Tag Archive: Barack Obama

Donald Trump, the Great Divider

Armed white supremacist in Charlottesville, VA

Successful presidents of both political parties are usually the ones who, in times of crisis or difficulty, rise above partisanship and unite America. There are many examples of this, from Abraham Lincoln literally keeping the Union together, to Franklin Roosevelt leading us against Germany and Japan in World War 2, to Ronald Reagan eulogizing the Challenger Space Shuttle astronauts or calling upon Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall, Bill Clinton soothing a shocked America after the Oklahoma City bombing, George W. Bush standing with firefighters at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks, and Barack Obama successfully hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden. We may not agree with the policies these presidents pursue after such crises (for example, Bush’s Iraq War), but at least for a time, these leaders make us feel like we’re part of one big, strong nation.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with Donald Trump. Rather than being a Great Uniter, he has repeatedly proven himself to be the Great Divider, usually along racial and ethnic lines. Indeed, Trump essentially begun his presidential run during Barack Obama’s presidency by being one of the head cheerleaders in the “birther” movement, which questioned Obama’s Americanism and his birth certificate. Trump then ran his own presidential campaign in a divisive manner from the get-go, saying in his presidential announcement speech about Mexican immigrants:

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

From there, Trump has pitted one group (often his base of white males) against another, including the following partial list:

The sad, selfish argument against healthcare

Senate GOP Healthcare bill

In the current debate over Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, one of the saddest arguments to be heard is the one that goes, “why should I pay for someone else’s healthcare?” Such an argument gets many things wrong at once, both intellectually and morally.

First, the entire concept of insurance is a pooling of funds and risk, so that everyone is literally paying for someone else, and vice versa. For example, in South Florida, one is told that car insurance rates are high for all residents because there are many claims due to the large number of tourists getting into trouble with rental cars on unfamiliar roads. Many local residents would rightfully object to paying higher rates for others’ accidents, but that is how insurance works. The idea, however, is that costs are kept down by pooling the risk, for example, such that middle-aged drivers might pay more than they get back in claims, but when they are both very young and very old, they are much more likely to have more claims, so the system balances out. Similarly, the Affordable Care Act (based on a conservative idea from the Heritage Foundation and first implemented by Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts) incorporates premiums paid by younger people, who generally have fewer claims, going more to older and sicker people, but such young people of course could get into a serious accident or become sick themselves any time, plus they are likely to have more claims as they age. Thus, the idea of “why am I paying for someone else?” may only be true for a brief moment.

Social media coverage of Hurricane Harvey brings Americans together

Driver receives assistance in Pearland, TX during Hurricane Harvey

This past weekend, Twitter and Facebook posts about the Mayweather-McGregor fight gave way to posts about Hurricane Harvey making landfall in Texas, and causing tremendous flooding devastation. Since then, as more traditional media such as broadcast and cable TV news are making admirable efforts on the scene with live reporting (and even some rescue work), social media users are sending around gobs of information, donation and volunteering tips, and rescue requests. Here are some of the highlights of social media activity in Houston, around the U.S. and in other countries as well:

Donald Trump and the Nazis

Anti-Nazi demonstration in Pittsburgh in solidarity with Charlottesville victims

The latest tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia can be laid at the doorstep of Donald Trump‘s White House. After a terrorist attack by a white supremacist at a neo-Nazi rally that left one counter-protester, Heather Heyer, dead and multiple people wounded (two Virginia state troopers were also killed when their helicopter crashed on the way to the scene), Trump could not condemn the right wing hate. Instead, shockingly, he said:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.

Obviously, there are not “many sides” to the white supremacist hate on parade in Charlottesville. There were the bigoted haters, some of them armed, and the people who came out to protest against them. The terrorist, James Fields, even chose the same method of driving a vehicle into a crowd of civilians as is used in other terrorist incidents. Even web hosting company GoDaddy has dumped white supremacist website the Daily Stormer, after the site posted a vicious attack on Heather Heyer which followed its promotion of the Charlottesville rally.

Republicans find out they have nowhere to hide

GOP Health Plan

On Monday night and Tuesday, the latest Republican Senate scheme to repeal the Affordable Care Act but not replace it for two years, went down in flames. Republican Senators including Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Shelley Moore Capito came out against moving the plan forward in the Senate, effectively killing this version for now.

Republicans are learning a powerful lesson: the obstructionism that worked for them when they did not control all three branches of government does not work when they do.

How to get back at Trump for pulling us out of Paris Climate Agreement

Flooding in Miami Beach, Florida

As many people feared, Donald Trump yesterday withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement that was signed by 195 nations. Trump has added America to an extremely short list of outliers, including only Syria and Nicaragua. However, all is not doom and gloom as a result of Trump’s bad decision. First, plenty of state officials and companies will continue their commitment to fight climate change, for example, by deploying more clean energy such as solar and wind power. Second, there are many efforts each of us can make to bridge the climate change gap that Donald Trump is creating:

A positive approach to save the world

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

Many people at this very moment are hating Donald Trump. They’re criticizing him on Twitter (his favorite insult forum), Facebook and other social media. They’re commiserating with their friends and co-workers by telling each other what a disaster Trump is or mentioning Trump’s latest move with disdain or despair. These folks should ask themselves what their goal really is. If their goal is to turn America around and effect positive change once again, then perhaps a more positive approach is called for.

The cold hard math of the Democratic primaries — Part 2

Bernie Sanders speaking, January 2016

Bernie Sanders speaking, January 2016

Bernie Sanders is no doubt celebrating his narrow win over Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Democratic Primary last night, and Sanders is getting plenty of media buzz today. Unfortunately, Sanders’ win may be too little, too late, due to the cold hard math of the Democratic primaries.

Democratic vs. Republican Presidents Part 5: The Environment and Climate Change

Intermountain Power Project coal-fired plant, Utah

Intermountain Power Project coal-fired plant, Utah

The death of Republican U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has refocused attention on how much is at stake in the 2016 presidential election. We have an ongoing series on this subject, including the president’s power to nominate Supreme Court justices and other federal court judges. Another area of great importance and great difference between the parties which is at stake in November is the future of our environment, including fighting climate change.

Barack Obama channels Reagan and JFK in State of the Union

President Obama speaks at the Pentagon last December

President Obama speaks at the Pentagon last December

President Barack Obama‘s final State of the Union address last night was marked by an optimistic, confident tone in promoting America’s values and its leadership position for the future. In doing so, Obama was reminiscent of two presidents who loom large in our recent history: Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy.