This post is a part of our Political Pen Pals series. If you like it, check out more Political Pen Pals debates here.
William F Buckley, the intellectual forebearer of the modern conservative movement, once said that the purpose of political discourse is the “crystallization of differences.” When we avoid debate, therefore, we neither understand where we agree nor where we disagree.
I find this issue to be particularly acute in debates about President Trump. To illustrate this problem, I enlisted the help of two gracious contributors–Robert Wilkes, my cousin and token Divided We Fall Conservative, and Elaun Rave, one of the most vocal Trump critics that I know. I asked them both to highlight the reasons why they believe the Trump Presidency is either good or bad for our country.
Although I asked Robert and Elaun to write their pieces separately, their responses are emblematic of the debate more broadly. You should read both pieces in full, not only because they are mercifully short, but because you will quickly notice the difference in the facts that they choose to emphasize or eschew.
Robert’s piece is principally about the economy and foreign policy. He boasts that the Trump economy is performing superbly across a variety of metrics–growth rate, unemployment, investment–and credits Trump’s economic policies including deregulation. He touts what he considers Trump’s foreign policy accomplishments including tough stances against our adversaries like Russia, China, and Iran, in addition to those we have taken against our allies in the name of collective defense. Elaun spends much less time on these topics, but when he does he derides the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as elitist and scorns deregulation. Elaun thinks that Trump has weakened America abroad through his actions and language at home (eg. Muslim ban, family separation, “s***hole” countries).
Elaun’s piece is primarily focused on Trump’s demeanor. He criticizes Trump’s “petulance, crudeness, and cruelty.” Elaun criticizes Trump’s policies is very personal terms: noxious, heartless, hostile, xenophobic, etc. Robert, in contrast, thinks that Trump’s temperament is better described as creative and optimistic. He only concedes that Trump can be “a tad abrupt and bristly.”
Mortimer Adler, a sparring partner of Buckley’s, responded to Buckley’s crystallization of differences comment by saying that conversation leads to “understood agreement or understood disagreement, but understanding comes first.” An optimistic message. But he ends with a stern warning: “People who disagree with what they don’t understand are impertinent, and people who agree with what they don’t understand are inane.” Read both responses yourself and see if anything crystallizes for you.
Reasons to Love Trump and Be Grateful He Is President by Robert Wilkes
Trump is the Most Original Thinker and most Effective President since Teddy Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt was a tireless reformer and man of action. He reformed Civil Service, busted the trusts, created the National Parks, negotiated peace in the Russo-Japanese War, built a great Navy and made Americans feel proud of their young country. He is considered our first modern president and one of our finest.
Trump is out of the same mold, hard-working and passionate, if a tad abrupt and bristly. He attacks our nation’s problems with creativity, optimism and a relentless perseverance. On the Barber Scale of Presidential Character, I rate both as “Active-Positive.” Both were adaptive and pragmatic, happy to be president and highly effective communicators. Compared to the naiveté and miasmic lethargy of “Passive-Negative” Obama (“Two percent growth is the new normal.”), Trump is a burst of sunshine after a sodden winter of discontent.
Just as TR took on the powerful interests at Tammany Hall and Standard Oil, Trump is draining the swamp at State, Justice and our nightmarish regulatory quagmire. He is sweeping out corruption, asinine and dangerous ideologies, partisan patronage and fossilized policy thinking. He promised to repeal two regulations for each new one he created; he has repealed more than 20. The result: strong growth and renewed national confidence.
Trump’s new team is the best I’ve seen in my lifetime. Nicky Haley at the pernicious UN; James Mattis, a tough Marine and a scholar at Defense; Mike Pompeo, the most effective leader at State since George Marshall, and Betsy DeVos, who courageously attacks our rotten education system.
If you’re unaware that Trump has made the economy great again, you’re watching far too much CNN; you’re sitting in the Ministry of Truth watching your daily “two minutes of hate” and spitting at the screen (for the literate among our readers that’s from Orwell’s 1984). It’s happening. In our world CNN and MSNBC spew hate 24 hours a day. News outlets and newspapers lead the resistance and get you enraged, but you’re clueless about things that matter; you’ve absorbed 200 hours about Stormy Daniel’s creepy lawyer and missed the greatest efflorescence of the economy in decades:
- 4% growth, high consumer confidence and retail spending.
- Lowest unemployment in decades; lowest minority unemployment in history.
- High capital investment in plant and equipment; capital returning from overseas.
- Far fewer people on public assistance and income redistribution programs.
- Enormous creativity; we lead the world toward the information revolution.
Geopolitical realism in place of dreamy one-world ideology and appeasement:
- Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are military threats; trump is dealing with all four with strength, determination and crippling economic sanctions.
- Our foreign policy is reality based: we quit the Iran JCPOA, moved our embassy to Jerusalem, closed the embassy in Cuba, kept Guantanamo; are taking a hard line on Turkey and Pakistan, are making the Europeans contribute more to NATO to make it stronger.
Our military was weak and disheveled; Trump is rebuilding after years of neglect.
- Pilots couldn’t fly because of a lack of spare parts.
- The number of ships in the Navy had fallen to nearly what is was before WWI: 275 ships in 2016 compared with 933 when I was in the Navy in 1968.
- Esprit de Corps is rising after the dispiriting and dithering leadership of Obama.
America is leading through strength (and from the front!); we are all safer, the world is safer. When America is strong it’s a blessing for every man, women and child of the nearly 8 billion people on the planet.
The Trump Presidency is Devastating to Americaby Elaun Rave
The Trump administration’s policies are reckless, willfully uninformed, and clearly self serving. The political agenda benefits most the white, evangelical christians, and the very rich in this country. America’s long-standing peaceful and productive relationships with ally countries have been compromised, and our seat at the world table is no longer at the head. (Under Trump’s two year term, America on the world stage has gone from respected democracy to laughing stock.)
But perhaps the thing that most bothers me about the Trump Presidency, is the character of man who holds the highest office in the land.
President is a position to which many young people aspire. The President of the United States is a character symbol to the nation. We have, as this symbol, a man who has refused to denounce Nazi’s, a man who encourages and incites violence, a man who bragged about being able to sexually assault women because of his wealth and power/fame.
Trump’s petulance, crudeness, and cruelty, his lack of empathy, and the way he gleefully puts others down in order to bolster himself, are not only distasteful and appealing, they are also reflected in damaging policies that affect the lives of millions and practices that put America to shame. Here are just a few examples:
- Xenophobia: The muslim ban that has not made America safer incites hatred towards us throughout the Muslim world; negative comments Trump has made about countries in Africa directly lead to Chad ending its counter terrorism work with us; the way he referred to Mexicans during the campaign has normalized racism in America.
- Pitiless Hard Heartedness: The policy of separating children from their parents if they crossed in the US seeking amnesty has done irreparable damage to thousands of families and has created a generation of “Trump kids” who think of America as the place that made them orphans; leaving Puerto Ricans to die without aid contributed to the death of over three thousand US citizens.
- Plutocratic: The GOP tax cut bill has served only to enrich the elite while most Americans got little to no benefits; Trump’s numerous executive orders have been so odious that sometimes even his own advisors hid them from him to prevent their implementation, letting industry run the EPA has degraded the environment and helped to speed climate change.
- Noxious Partisanship: Deriding the Democratic party whenever he can Trump has fueled a widening divide between the right and left in this country; his making no efforts to pass bipartisan legislation has stymied all ability for our government to pass legislation of compromise.
- Hostile Sexism: Allowing the religious right wing to hand pick judges has caused long term degradation in the ability of women to have freedom to do what they want with their bodies, appointing Scott Lloyd as head of the ORR has lead to him forcing pregnancy decisions on immigrants in custody, standing by Roy Moore, Rob Porter and Brett Kavanaugh, and bragging about his own ‘exploits’ has caused women to feel unsafe and promoted rape culture.
- Hubris: His inaccurate boasts about his administration’s accomplishments give his uninformed base the impression that his policies will help them when in fact his supporters are some of the most damaged by them; his myopic “America first” attitude to our allies his pushed away friends and aligned us with fascists.
- Self-Serving: His allegiance to FOX News as a primary news source enforced his willful ignorance about the harms his administration causes, his vacations at Trump properties have cost the tax payers millions of dollars that ultimately enrich him, the nepotism with which he appointed his family to high government positions has lead to woefully unqualified people in key positions.
These actions and policies are harmful and they are just a small fraction of the shameful presidency of Mr. Trump. The man himself as a symbol of a leader is harmful to all who would look up to our president. In every way Trump as president is the opposite of what is good for America and Americans.