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Arsonist who will extinguish the flames

In an interesting turn of events, the Republican Party has chosen to approach the November election without a policy platform. Although these documents historically have been of minor interest to voters in their entirety, they have contained statements of positions on specific issues that voters do care about. For example, positions on taxes, health care, race relations, national defense and COVID-19 are core issues for most voters. Instead of issues and remedies, the party has chosen to focus its electoral effort on pure partisanship.

The absence of a coherent platform for evaluating candidates — all candidates, not just a presidential candidate — says a lot about the state of the Republican Party. First of all, the absence of a platform illustrates the inability (or unwillingness) to present a clear, concrete vision of where the party wishes to take the country. Secondly, it is evidence of the fact that the party has been fully captured by a cult of personality, and that personality is Donald Trump. And lastly, it means that a view of the country’s future, and a view of its place in the world, has become secondary to its adversarial view of the opposing party. What the candidate OPPOSES has become more important than what he or she PROPOSES.

Absent any meaningful vision of the future and the party’s surrender to the cult of personality, it’s only reasonable to judge Trump and his fellow Republican candidates based on HIS PAST PERFORMANCE. So, it’s fair to ask, what does that say about how he will deal with the following challenges?

¯ COVID — Trump isn’t responsible for the virus, but he has assured the country that it would go away on its own; he’s claimed that unproven (and sometimes dangerous) treatments were going to save the day; and he’s absolved himself of responsibility for his failures by trying to shift blame for its spread elsewhere (most notably China and the Obama administration). He has also done the moon walk on his role as chief executive, from the role of “war-time president” to “cheerleader,” and then to magical thinker. (What virus?) This, all while the victims pile up like cord wood — over 185,000 and rising, representing over 20% of the world total fatalities by a country with 4% of its population. If logic counts for anything these days, the inescapable conclusion is that we will see more of the same if he is reelected.

¯ The economy — After a period of the worst economic performance since the Great Depression, he has touted jobs numbers. Somehow, a recent 4.5% increase in jobs after a 14.7% decrease is promoted as an accomplishment. And despite the fact that a large chunk of the U.S. economy is tied to recoveries in places like California, metropolitan New York City and Michigan, Trump has adopted a punitive approach intended to punish critics and political adversaries rather than to seek ways to help those regions recover. In the obvious absence of leadership on the virus and the knock-on effect on jobs, the country can expect to see sustained high unemployment and the misery that accompanies it.

¯ Race relations — One of the pillars that Trump’s presidency has been built upon is racial division. That’s no surprise since it’s part of the public record that, as a private citizen, he discriminated against black tenants and attacked the Central Park Five BEFORE THEY WERE TRIED AND AFTER THEY WERE EXONERATED. His entry into the presidential race was preceded by a knowingly false, dog-whistle birther conspiracy; he attacked Mexicans as rapists the very day he entered the race; and he continued to attack Black athletes and Black activists while he was president. Most recently, he has chosen to inflame racial sentiment and divide the country. He may not be responsible for racism in the U.S., but he has stoked its fires throughout his entire adult life. Does anyone really expect that to change if he is reelected?

In the “you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up” category, he has claimed that he alone can solve the problems associated with these challenges. In other words, the arsonist is going to extinguish the flames. To you believers, I’ve got this bridge in Brooklyn …

Bill Gole lives in Lake Placid.

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