Let me make almost everyone unhappy. I can’t decide what will be worse: four more years of President Donald Trump or putting the Democrats in charge of the government. Save your letters and emails. I won’t be party to either.
That was my opinion in 2016, and over the past four years, nothing happened that made me change that view.
We ask U.S. presidents to excel at three skills: leadership, administration and policy-making.
I continue to see the same flaws in Trump that I saw then. Many of his insults regarding his 2016 rivals were low blows, worthy perhaps of the World Wrestling Federation, but not of the nation’s highest office. Attacking POWs and Gold Star parents was beyond the pale.
That behavior has continued even after becoming the world’s most powerful politician. The result is that now we have become a snarling, angry country of 330 million. That’s what poor leadership does. Good leaders inspire loyalty to the nation, not just themselves. That causes even those who don’t agree with them on various issues to give those leaders the benefit of the doubt. Trump’s blame game generates more hostility than harmony.
The one thing the nation learned since he became president is that he is not a particularly good administrator. He doesn’t trust many people beyond his own family. The quickest path to fame and fortune in Washington, D.C., these days is to work for Trump for six to 12 months, and then secure a tell-all book deal. He has turned over high-ranking assistants more than any recent president, suggesting either bad hiring or bad guidance.
I do like some of Trump’s policies, but I’m more of a conservative than a Republican. For good reason, conservatives doubt the efficacy of government; we don’t see it changing hearts and minds as much as its heavy-handed ways disrupting society and business to the unintended detriment of many. If one cares at all about the nation’s future, one doesn’t slash taxes, and then two months later move to increase discretionary spending 9%, as happened in 2017-18. Deficit spending should be used only in a crisis, such as COVID has caused, not when the nation is at full employment, as it was just seven months ago.
Regardless, the Democrats are frightening me more than at any time in my life. They have presented Joe Biden as an “old-line” Democrat, who understands working class America more than Trump ever could. He’s old; he’s harmless, or so they say.
But, behind Biden is a Democratic Party that I don’t recognize. When the Minneapolis City Council first said they wanted to “defund” the police, it was sincere. Many long-time Democrats have since tried to say that’s not what they meant, but it was no slip of the tongue. These liberals think social workers can replace cops, and embrace unaffordable Medicare for All and Green New Deal proposals. They want change now as outlined in the Democrats’ national platform, 99% of which results in more government. Even though some of their candidates are denying that they support such extremism, DFL voters are backing it at the polls.
In Minnesota, millions were spent to oust the radical 5th District Rep. Ilhan Omar in the DFL primary — and she still won easily. Omar is now the face of the new Minnesota DFL.
More importantly, four veteran DFL legislators, with 39 years of collective experience, were ousted by more progressive candidates in the same primary, two senators, two in the House. The newcomers will push hard to shut down as many pipelines and mining operations in Greater Minnesota as they can and to bring health care under complete government control. Higher auto prices and utility bills are in the offing if they gain total control of state government.
The biggest threat to the well-being of all is the Democrats’ inability to maintain law and order. It is as if they are tempting Trump to send in federal troops so they can label him a dictator. However, except for one minor incursion into Portland, Ore., to protect federal property, he hasn’t taken the bait. If that was their plan, the Democrats are now caught in a trap. If the riots magically stop with Biden’s election, we will all know that the wanton looting and destruction of billions of dollars in private property was about politics, not racism. If the riots continue, under either Biden or Trump, Americans will re-learn the hard truth that once the violence genie is let out of the bottle, the only way to put it back is with even greater force. As much as I pray for peace, that’s reality.
One in 15 Minnesotans think the only office that matters is the presidency. In 2018, 356,916 fewer people voted in this state than in 2016. More than one-third didn’t even bother. But, while many people believe that losing to either Trump or Biden is an existential threat to the republic, I think the most important outcome of this election will be who controls the Congress and the Minnesota Legislature. Faced with a bankrupt federal government and a $4 billion swing in the state’s fiscal fortunes, the result legislatively may well make you more unhappy than this column has.
Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.