By Jesse Jackson Sr.
Editor’s note: This column was written prior to Election Day.
Voters this week faced one big question: Has Donald Trump earned re-election? Should we continue down the path he is taking us?
Much of the commentary — and many of the stump speeches — focused on Trump personally — his character, his corruption, his lies, his ugly rhetoric. How he behaves is important, for the president is the great teacher, for better or for worse. Trump is not exactly the role model you want for your children.
More telling, however, is what Trump has done — or not done — as president. Here the failures are many, serious and utterly disqualifying. Trump’s campaign poster says, “Keep America Great Again,” as if he had succeeded in his first term to make it great.
That assumption is reflected in his promise for his second term: more of the same. The Republican Party didn’t even bother to pass a platform at the national convention. When asked his plans, Trump simply says that he’ll keep doing what he’s been doing. He says he wouldn’t change a thing about how he has handled the pandemic. Think about that.
This is Trump’s America: the most unemployed since the Great Depression, millions on the verge of eviction or foreclosure; more than 228,000 dead with the virus spiking to new heights in states across the country, the worst death toll per capita in the world, made far worse by the catastrophic failure of leadership or management by the Trump administration.
Large areas of the country savaged by extreme weather caused by the climate change that the president scorns as a hoax. Record demonstrations across the country demanding justice and police reform, even as the president fans the flames of hate. This is not a record that deserves another term
One of Trump’s campaign slogans is “Promises made, promises kept,” but that too is a lie.
He said he would “clean the swamp” in a Washington infested with private lobbies and special interests. Instead he’s presided over a predator’s ball, weakening the civil service, and inviting the lobbyists to feast on a pay-to-play administration. He promised to end the endless wars — a promise I agreed with — but the wars go on despite the bluster. He promised a manufacturing revival, but America has lost manufacturing jobs on his watch.
He promised his tax cuts would benefit working people. In fact, the rich made out like bandits, and inequality, already extreme, has gotten much worse. He promised a long overdue infrastructure program and never produced it. He promised a health care plan that would be cheaper and better than Obamacare and never produced it.
He inherited a growing economy and has left it in shambles. His mismanagement of the pandemic has been disastrous for working people and the economy. Mocking masks and social distancing, claiming that the virus would “magically” disappear, he not only cost lives, he helped crater the economy when his magical thinking proved wrong.
Then he failed abjectly to get his fellow Republicans to do what is vital to sustain working families in the pandemic. He joined with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to sabotage the House rescue bill that was passed months ago that would have sustained unemployment aid to those whose jobs are shut down.
He didn’t provide adequate aid to small businesses and schools to pay for the safety measures required to start up. His administration never put forth clear rules about health and safety on the job that would protect essential workers. And even more ominously, Trump is acting in ways that will undermine our future.
The failure of common sense about the pandemic will cost thousands more lives and impede any economic recovery. His opposition to support for states and localities — that suffer a collapse in revenue, even as the pandemic causes soaring costs — will force the layoff of workers and cutback in services that will deepen the recession.
His denial of climate change and systematic rollback of environmental protections condemns the next generation to a hellish struggle against the elements. His relentless efforts to discredit this election, and his party’s commitment to voter suppression, to impede even the counting of the votes, to curtail a complete census count are undermining the faith in our very democracy.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice. On the economy, on health, on climate, on race, on democracy, on inequality, Donald Trump is on the wrong side of history and heading backward.
His mismanagement of the pandemic has been disastrous for working people and the economy.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition.