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“It’s Not His Politics That Worries Me”: Donald Trump And The Decline Of American Character–A Cautionary Tale

There is no disputing that Donald Trump is having a significant impact on the 2016 presidential sweepstakes—something that many Americans apparently view as a great step forward on the American political scene.

Indeed, to a portion of the electorate, Trump’s current political success is a positive development that represents the rise of a candidate willing to “tell it like it is”—despite the fact that so much of what Mr. Trump tells us is the precise opposite of telling it like it is.

To other Americans, Mr. Trump’s political rise is little more than a sideshow extravaganza—good for making your favorite news broadcast more entertaining but, ultimately, devoid of substance and doomed to failure.

To me, the rise of Donald Trump is an American tragedy serving as a cautionary tale of what we are becoming as a society and the need to rediscover true American values before they are gone forever.

I don’t offer this viewpoint because of my disagreement with The Donald on his politics.

In truth, I really don’t know what Mr. Trump’s politics are—given the extraordinary disparity between his professed liberal politics of just a few years ago and his hard line approach to political issues of today. Trump 1.0 favored a path to citizenship for illegals and a universal health care system. Trump 2.0 takes a far more conservative approach towards immigration and is critical of anything and everything done by the Obama Administration.

Yet, it is not his politics that worries me. It is his character and how Americans are responding to it that I find so disturbing in terms of the very character of the nation.

If you think character doesn’t matter, I would remind you that being the American President is all about character—and character is often best judged by how successfully we take to heart the lessons passed down from parent to child over many generations.

It is certainly true that Trump has succeeded in fulfilling one of the character traits parents work to instill in their children—the drive to be successful.

While I fear that Trump is taking the lazy way out in his presidential campaign, as demonstrated by his refusal to prepare in favor of just “winging” it in his speeches and the policy pronouncements he has provided, his great success in business could not have happened without the willingness to work hard to accomplish great success. This is a trait that would cause most any American parent to glow with pride.

Certainly, it didn’t hurt that Mr. Trump was provided a running, head start by his own father, a successful real estate developer in his own right who turned his business over to his son. Still, you don’t take a successful business and turn it into a mega-empire without a lot of hard work.

But this is where behavior that would make your parents proud comes to an end.

Can you imagine what your mother would say to you were you to grow up to become an obnoxious braggart who constantly rises to remind anyone who will listen that you are very, very rich? Can you imagine what your father would say if you took it upon yourself to constantly intone on your own remarkable greatness and how anyone who disagrees with you is unworthy of respect or worse?

And can you imagine what your parents and grandparents would think of a society where this borderline psychotic self-aggrandizement is actually appreciated and cheered by the populace?

Many of us were taught that if you have nothing nice to say about someone then you should just say nothing at all.

Of course, I realize that this is a rule that doesn’t apply in the world of politics, particularly when it becomes necessary to respond to a charge or an attack from an opposing politician. Yet, even in the brutal world of politics there have long been rules of engagement when doing battle—and The Donald appears more than willing to happily break them all.

Personal attacks on character are nothing new in American politics. However, it is our tradition that when a presidential candidate has something awful to say about another presidential candidate, it is left to a surrogate to do the dirty work. This has always been the case because of the importance that somebody seeking the presidency be viewed as too principled, too decent and, yes, having far too much character to descend into the gutter.

When John Adams, in the first contested presidential battle in our nation’s history, wanted to take a serious character shot at his opponent, Thomas Jefferson, Adams did not take on the job himself as that would have been in exceedingly bad taste and represent conduct unbefitting a president. Instead, he had his surrogate, Alexander Hamilton, write an article in the Gazette of the United States accusing Jefferson of having an affair with one of his slaves. This was a very big deal at that point in history and likely played a role in Jefferson’s defeat.

When John Quincy Adams was campaigning against Andrew Jackson in the 1828 race for the White House, he did not stand up and accuse Jackson’s mother of being a prostitute and Jackson’s wife of being an adulteress. Instead he left it to the Coffin Handbills distributed by supporters of John Quincy to do the dirty work. Why? Because presidential candidates must show the character necessary to run the nation and getting directly involved with such base attacks would not do.

It remains the case in the modern era to leave it to a surrogate to do the dirty work for those who wish to be the leader of the nation—and with good reason. How a president’s character is viewed plays a serious role in that individual’s ability to succeed in the job, both at home and abroad.

When it comes to letting the nation know how amazing a candidate is and how lucky the country is that a particular candidate would bless us with his or her service to the nation, your parents would quickly remind you that it is best to allow other people to sing your praises rather than to sing your own in symphonic measures.

This is the great tragedy of Donald Trump. For all I know, Trump might have the talent to excel in the job. But there is no way that I would bet on his success given the megalomania that exudes from every pore of his body.

Does anyone remember when the key knock on Obama was that he was arrogant? Yet, many who lodged that charged are the very people who support Trump’s behavior, despite it taking arrogance to a new and previously unseen level.

The willingness of many to now accept such behavior is, in my estimation, a great tragedy in the current state of the nation. When so many would take a positive view of character deficiencies that would once not only disqualify one who seeks to lead the nation but further disqualify that individual from meriting an invitation to cocktail party, we’ve got a serious problem.

Think about it. It used to be that nobody likes a braggart and a bore—now, a significant percentage of the public wants one to be the president.

Is this really what and who we want to be?

I sincerely hope not.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 24, 2015

August 3, 2015 - Posted by | Donald Trump, Electorate, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I don’t think I agree that it’s a sign of great character to leave the dirt-throwing to the surrogates – after all, if a candidate realizes that a smear attack on the opponent could seem unpresidential but approves the smear attack to be done by the associate anyway, that’s probably the opposite of great character. It’s a good quality for a president to have – ability to delegate and keep up the appearances – but it’s not a sign of a great character.

    Like

    Comment by List of X | August 3, 2015 | Reply

    • Agree. If you have something to say, good or bad, stand up and be accountable. The other problem is that it sends the wrong message to surrogates as they assume you would agree with whatever they do, which is also a reflection of your character.

      Like

      Comment by raemd95 | August 3, 2015 | Reply


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