As the United States’ presidential election approaches, I hope all voters reflect on the current state of America before casting their ballots. In doing so, I would ask them to also consider one simple question: Is America in better shape today than it was four years ago? Just look at where America is today:
- Donald Trump’s hubris, anti-science mindset, and inaction have enabled a pandemic to take root and grow stronger daily. America leads the world in COVID cases and COVID-related deaths. Although much of the illness and death caused by COVID was preventable, Donald Trump instead chose inertia, leaving the fight against a pandemic to governors, mayors, and chance.
- Under President Trump, the character and fundamental nature of our nation have been markedly sullied, as he has transformed America into an ugly and almost unrecognizable place. America’s standing in the world has plummeted and declines every day under the misconduct of a President who has alienated our allies, embarrassed us, and turned our country increasingly hostile. Donald Trump once claimed that the world was laughing at us. Sadly, he was prescient on this point – as a result of his words, crass behavior, and continual blunders the world is now laughing at us, if not lamenting our decline. Contrary to the dubious aspiration of his hackneyed campaign slogan – Make America Great Again – America looks anything but great these days.
- Journalists and news outlets are discounted and maligned when they pose reasonable questions or are critical of the President in any way. Instead of being valued constituents of our democracy, journalists are now caricatured as the “enemy of the people” - villains promoting a vaguely and erroneously dubbed “fake news”. Press briefings are exercises in futility in which lies and inane verbal gymnastics are invoked to defend the President’s ongoing reprehensible behavior or absolve his culpability.
- The Constitution and nuanced system of checks and balances painstakingly established by America’s founders have become quaint relics, flouted by the President and his cronies - cronies who disregard ethics and the Constitution for the transient favor of Donald Trump and his supporters. As a result, our Constitution and system of checks and balances are no longer respected as cornerstones of our democracy.
- Taking in the news long ago became exhausting and demoralizing. Every day brings new chaos and humiliations as Donald Trump insults a political rival or one of our allies, rambles nonsensically through a speech or his response to a reporter’s question, panders in dishonest hyperbole, egregiously flouts the norms of civility, or violates legal and Constitutional mandates.
- Under President Trump we have become a nation of self-righteous whiners. During World War II Americans collectively sacrificed in many ways, including by rationing food and other goods. But today, when the simple act of wearing a mask protects others from a potentially lethal virus and drastically curbs the spread of that virus, many Americans indignantly wail that masks represent a violation of their rights. Stunningly, it is our President who, despite a growing pandemic, encourages and models this selfish defiance.
- Ignorance and wishful thinking have replaced science and data as guideposts in decision-making, while the experience and informed advice of experts is mocked and disregarded. Although Donald Trump’s presidency is rife with examples of a disdain for data and expertise, none is more lethal than his reckless, laissez-faire response to COVID-19.
- Immigrants, people of color, and other marginalized groups are blatantly harassed and attacked. Civil rights and human decency have been displaced by a prejudicial and parochial worldview. Overt prejudice and white supremacy are on full garish display, tacitly if not openly endorsed by the President. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has singled-out white supremacy as the most significant threat to the United States. Furthermore, President Trump’s response to Black Lives Matter demonstrations as well as the protests following George Floyd’s death and the shooting of Jacob Blake show quite clearly that his priorities do not match those of the American people.
- America today is viciously divided. During the past four years, insulting, mocking, and even assaulting others with whom one disagrees has taken precedence over respectfully debating the substance of issues. And it is the President who repeatedly serves as an exemplar and catalyst for this deterioration in our civil discourse. The phrase E Pluribus Unum once captured the essence of a nation united. But under Donald Trump, divisiveness, not unity, is America’s watchword.
So as Americans approach the ballot this November, I hope they allow both this question – Is America in better shape today than it was four years ago? - and its indisputable answer guide their votes.
The views expressed in this letter are Dan Segrist’s and do not represent those of his employer or any other organization with which he is affiliated.