Donald Trump at the U.N. meeting in September. (Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images)
The Meadows School

Opinion: Morality in the Trump Era

Can you judge a person by their political beliefs?

It’s a polarizing question, but everything has become more polarizing during the tumultuous time period from the years leading up to Trump’s election to the foreseeable future.

The answer? It is possible.

Political beliefs are still a reflection of a person’s moral and general beliefs, no matter how people try to separate them. People will naturally have different beliefs on how the government should function and change their votes based on how certain policies affect them, foremost. A CEO with more money will likely vote conservative in order to keep their fortune intact. A lesbian woman will likely lean liberal because she knows that her civil rights will be better protected. People have reasons for voting Republican or Democrat or anything in between, but that doesn’t mean those reasons don’t give insight into who they are as people.

The era of Trump is a little different. No modern candidate has been as outwardly inflammatory as Donald Trump has been. No modern candidate has actively espoused (or at least, been blatantly unapologetic) of racist and sexist views. Who can forget his classic “grab her by the pussy” or declaration that all Haitians have AIDS? It is hateful rhetoric at its finest.

Previous candidates regardless of party have been guided by at least a common thread of morality. They seemed like genuine people who genuinely loved their families; that mourned tragedy; It’s not a far leap to say most presidents have been admirable, even eloquent, in presenting themselves to the public. Trump has been brash and bombastic in and out of the office, and everyone knows it. When he says his condolences after another mass shooting or disaster, it feels cheap surrounded by attacks on the news or promotions of himself. He publicly attacks those who disagree with him and praise those who don’t, as seen in his compliments of representative Greg Gianforte for body-slamming a reporter. This is a large change, and his supporters praise this new, informal style.

This is not to say that every person who voted for Trump was a slur-slinging Nazi skinhead. Quite the opposite; some people who voted for Trump voted for him because they genuinely thought he could change their poor situation. Others voted for him because they were much more distanced from the specifics of the election.

Perhaps this has been a long time coming. American political parties (the Republican party is historically guilty of this, but the Democratic party is not without fault) have been willing to be discriminatory in their policies, be it through disenfranchisement, a lack of action, or discriminatory policy. People supported these parties based on their beliefs and what they believed may personally benefit them.

But here’s the problem. At some point, there needs to be a line. At what point are people willing to realize that the world extends beyond their well-being alone? A candidate is not pick-and-choose. When supporting Trump, one can actively disagree with some policies and agree with others, but they take the candidate as a whole. Nonetheless, a vote means that they have excused all his racist/sexist/homophobic remarks for the hope of personal gain. They have said: even if we don’t agree with everything Trump says, we still think it’s okay enough to vote for him. It hints at a privileged, subconsciously biased mindset of “[blank] type of discrimination doesn’t matter to me.” This is a terrifying mindset to consider.

It should not be a bold stance to take that everyone deserves the right to life, or that discrimination is bad, or that we should treat each other with respect. But there is a new generation of people that disagree, blinding attacking people of color and using “gay” as a derogatory insult. These same people refuse to take responsibility for their actions and to step outside the unreality of their beliefs. More and more, the Democratic Party is being seen as the party of morality that is the thin barrier between anything from borderline white-supremacists to conversion-therapy supporters from being in office.

Basic morals should not be a party platform.

Hate crimes in the US’s ten largest cities have increased by 12 percent since last year — the highest level in more than a decade (California State University). The Nigerian army claimed in a now-deleted tweet that a video of Trump comparing rocks thrown by caravan migrants to firearms justified their shooting of rock-throwing protesters.

Radical right-wing views seem normalized on internet forums and popular YouTube channels. News outlets from all over have considered this period an attack on democracy that may well lead to its death, all because a group in power is unwilling to allow others to be equals with them, be it economically through extreme tax breaks for the rich and less support for the poor, or socially through racial or sexual persecution. Equals, not superiors.

There is no solution to this problem of a lack of morality; a callous disregard for others in a worse situation or a willing ignorance. Optimists would believe that a difference can easily be made through peaceful reconciliation, while pessimists would say that some people are too far rooted in their hateful ideas. But we as a people don’t know who is right, because both sides have been proven or disproven at some point. With the election of another populist, pseudo-fascist president in Brazil, we must hope for improvement. But the rocky future looms.