Thursday, October 29, 2020

Anatomy of a Failed Presidency

US president Donald Trump is a failure. He has consistently foundered throughout his life but the presidency has exponentially amplified the scale of his failings. Despite repeated warnings Trump chose to playdown the Coronavirus and this may prove to be his apex of evil. More than 228,000 Americans have died due to this pandemic and an additional 200,000 are expected to die by the end of the year.  Trump's corruption may be legendary but it is eclipsed by his epic mismanagement of the pandemic.  His inactions will go down in history as one of the most callous failures of any president in the history of the republic. It is not only that he is not doing enough, Trump is a superspreader of both the virus and disinformation. He has actively undermined efforts to manage the pandemic derided his own government’s guidance and mocking those who follow the rules.  These actions are directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. According to research out of Columbia University Trump could have saved between 130,000 - 210,000 lives had he listened to the science and acted responsibly. 

It is due to Trump that the U.S. has the highest COVID-19 case count and death toll of any country in the world. Every four days a 911 sized tragedy is taking place in the country and the federal government is doing nothing to stop it. Trump is overseeing the most devastating health crisis in more than a century and yet instead of developing a plan he blatantly lies telling people "we have turned a corner" even as new cases reach an all time high. He attacks those who advocate science-based approaches to managing the pandemic including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Even after his infamous superspreader event in the Rose Garden and his own diagnosis he continues to hold rallies where many people do not wear masks.

Trump likes to tout his economic record but the truth is he inherited a strong economy from the Obama administration. His failure to manage the virus has wiped out his economic gains and it will have a lasting effect on both employment and the economy. The US is in a downturn that is far worse than it needed to be . With strong leadership the numbers of people infected and killed by the virus could have been much lower and this would have also saved jobs. Instead Americans are looking at a bleak economic picture. The GDP is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, often claimed by Trump as a marker of success, fell by 900 points recently. One stimulus package was passed but Republicans could not agree on a second. While Americans are getting no relief, Trump used the pandemic to enrich his friends and family.  

Trump's eradication of environmental protections are a defining feature of his administration and this has increased both morbidity and mortality. In the first part of 2020 Trump killed more than a half dozen environmental regulations adding to the 88 he ended in his first three years in office. Trump's seemingly endless barrage of environmental insults continues as we approach the November 3rd national election. As reported by the Washington Post the Trump administration told federal agencies to limit their calculation of greenhouse gas emissions for the approval process of new projects. As a consequence federal agencies no longer have to take a project's long term climate impacts into account. In September the administration announced that it was going to rescind the roadless role in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. The Trump administration's war on wildlife included repeated attacks against the ESA. In their most recent assault they announced a rule that could devastate large areas of national forests by opening them to oil and gas drilling. Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a proposal that would further weaken the ESA and the U.S. Department of the Interior formally opened up 1.5 million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. 

There is a symbiotic relationship between Trump and the fossil fuel industry. Throughout the pandemic Trump has helped fossil fuel companies by directing millions of dollars in small business assistance to the industry. As reported by the Guardian he has also used his his executive powers to fast-track dozens of fossil fuel projects. Trump also makes cozy arrangements with mining interests like those who secured approval for a controversial gold mine near the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska. 

Trump not only gives sweetheart deals to the extractive industry he also takes shots at clean energy. From the beginning of his presidency he made it clear that he loves fossil fuels and hates renewables. He has actively undermined renwables to help dirty energy.  It is hard to ignore the fact that Trump's actions have hurt clean energy and the conclusion that this administration's policy of energy inefficiency is insane. These actions continue to this day. As reported recently by Greentech Media, Trump recently moved to increase solar import tariffs from 15 to 18 percent and he also wants to increase their duration and eliminate the exemption for bifacial solar panels. 

This administration's war with science is being challenged by the pandemic which has contributed to an increased interest in facts.  Trump has a history of burying science that expose the wanton destruction of this policies. This is precisely what he did with the Government's Fourth National Climate Assessment. Many of his departments and agencies have followed Trump's lead including the Interior Department, which recently buried a polar bear study that indicated proposed oil drilling could pose a serious risk. 

The Trump administration's most recent assault on environmental and public health includes proposing changes that will weaken the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the cornerstone of modern American environmental law. However, at the end of August, 23 attorneys general sued the White House to block changes to NEPA that would make it easier to launch major projects with less environmental review. 

It is not just state attorney generals that are opposing Trump, he is the most consistently unpopular president in the history of the republic. He does not have the support of blacks, latinos, women, college educated, independents, seniors, active military or veterans. Many Repubublicans and conservative groups also oppose him. He is disliked by almost all but his base.

Trump is losing to Biden in almost every way imaginable. His campaign is being out financed by the Democrats, and even more importantly he is losing to Biden in the polls by double digits. This is the largest deficit by an incumbent president in decades. 

In a break from tradition, the New England Journal of Medicine and Scientific American have urged voters to reject Trump. The actions of these two prestigious science organizations speak for scientists across the country and around the world and the facts are calling Americans to vote for a president that values science.

As evidenced by the first and second presidential debates as well as the most recent town halls, Americans are faced with a stark choice.  Unlike Trump, Democratic candidate Joe Biden subscribes to science and climate action. His build back better action plan clean energy to economic recovery amid the pandemic and set a target for the United States to reach 100 percent clean electricity by 2035.  A cost benefit analysis reveals the net economic gains from climate action, however, the Trump administration refuses to do the math.   

Trump has increased xenophobia and contributed to systemic racism in America. His defense of white supracists in Charolotteville and refusal to condemn white supremacists in the first presidential debate will live in infamy. He fans the flames of fear and hatred then portrays himself as a protector. However, his attempt to cast protestors as terrorists has failed along with his bid to make the law and order argument to bolster his authoritarian aspirations.. He is the leading proponent of voter suppression calling his supporters to turn out at the polls and targeting mail in ballots in an effort to set up a challenge to the results in November.   

The most recent polls suggest Biden is ahead by 12 points nationally and winning in most of the swing states. There is no sign of the late surge that helped Trump defeat Hilary Clinton in 2016 and with more than 75 million votes already cast and around two thirds of those votes going Democrat, it is not looking good for Trump and the GOP.. This should come as no surprise as Trump has demonstrated over and over again that he is on the wrong side of history. All evidence points to an inflection point that will bring an end to his presidency and push Republicans to the margins of the electoral map. 

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Trump has made everything worse. We know what needs to be done to preserve America's democracy, address climate change, combat ecological degradation and avoid the collapse of civilization. Hope for a better tomorrow starts with voting Trump out of office. 

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