Donald Trump?!? What About The Children?
Last week, I reproduced the Open Letter To America from Republican U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, expressing his decision to oppose the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, even though Trump is the presumptive nominee of Sasse’s own political party. I explained that I posted the open letter to Irregular Times because it was worth reacting to. Irregular Times readers have had the opportunity to write their reactions to Sasse’s letter. This week, I’m writing mine. Bit by bit, I’m reviewing Ben Sasse’s anti-Trump rhetoric, not to applaud what it gets right, but to point out what it gets wrong.
In the 2016 presidential election, the principle that the enemy of my enemy can be counted as a friend does not apply. Ben Sasse, as a proponent of right wing ideology, isn’t the kind of leader Americans can rally around in the spirit of unity.
But, to start out, let’s leave the policy aside, and take note of Senator Sasse’s immature model of morality. Sasse suggests that Donald Trump should not be elected President of the United States because Trump isn’t a good role model for children. Being a role model for children isn’t in the job description of the President of the United States. It would be fairly silly if the President was Role Model in chief, given that there are tens of millions of American children, and only one adult who can be elected President of the United States once every four years. The role of President isn’t one that most children should aspire to, either in a specific or a general sense. The role of President requires behavior that is unbalanced and unsustainable outside of a position of extreme power. Our society would be a mess if most of our children grew up learning to act like a President. The roles most of us occupy require something different, something more nuanced, less centered around a public show.
Neither can we fairly say that the President’s job is to set an example of moral adulthood. First of all, as the contentious nomination of Donald Trump proves, as a group, Americans don’t share much agreement about what’s moral and what isn’t. Secondly, the President of the United States is elected in order to execute the laws of the nation, not to preach at us about what’s right and wrong.
Of course we need a nation that’s a safe place for children to grow up in – just as we need the United States to be a safe place for everyone else. It would be a grave mistake to choose an executive leader as a billboard of childrens’ morality, a Mister Rogers in Chief. We need a President who has a subtle, sophisticated view of the world. We need a competent human being with extensive experience in public service.
Ben Sasse is peddling his own version of Republican ideological extremism, covered with a thin veneer of awe-shucks family values. He even ends his Facebook rant with a slather of Father Knows Best: “The sun is mostly set on the Platte River — and the kids need baths. So g’night.”
Give me a break. Senator Sasse spends most nights sleeping in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, not in a pioneer campsite alongside a river in Nebraska. We need leaders with political savvy in our nation’s Capitol not benevolent patriarchs.
Donald Trump is the wrong choice for President, but that’s because of the outrageous abuses of power he has proposed, not because he lacks an endearing paternalistic demeanor.