By Jesse Jackson
President Donald Trump is back on the stump, promising to campaign “six or seven days a week” until the general election to try to keep Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress. His stump speech is characteristically bombastic, filled with the exaggerations, insults and flat-out lies that people have come to expect.
Trump’s speech is at its core a con job. Republicans’ tax cuts went to the rich and the corporations, and the promise that everyone would get a $4,000 raise went up in smoke. Republican efforts first to repeal and then to lacerate Obamacare will deprive millions of health care, even as prices spike this fall because of the damage they’ve done.
Trump has ushered in the most corrupt administration in memory, appointing corporate lobbyists to rig the rules and roll back protections for workers and consumers and the environment. Trump can point to a strong economy, but he inherited a growing economy from President Barack Obama.
Working families still haven’t benefited from the so-called recovery. Trump has broken his promise to invest in rebuilding our dangerously decrepit and uncompetitive infrastructure. Inequality is worse than ever, with Trump’s tax cuts adding to the divide. College tuitions continue to rise, and the student debt crisis gets worse and worse. Drug costs continue to soar, despite Trump’s promises to do something about it.
The opioid epidemic claimed 72,000 lives last year, as the administration floundered in responding to the crisis. Even as catastrophic climate change ravages the U.S. from California to Houston to North Carolina and Puerto Rico, Trump remains in denial, with mere mentions of global warming erased from government web sites. As the crises accumulate, FEMA’s woeful performance in Puerto Rico makes President Bush’s disastrous operation after Hurricane Katrina look efficient in comparison.
The administration’s war on workers makes it harder for them to share in the benefits of the good economy. Republican governors and state legislatures work to block cities from raising the minimum wage within their own boundaries. The first vote of Trump’s appointee to the Supreme Court was to gut labor rights for public employees, as Republicans continue to undermine the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.
Despite all of Trump’s tough talk, new data show the U.S. trade deficit in July grew at its fastest rate since 2015, as monthly deficits with China and the European Union both reached new records. Given all this, the content of Trump’s stump speech is predictable. It is designed to distract and divide, not inform and unite. As illustrated by his recent speech in West Virginia, his themes have an ugly racial cast.
He began that speech by slandering NFL players, describing their protest against police brutality as “defaming our flag” and our “beautiful, beautiful national anthem.” He railed against Democrats, suggesting that they would make America safe for criminal aliens, take away the Second Amendment and rewrite our Constitution.
The “beating heart of this election,” he argued, “is border security.” He roused his audience against the “Russian witch hunt” on the same day his personal lawyer pleaded guilty and his campaign manager was convicted by that same investigation. Americans need to decipher the Trump bombast.
He boasts about adding billions to our military –—that already consumes over one-third of the world’s military spending — without admitting that he wants to slash investment in education, in clean energy, in Medicare and Medicaid. He boasts of his tax cuts, without admitting that the next round will be to savage programs for the most vulnerable to help pay for the tax cuts larded on the rich and corporations.
He brags about repealing the Clean Power Plan and abandoning the Paris climate accord, without mentioning that he’s opening the door to fouling our water and air and ignoring the greatest threat to our national security. He trumpets record low black and Hispanic unemployment, without noting that he’s ended efforts to curb police brutality and racial profiling, gutting enforcement of civil rights laws, and encouraged efforts to suppress the right to vote.
I believe in passion in politics. Passionate stump speeches don’t offend me. Hyperbole, wit and humor have their place. But Trump is peddling division and fostering fear. He wants Americans to think that they are threatened most by immigrants and burdened most by the vulnerable. But immigrants and the vulnerable don’t rig the rules to benefit the few. Trump is betting he can use our fears to divide and distract us to blind us from his con. I believe that America is better than that. The election this fall will tell us who is right.