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As someone who loves Rappahannock’s clean air and water, not to mention its undeveloped land, I couldn’t possibly vote for President Trump on his environmental record alone. Under the Trump presidency, 72 environmental rules and regulations have been officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back. Another 26 rollbacks are still in progress.

Trump has stood tall on the international stage, redrawing trade agreements more in America's favor, securing a more balanced sharing of the West's defense burdens, taking out the most vicious leaders of radical Islam, orchestrating peace agreements between historical antagonists in the Middle East, and rebuilding and modernizing the nation's defenses.

These measures were taken not in the public interest but with the corrupt intent of maximizing short-term profits primarily for the fossil fuel industry. The costs will be borne not by Trump’s/Biden’s/my generation but by our children and grandchildren, as experts predict the resultant unhealthy air and water will mean thousands of extra deaths each year. Not to mention the untold tragedies from extreme weather events exacerbated by greenhouse-gas emissions. In striking contrast, President Biden would prevent further environmental degradation. 

Four years ago Trump promised to “drain The Swamp,” just as he promised to “build The Wall.” He has done neither, of course; moreover, Trump’s Swamp is especially fetid. It is populated by sycophants and special interests, whose sole motive is to make as much money as quickly as possible. Witness the fossil-fuel lobbyists running the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.

Well-informed Trump supporters recognize this crony capitalism and kleptocracy — not limited, by the way, to environmental policy — but say such behavior is preferable to the “socialism” that Democrats represent. But what could be more socialist than the $20 billion in federal subsidies given to the fossil-fuel industry each year? That conveniently is never acknowledged, never discussed.

Like the “Red Scare” demagoguery of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, the Socialism Scare today distracts from Trump’s trashing of civil discourse, institutional norms, and America’s place in the world. In trying to excuse his mendacity, governmental ignorance and ineptitude, his supporters assert he’s not a typical politician but a savvy businessman who stands up to Communist China.

But isn’t he more of a Reality TV huckster — the viewing audience’s idea of a successful businessman? The record is clear: most of his business ventures lost money; he defrauded creditors, vendors, and gullible consumers over the years; he lost so much money that he paid virtually no income tax the past two decades. But on “Celebrity Apprentice” — the one venture that indeed earned him millions — he played the arrogant billionaire.

As for standing up to Communist China, the record is also clear: he’s failed miserably. Trump’s macho “America First” trade war has only increased America’s trade deficit with the rest of the world, 20 percent higher than in 2016. You would never know this from his bombastic bluster; just check it out.

The farmers and fishermen who voted for Trump are paying the price, as China slapped reciprocal tariffs on everything from Midwest soybeans to Maine lobsters. To mitigate their economic suffering — and shore up his base — Trump has “socialized their losses” through taxpayer-funded emergency grants.

Mercantilism, a kind of socialism, is Trump’s preferred economic program — if he has a program at all. Trump’s government — not market forces — now manages trade, investment, and technology transfers. Instead of coherent policy making, Trump “governs” by narcissistic impulse and tweets. No wonder he surely holds the Presidential record for high-level staff and Cabinet turnover. If they don’t quit, he fires them — but, like all bullies, he’s too cowardly to fire them in person, instead typically by Tweet.

The United States is now being run as a Banana Republic or Mafia organization, in which the selfish (not national) interest of the leader and his family takes precedence. Crony capitalism. Trump’s intricate web of financial self-dealing and obligations to megadonor Sheldon Adelson create the predicate for a lavishly pro-Israel foreign policy. Though the Trump 2016 campaign appealed to Americans wanting to end our “forever wars,” Trump is following Israel down the path to all-out war with Iran.

Other foreign policies, including the international rule-based order that the U.S. spent 75 years building, have been turned upside down by Trump, who signals disdain for traditional allies and admiration for autocrats (which he apparently aspires to be). His anti-European-Union animus stems from EU environmental regulations imposed on his Scottish golf course. He’s admitted as much. Geopolitics for Trump means zero-sum games of very personalized transactional relationships, no more, no less.

Trump’s fomenting trans-Atlantic discord means erosion of Western values of the Enlightenment and the international norms they inspired. While Trump has increased military spending, U.S. “soft power” has now all but vanished. America is no longer Reagan’s “city on a hill” for others to emulate. Rather, Trump’s America inspires not hope but outrage and pity (as America leads the world in COVID-19 deaths).

Trump supporters must not be blind to his incompetence, corruption, lack of policy coherence, but all is forgiven when faced with the alternative of Joe Biden and his leftwing cabal. Socialism! Yea gads and little fishes! So let’s talk about socialism: 

The United States is already socialist to the extent that it embodies a so-called mixed economy, combining both socialism and capitalism. If Obamacare can be called “socialized medicine,” so too can the medicine practiced by the Department of Veterans Affairs, four-part federal Medicare (A, B, C, D) for the elderly and disabled, and state-by-state Medicaid for the poor. 

And take some of America’s greatest capitalist achievements: The Internet, GPS for your cellphones, the first weather satellites — they were all invented by the “socialist” government, to be then monetized by private investors. This mixed economy represents the genius of America with government and private enterprise working together.

Once upon a time in America there was a bipartisan consensus that our leaders should embody reason and character. I long for those days and therefore will vote for Joe Biden, whose moral compass and basic human decency will restore the United States to the greatness, and global respect, that has been frittered away by Trump. Biden will not govern by angry resentment and divisive grievance but lead through integrity and quiet competence — without a carnival barker’s constant braying. 

— The writer is publisher emeritus of the Rappahannock News. His views do not reflect the editorial position of this newspaper, which does not endorse presidential candidates.


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