Thistlethwaite: All threats, no leadership
On Tuesday night, Joe Biden debated. Donald Trump ranted and raved and threatened. That’s why 6 in 10 Americans think Biden won, according to a CNN poll.
The American people lost across the board. Presidential debates are a chance for voters to hear candidates talk about their policies and hear the other person critique them. They got none of that from Trump. Biden was able to make some policy points by wisely talking under Trump’s shouting instead of shouting back.
But there was no debate in the sense of a civilized exchange of views. Biden had policies to share. Trump had the equivalent of verbal tweeting.
Trump looked and sounded like someone in a full-blown panic. He’s scared and he wanted to scare the American people into re-electing him. And he should be scared. Trump faces the possibility of bankruptcy and perhaps even prosecution if he loses the presidency.
Threats are his platform because he has no consistent policies and his administration has been an abject failure.
Health care? Destroy Obamacare. “We’ll have great health care.” Where? When? How? Trump and his minions are in court trying to destroy Obamacare during a pandemic. That’s the only fact.
Trump’s confused, halting, incoherent and false responses to the COVID-19 pandemic came back to haunt him, though he tried to duck them with promises of a vaccine and a muddled response on masks.
“He panicked, or he just looked at the stock market,” Biden said. Probably so.
Racism? Joe Biden cogently named increasing racism as a problem Americans need to address, but Trump inflamed racist polarization. In what was arguably the low point of the non-debate debate, Trump flatly refused to condemn white supremacy. Instead, he called on racist groups like the “Proud Boys” to “stand back and stand by.”
The “Proud Boys” reject what they call “white guilt.” They want to end welfare, close the border, and they have profoundly anti-Muslim views. Their misogynist attitudes are extreme. They deny rape is necessarily a crime and disparage women. “Maybe the reason I’m sexist is because women are dumb,” co-founder Gavin McInnes said on his radio show.
Questioning the validity of systemic racism, women’s reports of rape and claiming “women are dumb?”That’s a fine group of men you won’t disavow, Trump. You just wanted us to be afraid of them.
No wonder Nicole Wallace of MSNBC said Trump’s debate performance felt like an “assault” on American politics.
I thought it felt like an “assault” and it was supposed to. I wrote early in the Trump administration that I believed “The trajectory from humiliation to intimidation to threats of violence is a classic pattern of domestic abuse and it is now the reigning political philosophy” of the Trump administration.
There are real threats to our lives and our planet. I know that human-caused climate change is a threat to human and animal life on Earth. Just look at the devastation caused by fires raging in the western states. Every year since we have lived here in the Vail Valley, the summer and early fall has been hotter, drier and the fires more extreme and devastating.
That’s an assault.
But as fires devastate the western states, Trump’s response in the debate was a refrain about taking care of the forests. Wake up, Trump. Fifty-seven percent of the forests that are burning are on federal land. The whole Trump administration, according to Inside Climate News, the Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit, “has undone or delayed — or tried to — most regulatory and executive actions related to climate change, while proposing new ones to accelerate fossil fuel development.”
The good news about the debate that wasn’t is that the very thing so many of us have been saying was on full display.
Trump is all threats and no leadership.
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary. She and her husband now make their home in the Vail Valley.
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