The Message

Can America Survive Four More Years of Donald Trump?

A relatively late entrant as a candidate for the Republican Party’s 2016 nominee for president, Donald Trump officially announced his candidacy on June 15, 2015, joining a field that eventually included 16 other GOP candidates. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the first Republican to file, announced his intention to run 596 days before the election. By contrast, Canada’s campaign season for prime minister lasts eleven weeks, while Mexico’s presidential run lasts 90 days, concluding three days before election day. Over the last few decades, presidential aspirants in the U.S. have often expressed their “interest” in running for the office two to three years in advance while formally filing as a candidate an average of 400 days prior to the actual election. Unlike other industrialized nations, the United States has no fixed time limit for campaigning or limitations on campaign spending. As a result, America has the longest and most expensive campaign season in the world.

Trump is a useful tool of the deep-pocketed ruling elite of which he is a part. But he is a replaceable cog in the American political machine. There are thousands like him waiting to assume the mantel of leadership while ignoring the common good and defying the Ultimate Lawgiver.

The inordinate amount of money that is raised and spent during every presidential election cycle in the U.S. has the practical effect of limiting potential candidates to millionaires and billionaires, or individuals who have a political organization capable of raising enormous amounts of money from corporations and other wealthy donors. During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump spent $66 million of his own money and $280 million of funds raised from Super PACs and small donors. His opponent, former first lady and secretary of state Hillary Clinton, raised an eye-popping $1.2 billion in her unsuccessful presidential bid.

A significant portion of the American electorate, as well as leaders and citizens of other countries, were dumbfounded by the election of Donald Trump. His extreme narcissism, blatant expressions of racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic views, as well as his hedonistic lifestyle, were not seen as inclining him to become a salaried public servant. Trump was the ultimate Washington outsider and political novice, a reality show tv star, a self-proclaimed billionaire with six bankruptcies in his portfolio. As a rental property owner, he had multiple racially motivated housing discrimination lawsuits filed against him. Trump was an extremely atypical candidate for the presidency.

A President Should Ideally Possess Certain Traits

While the office of the president has no stated requirements beyond being a natural-born U.S. citizen, 35 years or older, and resident in the U.S. for at least 14 years, it is generally expected by voters that the office bearer should ideally possess certain traits such as believability, decorum, a strong commitment to universal justice, and patriotism. In less than four years in office, the current president, in his official capacity, has been cited by multiple fact-checking operations to have lied to the American people, media outlets, and government officials more than 20,000 times. Over 100 licensed psychiatrists released a signed document questioning his fitness to serve as president based on him exhibiting signs of mental instability. He has publicly denigrated developing nations by characterizing them in vulgar and derogatory terms, referred to asylum-seeking Latin American refugees as rapists and drug dealers, and ordered immigrant children at the U.S./Mexico border to be separated from their parents and caged like animals in unsanitary, traumatizing conditions. Additionally, in the history of the American republic, no American president has shown such a flagrant disregard or ignorance of the constitutional parameters of presidential power. None has flaunted an overreach of executive authority toward the judicial and legislative branches of government as demonstrated by Trump.

Trump’s Disconcerting Policy Decisions

Yet, while Trump’s crudeness and lack of social graces may be unsettling to individuals across the political spectrums, it has been his policy decisions as head of state that are most disconcerting to American citizens and members of the global community. He has appointed 194 of 792 sitting federal judges who are appointed for life and significantly influence public policy, law, and legislation. Trump, with Congressional approval, has stacked the federal benches with ultra-conservative activist judges who are able to reverse or modify established progressive social legislation. The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, has been unrelentingly attacked as the Trump administration tries again and again to dismantle it. Environmental protection legislation, regulations governing worker safety, automobile emission standards, protection from drilling in federal preserves, and social safety nets like food stamps and welfare payments — all have been gutted to varying degrees by the current administration. To further enrich the one percent, Trump has engineered significant tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest individuals. He has attempted to privatize the public-school system and the United States Postal Service. His mismanagement of the economy mirrors his past business failures as some of the nation’s economic indicators have spiraled into a downward cycle under his watch, even before the onset of the pandemic. He continues the practice of his predecessors of privatizing virtually all aspects of the military, including combat and intelligence missions, to the degree that private contractors serve side-by-side with their military counterparts, doing the same jobs at a substantially higher rate of pay.

Trump has weakened strategic relationships with long-term allies of the United States by making insulting and disrespectful comments about the leaders of other countries. He has unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, and unilaterally withdrawn from treaties like the Paris Climate Agreement, signed in 2016 by 196 countries, that addresses greenhouse gas emissions and other critical environmental issues. The withdrawal will not be completed until after the November election.

No Coherent Plan to Navigate the Pandemic

One of this President’s most apparent deficiencies has been his inability to provide a coherent plan for the nation to navigate the deadly ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. With a reported death toll of over 190,000 men, women, and children as of September 2020, Trump has demonstrated such incompetence and lack of compassion at this critical moment in history that the United States will likely suffer unnecessary pain and suffering for years to come. Leadership is a serious responsibility at any time, but the failures of inept leaders during extraordinarily challenging moments are magnified, to the continuing detriment of the nation. Trump’s leadership failures are exacerbated by his deliberate attempts to polarize racial, ethnic, and religious differences for what he thinks benefits him politically, caring not about how it harms the country. It can be reasonably argued that in the 20th and 21st centuries, no president since Woodrow Wilson has been as openly supportive of White supremacists and violence against non-White people as Donald Trump. How ironic that he is the immediate successor to the nation’s first African American president, Barack Obama.

At this critical juncture in United States and world history, the question must be asked, “Can America survive four more years of Donald J. Trump?” The reflex response to this question by millions of Americans is an emphatic “No!” But, if we fail to understand, as expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the urgency of now,” then we will have to endure four more agonizing years of a dangerous decline in American society. We must vote and make sure our family members and friends vote so that our voices are heard, loud and clear.

Trump Is a Useful Tool for the Exploiters

We are living in a time in which social justice warriors want to cancel anyone in the past who didn’t live up to the standards of today. Taking into account that history is moment after moment and era after era of humans as “products of their times,” we don’t need to go around canceling America’s history. Having said that, we must acknowledge that it is way past due to reckon with its flaws, and to realize that the U.S. is a mixed bag of good and bad like most nations and individuals. It remains the case that in many ways, the American core failure rests on the two pillars of exploitation and racism. From the beginning of American history (and human history), the poor have been exploited by the rich. The U.S. was built upon the back of chattel slavery while land and natural resources of Native Americans were expropriated by White settler colonists. America tolerated racially based convict leasing until 1908, and even today, those who are incarcerated are forced to work for virtually nothing in prison industries that are contracted with major corporations. Our American history includes exploitation of poor White coal miners by coal barons…Chinese railroad workers, migrant farm workers, “essential workers” today during a deadly pandemic, all have been exploited by the “owners,” the super-rich. The perpetuation of this system of exploitation by the moneyed elite is supported by both sides of the aisle even though their political theater wants us to believe otherwise.

Trump is a useful tool of the deep-pocketed ruling elite of which he is a part. But he is a replaceable cog in the American political machine. There are thousands like him waiting to assume the mantel of leadership while ignoring the common good and defying the Ultimate Lawgiver.

Turning the Mirror Toward Ourselves

The responsibility to stand for justice is a divinely mandated responsibility for the head of every political, economic, and social organization and group, as well as the responsibility of every individual in his or her own life. We must enjoin right conduct and forbid wrong conduct consistently and with conviction. Four more years of Donald Trump as president will be disastrous for everyone except the exploiters among us. However, a good practice is to also turn the mirror toward ourselves and search our own hearts. The great scholar Ibn Qayyim wrote in Miftah Dar As-Sa’adah: “Ponder upon the wisdom of Allah where He has made people’s kings, leaders, and those of authority over them of the same kind as their own deeds. It is as if the people’s deeds appeared in the forms of their kings and leaders.”

The point is that we must be the change that we wish to see in the world. “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Qur’an – 13:11).

Imam Khalid GriggsAuthor Khalid Fattah Griggs is Imam of the Community Mosque in Winston-Salem, NC. Imam is also the Chair of ICNA Council for Social Justice.

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