Sunday, April 10, 2016

Admitting I May Have Spoken Too Soon

I've published a couple blog posts recently that downplayed how scary Donald Trump is. I still stand by many of the arguments I made, but I think I may have failed to properly acknowledge the danger I now firmly believe that Trump poses. To be clear, I was never arguing that anyone should vote for Trump or support him over Hillary Clinton, but the idea of Trump seemed, well, maybe bearable if it meant that in four years we could get a genuine progressive--not a Clinton--into office. No longer.

(Picture taken from Wikipedia)
For one thing, I think there were some issues I failed to properly account for. For instance, I noted that Trump sounds less hawkish than his fellow Republicans--and even less so than Hillary--when it comes to issues like Assad, Libya, and Iraq. This is true. However, Hussein, Gaddafi, and Assad were all secular nationalist dictators, and Trump's argument against toppling them is that their countries have been (or would be) overrun by jihadis as a result. He's right, but I mistook this as a sign he is dovish, at least compared to the neocons, and perhaps more dovish than Clinton (who's basically a soft-core neocon).

That was a mistake. While Trump may not be eager to topple secular dictators--and rightly not--the reason is because it results in the spread of jihadism, and it doesn't indicate that he would be dovish at all when it comes to jihadists--which is pretty concerning when we're involved in a conflict with ISIS. The answer to how far Trump would be willing to go is hinted at by his refusal to rule out nuking ISIS. Like a lot of the crap that spews forth from Trump's oral cavity--a veritable Old Faithful of crap-spewing--this is probably bluster, but it's dangerous bluster. The idea of the US nuking the Middle East should raise alarms all over the world. And if Trump is willing to keep that option on the table--even for the sake of looking macho--that's good reason to believe he could still be very, very vicious and dangerous in fighting ISIS, at the expense of the people who happen to be living nearby.

Speaking of nukes, there's also his talk of no longer offering protection to South Korea and Japan and encouraging them to develop their own nuclear weapons. This is a genuinely awful idea, and very dangerous even if it's more bluster. If Japan or South Korea believe that the US no longer intends to keep them under its security umbrella, and would be willing to let them develop their own arsenal, either country--particularly South Korea--might just do that. That would be a serious blow to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, resulting in other countries demanding the right to develop their own nuclear weapons--increasing both the risk of nuclear war and the risk of terrorists getting material to create a "dirty bomb" (if not getting their hands on a nuke itself). Those aren't the sort of dangers you laugh off.

Domestically, I think perhaps I underestimated how bad he could be as well. As mentioned, Trump's full of bluster, and I doubt he'd really try to shut down mosques or deport every illegal immigrant. But he's been happy to tap into those fears to gain support, and I see no reason to think he'd stop as president. He'd likely enact some token policies to deal with the Muslim Question and the Illegal Question, but the real concern is the impact a president who's a spokesman for hate and bigotry could be. We've already seen violence from Trump's supporters. Imagine what we might see if the head of the country is there normalizing xenophobia and Islamophobia every day.

So was I wrong to think Trump wouldn't be as bad as Bush? I don't think I was. It would be hard to be as damaging a president as Bush was. But Bush took office before the economy had taken the sucker-punch to the gut that was the Great Recession, before we were already enmeshed in wars in the Middle East, and before 9/11 had happened. The country is in much shakier shape now than it was when Bush took office, and a less damaging president than Bush could still put us into a very, very bad situation.

So, very reluctantly, if it's what it takes to prevent Trump from gaining office, I will vote for Hillary Clinton. Clinton represents everything I hate about modern politics, but Trump is even worse than that. He may sound better than Clinton at times--he may even really be better than Clinton on some important issues--but she isn't willing to throw around the idea of nuking ISIS (or nuking frigging Europe, which is truly insane) or letting other countries develop their own nuclear arsenals and yanking the security blanket we've provided out from under them, as they worry about their neighbors and the real or imagined threat they pose. Nor does she seem eager to exploit xenophobia or Islamophobia to her advantage. So, yes, it's worth supporting her over Trump, even if it would mean we probably wouldn't have a chance of having a progressive president until at least 2025.

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