With perhaps the only presidential “debate” this election cycle in the rear-view mirror – described politely on MSNBC by ex-Trump lawyer/fixer and felon Michael Cohen as a “fecal-display” – and a November 3rd election looming on the near horizon (unless the President can find some creative way to delay it), it is timely to look back over the past four mad years and consider how President Trump scores on American Values 101.
What are American values exactly?
While there is no one document or piece of legislation that defines American values, they are to some extent inherent in the Declaration of Independence; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
In these words, Thomas Jefferson established the founding core values of equality; and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He also embedded six key principles; Popular Sovereignty, Limited Government, Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, Judicial Review, and Federalism.
According to the Democracy Central Project (DCP), “Core democratic values are the fundamental beliefs and Constitutional principles of American society, which unite all Americans. These values are expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and other significant documents, speeches and writings of the nation.”
DCP lists ten core values based upon a 1991 paper “Civitas: A Framework for Civic Education, National Council for the Social Studies Bulletin, No. 86” by Charles F. Bahmueller PhD; Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness, Justice, Common Good, Equality, Truth, Diversity, Popular Sovereignty, and Patriotism. If Free Speech seems noticeably absent, it stems from the right to Liberty.
What does President Trump’s scorecard look like then, near the end of his first term?
Life – well… 214,108 COVID-19 deaths in the US as of October 12th. The President knew in January, but failed to take appropriate measures to protect the public. Trump ignored the National Security Council pandemic response playbook, and disbanded the NSC bio-defence directorate in 2018. Fail.
Liberty (freedom to exercise fundamental rights) – the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights lists over 200 civil and human rights roll-backs by Trump since 2017. Fail.
Pursuit of Happiness – hard, when you are living in a post-industrial urban wasteland or tent-city, are unemployed or bankrupted, and have no health care. Fail.
Justice – while Trump has been supportive of law enforcement, he has also been appointing conservative judges at near record levels. These include two Supreme Court justices and nearly two hundred lifetime judges to lower federal courts. Justice for all… all Republicans. Fail.
Common Good – most of Trump’s actions have demonstrated a total disregard for the “common good”, favoring instead a “plutocratic insurgency” of wealthy elites. Fail.
Equality – the US Gini coefficient, a measure of wealth and income inequality, has been steadily rising over the past decade, and is now at a record high of 0.4822. Wealth and income gaps are the highest of any G7 country. Fail.
Truth – by July the Washington Post had catalogued over 20,000 lies told by Trump since inauguration, over 23 a day. Fail.
Diversity – Trump’s position on immigration and diversity have been widely reported as unsupportive. Fail.
Popular Sovereignty – the Constitution establishes the principle that government derives its’ power from the people…as in “We the People”. Pledging to “drain the swamp” during his 2016 campaign, Trump has drained it directly into his administration; naming more lobbyists to Cabinet-level posts than both Obama and Bush combined, and hiring hundreds of lobbyists. Under Trump, it is “We the People with lobbyists”. Fail.
Patriotism – Trump talks the game, but sides with US enemies while alienating allies. The Open Letter to America by NSL4B makes this point. Fail.
Trump leveraged American values and patriotic sentiment to get elected in 2016 with the slogan “Make America Great Again”, however his scorecard on American values suggests that he may in fact be the least American president in US history.