America, having elected its first black president, could have gone on to elect its first socialist president or its first female president. Instead, it elected its first sociopath president.
Hillary Clinton is nothing if not experienced: over forty years (starting before her marriage to Bill Clinton), she has been a congressional legal counsel, chair of the Legal Services Corporation, a worker for children’s and women’s rights, First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State. Her opponent insinuated that, being a year older than him, she might not have stamina: on the contrary, during her grueling campaign we found ourselves exclaiming “She must have incredible stamina!” Not all about her is to my liking, but many of the objections raised against her are false. (Read the first bit, about the “insecure email server.”)
Donald Trump is without qualification: has never before held any elected office. (It was surprising how little this was mentioned.) He is, as the New Yorker put it, “a serial liar and shady businessman”. He had public recognition chiefly as the host of a “reality” television show, suited to his arrogance: contestants had to compete for jobs in his businesses by groveling to him. (He so enjoyed barking “You’re fired!” that he tried to copyright the words.) He entered politics by taking up the “birther” conspiracy theory, the falsehood that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. He has been described by those dealing with him, even those working for him, as having “no attention span” and no interest in anything but himself, as being “deranged”.
In the debates against a calm Clinton, he didn’t deign to prepare, or to heed the advice of his handlers or the instructions of the moderator to wait for his turn, and came over as a bullying and inarticulate interrupter, flouting elementary good manners: “What a nasty woman.”
He has called women “ugly” and “pigs.” He bragged (off the record, as he thought) that because of being rich he could with impunity grab any woman “by the pussy.”
He would deport Syrian asylum-seekers. He proposed to ban Muslims from entering the US. He said that Mexicans coming to the US are criminals and rapists, and wants to build a wall along the US-Mexican border. (There is a story that Mexico offers to build and pay for that wall – along the 1836 pre-US-invasion border!) Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” could have been “Make America Hate Again.”
By claiming a loss of $916 million in one year, Trump avoided paying any federal income tax for 18 years; but, when this was revealed, refused to disclose his tax records. He has filed for bankruptcy four times; been involved in 3,500 court cases; faces charges over allegations that he defrauded students who expected a business education at his defunct Trump University, avoided paying his employees, bankrupted small businesses, harassed women, raped a 13-year-old girl – some of these, including the last, are due to put him in court in the near future. (Yet he had the effrontery to describe Clinton as a “criminal” and encourage his supporters to shout “Lock her up!”)
Among other repellent policies, he advocates torture – the near-to-death form of it called waterboarding is a “minor” form and “we should go much stronger than waterboarding.” He would condone Russian aggression, dismantle the nuclear agreement with Iran, ignore North Korea’s progress toward nuclear weapons and instead encourage Japan to develop them. In the last few days of the campaign, his staff managed to block him from using his Twitter account. If a man can’t be trusted not to dash off stupid tweets, he should not be trusted with the nuclear codes that could in minutes set off a world holocaust.
It’s hard to say what is the worst aspect of Trump, but perhaps it’s his ignorance. Ignoring the scientific consensus about global warming, he calls it a hoax – by China, to sabotage the US economy! (For it to be a conspiracy, it would have to involve tens of thousands of peer-reviewed research papers by thousands of scientists in scores of countries.) He has pledged to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, thus wrecking the nations’ perilously belated effort to stop the atmosphere from passing the tipping point toward runaway change. This must agonize the working scientists who see the effects close up: the sickening of forests and their retreat up mountains, the accelerating extinction of species, the permafrost going up in geysers of methane, the floods and droughts as many times per decade as they used to be per century, the dying of coral in acidified seas, the expanses of open sunlight-absorbing water where there used to be sunlight-reflecting ice, and the accelerated melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice streams, each one with enough ice to raise the world ocean by three or four meters.