Donald J. Trump has now been inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, but the country is as divided after his inaugural address as it was on election night when Trump proclaimed that he would bring the nation together.
Most of Trump’s supporters apparently like the way he handled the transition — chaos, blazing tweeter and all. Those of us who were repulsed during the campaign by his childish behavior, slights against minorities and women, serial lying, and a constant display of ignorance about major issues, have seen nothing since his election to calm our fears. From cabinet nominations to his attacks on U.S. Intelligence agencies, admiration of Vladimir Putin, time-consuming ego trip (aka “Victory tour”), and crazy tweets, Trump’s words and actions remain deeply troubling.
Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters claim that his opponents are afraid not that Trump will fail, but that he will succeed. They believe that his success would prove that it was Trump’s backers who were right about him all along and that his detractors are not as smart as they think they are.
For this critic, Trump’s success or failure in “Making America Great Again” is not nearly as important as the potential long-term damage that can be caused by a president who consistently challenges America’s most basic and deeply held values. It is Trump’s character and core beliefs, not his agenda, that cause the greatest concern and make it impossible for me and many others to wish him well.
One of Trump’s greatest threats to our society is his near-total disregard for the truth. The philosopher Immanuel Kant once argued that without a “universal norm of truthtelling,” the basis for communication is jeopardized and a society cannot function. In Trump’s America, President Obama was not a citizen, millions of people voted illegally in the recent presidential election and an overweight man on a bed somewhere hacked the Democratic Party’s e-mails. How much long-term damage will our society suffer if the expectation of truthfulness in personal and business relationships is diminished due to the rampant disregard for truth demonstrated by the nation’s highest elected official and those who work for him? How will children learn the value of truth if their president says things daily that are false and even disputes the validity of scientific theories and factual evidence?
And what of our core beliefs in freedom of religion, speech and press? How will they be compromised if President Trump carries through with his threats and promises to register all Muslims, loosen our libel laws, and place new restrictions on the right to protest?
Still another concern is Trump’s attacks on a bedrock component of America’s foreign policy— support of democratic nations and ideals. Based on Trump’s own statements about NATO and other alliances, it appears that our new president is more interested in the monetary cost of our foreign policies than their effects on our friends and allies. This, and Trump’s apparent admiration for Russia’s dictator Vladimir Putin, makes one wonder just how far our new president will go, for example, to prevent Putin from threatening nations such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
If Trump’s words and actions of the past 18 months are any predictor of his presidency, Americans must look beyond his stated domestic and foreign policy agendas just as one should look away from a magician’s dominant hand during a sleight-of-hand trick. Americans must remain vigilant and be prepared to defend society’s most cherished core values from attacks from none other than the president of the United States.
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Lee Raudonis is a former communications director and executive director of the Georgia Republican Party. He also worked for the U.S. House Republican Conference and for a Republican member of Congress from 1992-1996.