This post is a part of our Political Pen Pals series. If you like it, check out more Political Pen Pals debates here.
William F. Buckley, the intellectual forbearer of the modern conservative movement, once said that the purpose of political discourse is to allow for the “crystallization of differences.” In other words, when we avoid debate, we neither understand where we agree nor where we disagree.
I find this issue to be particularly acute in debates about President Trump. To illustrate this problem, I enlisted the help of two gracious contributors — Robert Wilkes, token Divided We Fall conservative, and Elaun Rave, vocal Trump critic. I asked them both to highlight the reasons why they believe the Trump presidency is either helpful or harmful to our country.
Although I asked Robert and Elaun to write their pieces separately, their responses are emblematic of debates more broadly. You should read both pieces in full, not only because they are mercifully short, but because you will quickly notice the difference in the facts that they choose to emphasize.
Robert’s piece is principally about the economy and foreign policy. He boasts that the Trump economy is performing superbly across a variety of metrics, and credits Trump’s economic policies for this progress. He touts what he considers Trump’s foreign policy accomplishments, including taking tough stances against our adversaries and allies alike, in the name of geopolitical realism. Elaun spends much less time on these topics, but when he does, he criticizes various policies as elitist and scorns deregulation. Elaun further posits that Trump has weakened America’s world standing through his policies and actions at home.
Elaun’s piece is primarily focused on Trump’s demeanor. He criticizes Trump’s “petulance, crudeness, and cruelty.” Elaun evaluates Trump’s policies through the lens of perceived personal shortcomings like heartlessness and hostility. Robert, in contrast, argues that Trump’s temperament can be better described as creative and optimistic. In regards to Trump’s flaws, he only concedes that he can be “a tad abrupt and bristly.”
Mortimer Adler, a sparring partner of Buckley’s, responded to Buckley’s “crystallization of differences” comment by stating that conversation leads to “understood agreement or understood disagreement, but understanding comes first.” An optimistic message, indeed. But Adler ends with a stern warning: “People who disagree with what they don’t understand are impertinent, and people who agree with what they don’t understand are inane.”
Read both responses yourself and see if anything crystallizes for you.
Donald Trump is Exactly What America Needs
By Robert Wilkes
Trump can be described as the most original thinker and most effective president since Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt was a tireless reformer and man of action. He reformed the civil service, busted the trusts, created the national parks, negotiated peace in the Russo-Japanese War, built a formidable Navy, and made many Americans feel proud of their young country. He is considered our first modern president.
Trump is of the same mold — hard-working and passionate, if a tad abrupt and bristly. He attacks our nation’s problems with creativity, optimism, and a relentless perseverance. On the Barber Scale of Presidential Character, I rate both as “active-positive.” Both were adaptive and pragmatic, and highly effective communicators. Compared to the naiveté and miasmic lethargy of Barack Obama, Trump is a welcome change.
Just as TR took on the powerful interests at Tammany Hall and Standard Oil, Trump is addressing the deficiencies at the State and Justice Departments, in addition to our government’s regulatory quagmire. He is sweeping out corruption, dangerous ideologies, partisan patronage, and outdated policy thinking. He promised to repeal two regulations for each new one he created; he has repealed more than 100. The result: strong growth and renewed national confidence.
Trump has assembled a formidable and impressive cabinet. Nicky Haley as ambassador to the United Nations, the first Indian-American to hold a cabinet position; James Mattis, a respected Marine and scholar at the Defense Department; Mike Pompeo, a skilled businessman and diplomat as secretary of state; and Betsy DeVos, a philanthropist dedicated to reforming our flawed education system, leading the Department of Education.
Furthermore, under the Trump administration, our economy has seen record growth. Trump has presided over the greatest efflorescence of the economy in decades, thanks to his creative and skillful initiatives. Several notable achievements include:
- Four percent GDP growth, and high consumer confidence and retail spending.
- The lowest unemployment rates in decades, and the lowest minority unemployment rates in history.
- Fewer people on public assistance and income redistribution programs.
- Enormous creativity and world leadership in the information revolution.
Trump has also spearheaded an advantageous shift in foreign policy. His embrace of geopolitical realism in place of quixotic one-world ideology has advanced U.S. interests abroad. Several notable examples include:
- Dealing with threats like Russia, North Korea, and Iran with strength and determination, such as by imposing crippling economic sanctions.
- Sending a message abroad that we are willing and able to act on difficult matters, such as by quitting the Iran Nuclear Deal, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, keeping Guantanamo open despite efforts by the Obama administration to reduce operations, and pressuring Europe to contribute more to NATO.
Under Trump, America has returned to its status as a strong and effective world leader. For this, we are all safer. When America is strong, it’s a blessing for every man, woman, and child of the nearly eight billion people on the planet.
The Trump Presidency is Devastating to America
By Elaun Rave
The Trump administration’s policies are reckless, willfully uninformed, and clearly self-serving. Its political agenda most benefits whites, evangelical Christians, and the very rich in this country. America’s long-standing peaceful and productive relationships with allies have been compromised, and our seat at the world table is no longer at the head. (Under Trump’s two year term, America on the world stage has gone from respected democracy to laughing stock.)
But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Trump administration is the character of the man who holds the highest office in the land.
The presidency is a position to which many young people aspire. The President of the United States is a character symbol to the nation. We have, as this symbol, a man who has refused to denounce Nazis, a man who encourages and incites violence, and a man who bragged about being able to sexually assault women because of his wealth, power and fame.
Trump’s petulance, crudeness, and cruelty; his lack of empathy; and the way he gleefully puts others down in order to bolster himself are not only distasteful and appaling, they are deeply damaging. His shameful actions have harmed millions and created lasting damage. Here are just a few examples of how his staggering ignorance and heartlessness have negatively impacted the lives of millions:
- His shameful and false portrayal of Mexicans during the campaign has normalized and emboldened racism in America.
- Negative comments he has made about other countries have harmed our national security interests, including by leading Chad to reconsider its counter terrorism work with us.
- His standing by Roy Moore, Rob Porter, and Brett Kavanaugh, in addition to his boasts about his own acts of sexual assault, have promoted rape culture.
- His decision to abandon Puerto Ricans in a time of crisis contributed to the death of over three thousand U.S. citizens.
- By deriding the Democratic party whenever he can, he has fueled a widening divide between the right and left in this country.
- His baseless claims about his administration’s accomplishments give his uninformed base the impression that his policies will help them, when in fact his supporters are some of the most damaged by them.
- His obsessive viewership of FOX News has enforced his willful ignorance about the harms his administration causes.
- His vacations at Trump properties have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
- The unabashed nepotism of his administration has lead to woefully unqualified people in high government positions.
In addition to his personal cruelty and ignorant comments, his administration’s policies have caused serious and lasting harm. Several notable examples include:
- The GOP tax cut bill, which has served only to enrich the elite at the expense of most Americans.
- The Muslim ban, which has incited negative feelings towards us throughout the Muslim world while making us no safer than we were previously.
- Giving industry unprecedented power over the EPA, which has caused enormous harm to the environment and helped to accelerate climate change.
- Separating asylum-seeking children from their parents, which has done irreparable damage to thousands of families and has created a generation of “Trump kids” who think of America as the place that made them orphans.
- Allowing the religious right to hand pick judges, which has caused long-term setbacks to women’s bodily autonomy.
- Spearheading a myopic “America first” grand strategy, which has damaged our relationships with important allies and aligned us more closely with fascists.
These actions and policies are harmful, and they are just a small fraction of the shameful presidency of Mr. Trump. The man, both as an individual and as a symbol of a leader, has caused harm to millions and damaged the dignity of America’s highest office. In every way Donald Trump is the opposite of what is good for America and Americans.
Robert Wilkes, Senior Correspondent at Divided We Fall, is the former president/creative director of Wilkes Creative, a national branding and marketing company. Robert flew 100 combat missions in Vietnam as a Navy attack pilot. He spent ten years in engineering and marketing at Boeing, where his writing skills were called upon for technical papers, marketing assignments, and speeches for Boeing executives. As an activist in pro-Israel politics, he lobbied with AIPAC for 15 years where he met many congressmen and senators from both parties. Robert loves history, enjoys the craft of writing, and has a passion for civil debate. He resides in Bellevue, Washington.
Both authors hold some truths. However, the positive comments were distorted. Much of the growth during Trump’s presidency was the result of Obama’s ten year policies for national growth. Remember, when Obama took over Bush’s failed presidency, his ten year plan was materializing during Trump’s presidency. Trump accomplished very little. His only accomplishments were a tax break for the wealthy and a very Republican push for conservative supreme court picks which were only made possible because of McConnell’s withholding of a democratic Justice, a retirement and a death. Trump had no control over any of it. Other that that everything he did was all through Executive Orders. And, at that, those orders were for the most part very damaging to the American dream. Only the wealthy and well connected benefitted from his decision making. From the negative point of view, his crass and crude nature only provided ammunition for the extreme far right. Most of his decisions were self-serving. He spent very little time serving the people. From the very first week of his presidency he began campaigning for the next election cycle, 2020. He rarely worked with the house to encourage policies. He was always seeking re-election. After four years of constant campaigning, he failed. Why? Because the general public began to realize that he was fake. They realized that the presidency was about himself and not them. He was only able to hold on to those who had been blindsided by his charisma. Now, in 2022, many have come to realize how they have been duped. They have awakened to the fact that he is not what he claimed to be, the savior of America. Only those who are still consumed by his evil spirit are still supporting him. Many of his own followers are only now feeling the negative results of his policies. It will take another two years before the majority of those followers see what is really happening and will eventually abandon him as well.