I have many friends and family that support Trump.
Some I can have great conversations with, but most I cannot.
The ones I can have great conversations with really aren’t that emotionally invested in the politics. To them, Trump speaks to a few core values that they believe he will protect and deliver on, and that’s it.
The most common issues are guns, abortion, immigration, healthcare, tax policy, labor economics, or welfare.
Other common are criminal justice, education, military, trade, religion, terrorism, human rights.
Everything else they don’t care about really.
What I find puzzling about everyone who supports Trump, is that they all acknowledge his character failings, but they don’t seem to mind. They acknowledge he has defects, but they don’t seem to pay them much attention.
In fact, they usually minimize those defects by saying something like “no ones perfect”. This is a convenient way to dismiss or justify inconvenient truths, without requiring additional scrutiny which would inevitably disqualify him as a viable president/candidate.
There are two topics I really enjoy conversing about:
1.) The policies mentioned above, and the philosophical discussions about society and government and the roles and relationships between them. Defining the “common good”, and discussing policies to encourage the common good.
2.) What makes a good leader, or political candidate?
These are two separate philosophical discussions, but often the 1st gets all the attention.
I feel that at this moment in history, the most pressing question is #2: what makes a good leader, or political candidate.
What I observe is that most people have their minds made up about #1. Most political preferences are not even chosen; you are born into them. Statistically, you will possess the same values and voting preferences as your parents, or the community you were born and raised into. It’s very rare for someone to change political values.
#1 is a debate that’s ongoing. It won’t be settled.
#2 is a conversation that historically, for the USA, hasn’t been a huge talking point. I think, fortunately for the USA, we’ve had political candidates on both sides of the isle with strong leadership, and good character, with a universal sense of justice and convicted moral compass. I believe this was because the United States has strong moral values, and the citizens within it knew how to identify good character, and those people rose to leadership positions.
But nowadays, that isn’t the case.
Citizens don’t know what good character looks like, because they don’t have good models for it. We don’t teach virtues in schools or our communities anymore. Most people don’t know what virtue is, or what it means to embody virtues that comprise a good character.
And so, they don’t know a good leader when they see it, and they don’t know the risk of bad character.
In a country with as much prosperity as ours, with as many resources as ours, there have been ample opportunities for good men to rise to the top through sheer will and leadership.
As resources become concentrated in the hands of a few, access to those resources becomes more difficult to acquire, and inequality grows. Those with resources create barriers of entry to reduce competition. They do this a variety of ways, but the most common is through the legal system and property rights.
Those with resources lobby for laws and policies which reduce competition, by making the cost to compete too unbearable. They can introduce complex policies or laws, such as paperwork, or licensing, or permits, or schooling requirements, or certification requirements, or long tedious applications with trivially complex hoops and requirements.
In the end, those with the resources to compete have the resources to navigate these barriers. Those that do not cannot compete, and will not gain access to new resources.
This is not a free market economy. It is a rigged economy.
This is the situation that gives rise to corruption.
In the United States, there are three stakeholders in this game: the capitalists (wealthy), the elected politicians, and the government officials.
1.) The capitalists possess the resources.
2.) The elected politicians design the barriers to protect those resources.
3.) The government officials are the gatekeepers to ensure that those barriers are working as designed.
If you have enough capital resources, you can not only fund a political candidate to designs barriers to protect your resources, you can pay off the government gatekeepers.
A major difference between the policies between republicans and democrats is in which form of capital they prioritize and protect with their policies.
Republicans prioritize material asset capital.
Democrats prioritize human capital.
Republicans believe that by protecting and prioritizing material asset capital, human capital will be improved.
Democrats believe that by protecting and prioritizing human capital, material asset capital will increase.
Corruption is using money or status to create unfair outcomes.
When members of society, and those participating in the justice system, are largely equal in terms of resources and status, justice is fair.
The more inequality within a society, the more corruption. The grater the inequality, the greater the power imbalances, and those with resources that leverage the legal system for gain are participating in corruption, because justice favors those with resources and influence.
It is a fact that Donald Trump did not earn his wealth; this was given to him. Any wealth he did earn was a function of the wealth and resources he already had to leverage in various forms of corruption. This is evident by this incredibly long list of legal proceedings, lawsuits, bankruptcies, criminal complaints, and a litany of court related events.
Back to the original point.
Assuming a good character makes a good leader:
1.) What makes a good character?
2.) How is a good character developed?
3.) What is the value of a good character?
This is a deeply philosophical question with a lengthy discussion, but for our purposes, let’s distill a few key attributes and virtues:
1.) Honesty, Compassion, Work Ethic, Conscientiousness, Good Judgement, Consistency, Dependability, Frugality, Punctuality, Responsibility
2.) Character is developed through challenges, through trials, through struggle, and with personal reflection and contemplation, with a loving and encouraging support system.
3.) It models and encourages behaviors that allow humanity to productively work together as one to achieve common goals, and to persevere through and overcome existential challenges threatening society at large and the individual members comprising society.
In a free market society with healthy competition, only those that embody the highest attributes of character rise to the top. These are the laws of nature.
For example, dishonesty does not encourage trust, which is fundamental for collaboration. If people do not trust each other, they cannot work together, and if we cannot work together, we cannot organize to overcome complex problems that require organizations of humans coordinating together. Each character virtue can be understood on this way.
Only those that possess these virtues are able to participate in organized society in a meaningful way that contributes value. Those who have learned virtue and earned the character are the most productive members of society, and contribute the most value. Society rewards those individuals with resources and status.
Leaders are those who possess the greatest example that people, due to the character they developed and employed.
What happens when society does not know what a good character is, or the value of a good character, is they equate resources and status with good character.
Corruption is when resources and status have not been earned through working through challenges to develop the necessary character to overcome them, but acquired through unjust means.
There are a variety of ways this happens. Manipulation, deception, and other anti-social behaviors. Inheriting wealth provides access to resources, which can then be used to buy status. Keeping wealth that was not earned through working through challenges that develop necessary good character only happens through corruption.
In the end, Trump did not earn his wealth or his status. He has managed to keep wealth through corrupt means.
The leadership status he has managed to achieve through deception and manipulation is reinforced by a defective character which is positioned in the highest seat of authority and power in the world.
This defective character is now a standard of excellence.
Because defective character only survives through corruption, our society will model behaviors that erode the fabric of a healthy community. Trust, compassion, good judgement, compassion, etc, will no longer be modeled. People will no longer work together, but fight. No longer trust, but lie. They will not take responsibility. And they will all Justify these behaviors because the highest position of leadership embodies these defective behaviors.
In addition, of the two discussion I enjoy having with people, #2 is what guarantees #1 gets executed.
When voters elect a candidate strictly on what they want to hear, rather than evaluating the character and qualifications of who is telling them what they want to hear, they are inviting the possibility of deception, by electing a candidate of bad character, who does not represent their values, who will only deliver on values as a means of securing their position of power and influence.
So that’s my problem with Trump.