‘He’s not all bad’: A Democrat defends Trump
Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, I’ve been trying to decipher the indecipherable psyche of The Trump Voter.
I want to understand how a person of conscience could have voted for him and how such a person would defend the actions of his office.
So I did a little research project by calling my Uncle Rich, a 76-year-old cardiologist and Trump supporter. As far as I know, he’s sane, rational and verifiably humane since he’s spent the last 47 years saving people’s lives.
Uncle Rich and I have been arguing about politics since I was 15. Last week, he emailed me an article about Trump doubling down against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations under the subject line: “He’s not all bad.” I gritted my teeth, took a deep breath and invited him to argue with me a little more — if not for the sake of heaven, then at least for the sake of my column.
First, I asked why on earth he’s a Republican.
“I am a registered Democrat and have been since I was 21,” he declared.
“I have voted both ways. I’m a great believer that America comes first and the parties come second. So, I’m open-minded to any candidate — Republican, Democrat, Black, white, Jewish, woman, etc.”
I asked him to describe his paramount political values, but he said they change with each election cycle. In 2016, his top concerns were: terrorism, the economy and health care.
“In the beginning, I was a little bit ambivalent about [Trump],” he admitted. “But as time went on, I began to see that he was serious. And he was willing to step out of an unbelievably successful business and into a job that I don’t know if I envy. I began to say, ‘Wow.’
“I felt this was a man who really recognized the problem of terrorism. I liked that he was vigorous and emphatic on the necessity of vetting people, particularly from certain areas. You know, profiling is a term I think gets a bum rap.”
This is only one area where Uncle Rich and I part ways. To me, profiling is a form of legalized discrimination that contributes in no small part to the mass incarceration of people of color and the poor.
“I profile in medicine,” he said. “If I see a person of a certain background, I’ll order certain tests based on their background. To say there aren’t certain groups of people who are more likely to be terrorists, that’s foolish. We need to be exquisitely careful in order to avoid a situation of tremendous, tremendous terror …
“As far as [economics], the man is a financial success.”
Never mind his bankruptcies? Or his record of failing to pay employees what he owed them?
“I’m a businessman myself. When I started in medicine, we were told not to be businessmen. We were told, ‘You’re a doctor, and you’ll work for oranges and grapefruits,’ which I would have. We were discouraged from negotiating with a hospital, for example. ‘Just take the job.’ [Trump] is a negotiator, and I became a negotiator.”
If Trump was such a negotiating wizard, I asked, what about his signature failure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare?
“Health care is an extremely complicated issue. At the end of the day, I think Republicans and Democrats want the same things: quality care, access and preventative medicine. Obamacare had great ideas — who could argue with what I just said? The problem is cost. This is a business problem.”
I argue it’s also a moral problem. Part of the reason the legislation failed is because its underlining interests were providing tax cuts for the wealthy and eliminating vital health care services for the nation’s most vulnerable: the old and the poor.
“I don’t think Mr. Trump wants a program where someone who is 64 can afford health care and someone who is 65 can’t. What makes America great is that we have the ability to create a system with some equality. Certainly, you’re going to have concierge medicine the way you can have a Mercedes or you can have a Chevy — but a Chevy is a good car!”
Then why don’t more rich people drive Chevys?
Still, I countered, the Great Negotiator failed to unify his party and pass his first major piece of legislation.
“You want to feel good about the fact that you were right? Come on! He’s been in office for three months. If you tell me three years from now that he’s failed in all his legislation, I’ll say, ‘You know, you’re right, I made a mistake.’ But not three months in.”
Well, what about Trump’s Russia ties? Should he get a pass on that, too?
“I’m not bothered yet because I come from a school of medicine where you have to deal with results. If we find out that Trump did things undercover with the Russians, then I’m gonna be upset about it. But I’m not gonna get caught up in the rumor mill. This stuff is still unsettled.”
It’s clear that where I see moral and legal transgression, my uncle sees a man who hasn’t yet hit his stride. Surely, though, he wouldn’t defend the terrible things Trump has said maligning women, immigrants and Muslims.
“He’s sometimes quick to speak,” Uncle Rich allowed. “He’s a hand-to-mouth guy, and sometimes what he says doesn’t go completely to his brain.
“What I was thinking when that was going on was: If we lived in a dictatorship, I would have been much more worried about Donald Trump than I am in the system we are in, which is a checks-and-balances system. Because a man who sometimes speaks like that may try to act like that.”
Finally, Uncle Rich, we agree.
Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.