By Jesse Jackson
Candidates say campaigns are about articulating programs, issues and priorities. But people vote for candidates based on how that person makes them feel. Consciously or unconsciously, elections are about giving voice to values.
Voters are moral proxies who want to know that a candidate or elected official truly cares about them — that they are authentic — more than they care about what they know.
President Donald Trump and his administration are expressing moral values that have no market value. The Golden Rule has both moral and market value. Trump wouldn’t want done to him what he’s doing to the majority of the American people.
Trump’s values express reverse gratification. The powerful are suppressing the weak; the rich are exploiting the poor; the elephant is crushing the gnat.
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions disavows the Voting Rights Act. He has a history of politicizing it by frivolously charging blacks with voter fraud, and has withdrawn Justice Department support from a voting rights case involving racial discrimination. That’s an expression of this administration’s values.
Trump has established a voter fraud commission despite having no evidence of voter fraud. He appointed Kris Kobach, secretary of state of Kansas and the “King of Voter Suppression” as its head, apparently for the purpose of finding 3 million to 5 million examples in order to “prove” to he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because of voter fraud. That’s an expression of twisted moral values.
Candidate Trump promised a universal health care system better and cheaper than the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed 13 men (no women) who came up with a plan to repeal and replace the ACA that would take away affordable health insurance from over 20 million Americans. It would deny money to Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides health services for women; remove billions of dollars from a Medicaid program that serves over 70 million poor people, including children and the disabled; threaten to bankrupt nursing homes for the old and financial security for their families; threaten the existence of rural community hospitals and urban public hospitals; drive up costs and drive down health benefits for the middle class; take away millions of jobs from the people who provide these services; and do all these things in order to give massive tax cuts to the greedy. If Sen. John McCain was poor or middle class and had the Republican plan — i.e., old and infirm — he would be in trouble, and that’s a moral disgrace! The Constitution, like the ACA, was imperfect and had shameful flaws, but we chose to amend it not end it.
Trump wants to close public schools and build private jails. He appointed a secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who has dedicated her entire life and lots of money undercutting public education and advocating for for-profit private schools. He is weakening civil rights protections that include racial and sexual minorities.
He appointed Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a person who was joined at the hip with the fossil fuel industry as Oklahoma’s attorney general and who many times sued the organization he now heads. Pruitt is gutting the strong environmental achievements of Obama and led the charge for Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, relinquishing America’s environment leadership on an issue that will literally cost Americans millions of jobs and economic growth, threaten the Earth’s equilibrium and the existence of the human race.
In foreign policy Trump has weakened our international leadership role established over the last three-quarters of a century through the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) that has successfully maintained peace in Europe. He has cozied up to authoritarian leaders, shown little interest in advancing human rights or a free press, and has turned our wars over to the generals, shunning civilian leadership. Trump’s “eye for an eye” and “fight fire with fire” policy would leave many blind and burned.
Trump’s most fervent supporters are the same people who sanctimoniously attend annual prayer breakfasts, cite scripture and pray in public. Trump and Republicans see ending health care for millions and giving tax cuts to the rich as victorious. Jesus warned about “religious” people who walk over the sick and past the poor.
Republicans are struggling to keep promises they made — ones they shouldn’t have made because they lack a moral foundation. Their values are unhealthy and dangerous — and will lead to calamity and downfall. They can’t be exported to the rest of the world by our diplomats, and polls show Americans don’t agree with them. It’s an immoral agenda with no market value at all.