Biden’s definition of the middle class, and the middle class has been clobbered.”

Responding to the question -what should we be doing? My response is changing as we go to press. Yesterday’s interview of Donald Trump in the New York Times revealed a thoughtful, open minded individual rather than the boor who campaigned for president. He might have more in common with the the Democratic Party than he has with the Republican base that elected him. Throughout the election campaign, he endorsed the concept of maintaining a safety net for those who are in dire economic straits. He is committed to a large infra-structure program which is at odds with the the Republican holy grail of a balanced budget.

He is dropping the idea of prosecuting Hillary Clinton. He is dropping the notion of using torture as an interrogation tool. He is reconsidering his position on climate change and his position on relations with Vladimir Putin. He denounced the Jew hating neo-nazis of the alt-right.

On the issue of immigration, there should be changes in our policy. Why should we support illegal immigration whether it be of Hispanics, Poles or Irish? That policy rewards law breakers and punishes those law abiding people who wait to enter our country legally. That’s just not fair. It sends a message that the way to succeed in the US is to break the law. Some argue that although illegal immigrants should be deported , it’s just not feasible to deport 12 million people. That’s true – but it is possible to deport 1 million illegal immigrants a year and admit a million law abiding people. Legal immigrants always have been and always will be a great asset for the United States.

What should we be doing? Let’s not criticize every thing that President -elect Trump says or does. He won the election and deserves a chance. However, we can and should make our concerns known.

Domestically, I fear a concerted effort to gut the voting rights act. I fear a persecution of people for their religious beliefs. I fear a government attack on civil liberties. I fear a government surveillance of all that we do and say that will be even more intrusive than it is at present. I fear an energy policy that will lead to irreversible global warming. A note to my environmentalist readers – the only way that we can maintain our standard of living and not contribute to global warming is to expand our use of nuclear power. I fear a sell out to big business in spite of Trump’s protestations to the contrary.

Internationally, I fear a continuation of our policy of not opposing Russian aggression in Europe and the Middle East. Let’s hope that Trump’s reconsideration of relations with Putin means a change of his attitudes in these areas. I fear the proliferation of nuclear weapons that has been espoused by Trump. I fear (as we all do) that Trump’s lack of a coherent policy for the Middle East will be bad for Israel. Hezbollah has taken over Lebanon. US support for the Assad regime in Syria, as espoused by Trump, means that Iran and Hezbollah will also be in control there.

What else should we be doing now? Pray for the welfare of the United States!

About the Author
Richard Chasman, 1934-2018, was a member of the Modern Orthodox community in Chicago. Professionally, he was a theoretical nuclear physicist. Richard, who described his perspective as "centrist," wrote a newsletter for more than 20 years called "Chovevai Tsion of Chicago," on subjects of interest to the Modern Orthodox community.