I know this article is a radical departure from TidBITS ‘usual focus on Apple and technology topics. However, it is not unique and I reserve the right to publish anything I want. As with “A Personal Statement on the War in Iraq” (February 24, 2003), my conscience does not allow me to be quiet where I feel my words can make a difference.
In November, Americans will vote – whether they physically go to the polls – in a presidential election. I strongly encourage all TidBITS readers who are eligible to vote in US elections – visit Vote.org to register to vote, confirm your registration, request an absentee ballot, learn about the COVID-19 impact on your local voting process, and more.
I will vote for Joe Biden as President as soon as my absent ballot paper arrives. The overriding reason is that the last four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, from my perspective, are in strong opposition to my personal and professional values.
As CEO of a company, past and current president of nonprofits, and someone who trains adult athletes and teams, I’m outraged at Trump’s astonishing lack of leadership. I believe leadership is about solving problems and gathering people behind a vision of a better future for all. Trump’s modus operandi is instead relentless self-congratulation, combined with evading responsibility, blaming political enemies and creating conflict among the population. As leader, Trump’s record has been disgusting – the turnover rate among the most influential positions in the president’s executive office is 91%. His failure also extends to the Cabinet, where turnover significantly exceeds that of any other recent administration. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen far better leadership from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Cornell University President Martha Pollack.
As someone with a certain level of expertise in the narrow world of Apple technology, I am appalled by Trump’s continuous efforts to subordinate expertise to ideology and loyalty. The world is far more complex than any person can imagine, much less hope to understand, and perhaps no job in the world is more exposed to that complexity than the US president. And yet Trump has repeatedly ignored or buried scientists’ work, eliminated external advisory committees, downplayed police, accused career authorities of being part of a complex “deep state” and even argued with meteorologists over a hurricane. The true mark of an educated, thoughtful person is that they understand how little they know, especially outside their field, and they welcome input, advice and opinions from experts.
As a journalist for over 30 years, I cringe at Trump’s constant downgrading of the media, and his endless renunciation of any media coverage he disagrees with being “fake news.” The media has its challenges, and there are legitimate concerns with fabricated fictions that are broadcast as news. But the many people I know in the media world are universally dedicated to helping readers, listeners and viewers better understand the world around them. Our jobs are to inform and explain, as far as we know how, using the most accurate information we can find. Many in the media work long hours for relatively low wages and see their work as improving the world. They – and I – do not deserve to be offended and ridiculed by a sitting president.
As a professional writer who thinks carefully about what he says and the effect his words will have on others, I am offended by Trump’s endless excitement of tweets that are nothing more than excuses for public confusion and continued insult to his enemies. Then there are the burning and potentially illegal comments that four minority Democratic congresswomen are joining many other racist comments that will be fired from other federal employees. And I know it’s petty, but the letters and punctuation are horrible. In my view, the president – or any leader – should serve as a role model for positive behavior.
And finally, like some of you, like many of you who have largely stayed home since March, I am disgusted by Trump’s politicized response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the most deadly and economically damaging health crisis the world has suffered since perhaps the flu pandemic of 1918, the unfortunate merger of Trump’s failure has contributed to what will soon be 200,000 deaths in the United States and the need for another $ 5 trillion in government debt. There are more Americans than dead in World War I and the Vietnam War combined, and unless things improve, we will pass the 215,000 casualties in the American Civil War in a few weeks. And that $ 5 trillion will exceed the amount the country spent on fighting World War II.
There are many other reasons why I will never vote for Trump, including his nepotism and comradeship, his admiration for authoritarian leaders, his refusal to publish tax returns, occasional insane proposals such as buying Greenland, his contempt for international groups such as NATO and the WHO. , his request for foreign government interference in US elections, and the many lawsuits against him. But they come down to personal belief in situations where I know little more than what has been reported a lot.
I realize that my examples so far are equivalent to voting against Trump instead of voting for Biden. So be it – Biden’s long-standing overview of public service does not reveal anything that even approaches the well-documented toxicity and ineptitude of Trump’s public actions over the past four years. We can only speculate as to how Biden will react to different situations; we know how Trump has behaved, and there is no reason to expect him to change.
I have spent many hours thinking about, writing and documenting what I have said here in the hope that it will encourage you to vote. My opinions come from my particular background and experience, so I will not tell you how you can vote – it is between you and your conscience.
But at a time when more lives are literally on the line and everyday life is more uncertain than ever in my memory, I think Biden and his management team have far better chances of putting the country back on track. Given the domestic problems of the COVID-19 pandemic, the associated damage to the US and world economies, and the need for international cooperation both in the short term to respond to COVID-19 and in the long term to tackle climate change, no choice in my life has felt just as important.
One last note. I have a rule against political debate in TidBITS Talk. As such, I have disabled comments on this article. If you want to communicate with me about it – in a polite and constructive way, a courtesy that I give to all my correspondents – you can send me a direct email and I will respond as it seems appropriate.