Since the McCarthy era of the 1950s, conservatives have been fond of administering loyalty tests and oaths of one kind or another to the rest of us. The rise of Donald Trump, and the associated number of Republicans who say, for example, that they’d have no problem with Russia, our most implacable enemy, picking who wins our elections, fairly demands a turning or hoisting of some kind. As Trump has committed one outrage after the next, many of us, with growing frustration, have paraded these steaming piles of politics in front of right-wing friends, demanding to know if they’re “really OK with this” or, in the case of his truly coprageous leavings and BT, whether they “still support him” and how (can they).
What we’re really asking, often in anguish, when we do this–what we want to ask, but can’t, without getting unfriended in every possible way, is: are you loyal to Donald J. Trump or to the United States of America? If we’re ever going to be the United States of America again, we’re going to have to start talking to each other about politics again, and do so sooner than later–a country that’s supposed to be leading the world in which 60% aren’t even on speaking terms with the other 40% is like an Olympic runner with crippling sciatica.
So we’ve created a series of questions, which we hope and expect you’ll add to, that we can all ask our Trump-supporting friends (in person, mind, not over the transom), ideally with the right touch of innocence to keep the truck on the road. Worst case see, once and for all, that some friends are just lost and aren’t going to be found for a while, so we don’t waste time and energy scratching this nasty political itch anymore. But hopefully these queries will, instead, provoke some sorely needed civil civic discussion, including about the politicos we support. In a country where there’s actually so much common ground (really), and so many mounting challenges, it’s time to stop letting one person divide us, day after day after groundhog day.
As we’ve generated this list, we’ve made a tangible effort to limit ourselves to things he could actually do. The reality is that if we don’t limit ourselves in this way, we’re liable to trigger the rhetorical shutdown many of his fans have been inoculated with by Fox and others: “I don’t deal in hypotheticals.” Or some facsimile. For this reason, we’ve also given you links to evidence to convince your erstwhile fellows that these questions are far more than just “hypothetical,” based on what he’s already said and done, that the associated scenarios are at least possible and therefore worth discussing.
Frankly, they’re things that we all will have to think about how we’ll respond to–his supporters included–if he claims ‘victory’ in November, likely by force or fraud, if it happens. because there’s at least one thing we do know from his history: he just keeps pushing the envelope on anything and everything until he’s stopped. Now is the time to draw some lines together we can call on when he inevitably crosses them and tries to persuade our friends first that he hasn’t, then that it was justified, and finally that the lines themselves were never important to begin with.
You might find a few of our fellow citizens who blanketly state, chin out, that there’s nothing Trump could do that would cause them not to support him. Risky as it might seem to forge ahead with our little exercise in such cases, that’s not an answer you or we should accept, because unless their first known appearance in the U.S. was in the general vicinity of Roswell, it’s just not true–nobody makes programmable androids that life-like yet. And it’s important for the future of our country that both you and they know it’s not true, that there are limits that define, rather than exclude, who we are as Americans.
The Set-Up & The List
With that as preamble, and while awaiting your contributions (there’s a free Creative Politics t-shirt with your name on it in exchange for them), below is what we’ve got so far. Our potential lines of inquiry aren’t in any particular order–you know your friends; pick the possibilities you think could actually make a difference to them. Also, you’re probably going to need a set-up so they don’t feel ambushed and respond with typical shutdown defensiveness, so we suggest something like this:
I know we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye politically, especially when it comes to Donald Trump. He keeps saying and doing things that make me profoundly angry, yet they don’t seem to have anything like the same effect on you. We don’t have to agree politically in order to be friends, of course, but it has reached a point with Trump where I feel I need to find out if we share any common ground at all where he’s concerned, for the sake of the health of our friendship, and really, the country, too, because our belief in each other as Americans seems to be increasingly under threat. Because I find his words and actions increasingly extreme, for me finding that common ground means determining if there’s anything he could say or do that would be beyond the pale, completely unacceptable to both of us and cause you to turn against him and stop supporting him entirely. If you’re willing, I’d like to explore a few scenarios with you to try and find out–I’m more than willing to answer similar questions about any candidate you know or think I support.
Addendum: If you can really do it (and we think you should, if you want this to do some good), we’d add the following: And I promise not to try to persuade you not to vote for him as we go through the scenarios, nor show/express any judgment or argue with you about anything you say in support of him. I just want to try to establish things that we both agree he cannot be allowed to do, because as far as I can tell, he’s never met a line he wasn’t willing to cross, and when he does, he’s first going to try to persuade us that he hasn’t crossed it, then that he had to, and finally that it wasn’t important. That’s how he’s rolled his whole life.
Would you, could you still support Donald Trump…
- If the number of dead from COVID-19 exceeded 200,000? 300,000? 500,000? 1M? Is there a number of Americans dead from the coronavirus that would cause you to stop supporting him? If so, what is it? (If they intimate to you that the reason no number impacts their decision because they don’t consider Trump to be responsible, you could of course, give them a long list of reasons why he is responsible–a very partial list is here (we can get more, if you’re interested)–including basic math, like the % of deaths that have happened in our country vs. our population share (4%)–and this is likely an undercount, for multiple reasons, the fact that we have 100x the deaths of seven countries closer to China (whose collective population is the same as ours) combined, what the three countries with the biggest outbreaks have in common, not to mention–and this might resonate with his many conspiracy-obsessed followers–all the reasons to believe he screwed this up on purpose) BUT DON’T. Remember that the point of this exercise is NOT to argue with them about the facts, except/unless they claim there’s no reason to discuss your question(s) at all, or to seek to change their minds–you promised, remember?)
- If he officially lost the election, but refused to leave office, claiming voter fraud? (Not hypothetical–he never said he would accept the results of the 2016 elections, which he said were ‘rigged’, unless he won, still hasn’t accepted that he lost the popular vote, even though his fraud commission was disbanded because it couldn’t find any, and has already been claiming Democrats have ‘rigged’ the 2020 election, months earlier than he started saying this in 2016, making his recent statement that he would accept defeat “if I lose” meaningless). If not, who would you trust to determine if there was enough fraud to change the results?
- If he offically lost the election, but refused to leave office because the Mueller investigation and other partisan witch hunts had prevented him from doing the things that would have gotten him re-elected? (Not hypothetical–he has in fact suggested he’s entitled to this, and like any human being facing consequences they don’t think they deserve, it’s reasonable to expect this view to harden if he actually finds himself defeated–and cornered)
- If he openly solicited foreign governments to help him win re-election? (Not hypothetical: he has, multiple times, with more instances likely to be revealed soon) Are there countries whose interference on his behalf could cause you to stop supporting him, e.g. countries who are our main competitors or adversaries (including China)? Are there types of interference that would cause you to stop supporting him? E.g. if he asked another country to hack into election machinery and delete people’s registrations? Change their votes?
- If any more women came forward to say he had assaulted or harrassed them? If five more women came forward? 10? 20? (this could easily happen, according to a recent publication) Is there a number of women he would have to assault or sexually harrass beyond which he’d lose your support? What if one or more of these incidents happened while he was in office? (some Trumpists say the case against Biden trumps all allegations against Trump because everything Trump did happened while he was in the private sector–yeah, we’re ‘smh–soh, too) What if one of the women coming forward said he raped her when she was underage (e.g. 12-14)? What if she had an eyewitness? What if the only reason she didn’t take him to court is that his goons repeatedly threatened to kill her and her family? (None of this is hypothetical. Take a look. None of it, none of it–there may even have been more than one young teen violated)
- If he was forced to reveal his tax returns and they showed he’s not a billionaire? That he’s not a millionaire? That his net worth isn’t even positive? (not just a hypothetical–in fact, so non-hypothetical, we need a separate page for all the reasons to wonder–just because someone has all the trappings of wealth doesn’t mean they’re even net positive, let alone a real billionaire)
- If you found out that he was never really a successful businessman? (all of the above, plus more) If you think he really was a great businessman, how do you account for all the screw-ups in his response to the pandemic (100,000 dead vs. <300 in South Korea, which had its first case the same day we did; 100,000 dead vs. 1,200 in South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam combined, which collectively have the same population we do; we have 4% of the world’s population—30% of the world’s cases and deaths, etc.), unless you believe he botched it deliberately for his own gain?
- If he got us into a nuclear war? (not hypothetical, given some of the cavalier things he’s said about nuclear warfare) Would it matter who the war was with? Would it matter who fired first? Are there circumstances under which you’d have to agree he provoked the other country into firing, assuming you were still alive afterwards to ascertain this?
- If you found out he wasn’t really the supporter of our men and women in service he claims to be? (that’s going to be the subject of an entirely different project–SwiftBoat 2020–that we’ll link to here when it’s done)
- If you found out he was acting to enhance the power of the Chinese or Russians at our expense? (he owes the powers-that-be in both China and Russia a lot of money (as both his sons have confirmed) and has taken many pro-Russia actions while ceding world leadership to the Chinese again and again). What if he lifted a national security ban on one of their companies in exchange for an investment in one of his company’s projects? (if that turns you against him, consider yourself so informed)
- If you found out he was using the (hated) IRS to audit the returns of his opponents? (as his idol, Richard Nixon did) If he was using the Justice Department to attack his political opponents? (which many argue is in fact happening, while nearly 2,000 former Justice Department officials of both parties have called for his attorney general to resign, on multiple occasions, over politicization of the department) If he started having people tried for treason for disagreeing with him? (again, not beyond the realm of possibility based on the number of times he’s made this accusation and the reasons why)
- If he started shutting down news outlets for being “fake” and therefore a danger to the country? (Not just a hypothetical at all) Is there a limit to your tolerance for this? E.g. does he lose your support if he closes down ten? fifty? a hundred? some other number? Are there news organizations you wouldn’t be willing to tolerate him closing?
- If he started censoring your social media feed, e.g. deleting or putting warning signs on things you post that are at variance with his official positions (already happening on his behalf on Facebook) or shut it down completely (also not a hypothetical, as was just recently reinforced)?
- If he eliminated all oversight over his administration (again, not at all hypothetical)? If he asserted the absolute rights and powers of a dictator? (he’s already said he has those rights, multiple times, has been fulsome in his admiration and praise of dictators, often for their dictatorial actions, and has frequently suggested he shouldn’t be subject to term limits-he claims to be joking about this, just “owning the libs” but would you consider anyone else who suggests something so many times to be “just joking” and not believe it’s possible he actually means it and is testing or preparing the waters?)
- If his supporters started killing people in his name and he did nothing meaningful about it? Said nothing about it? (not hypothetical–it’s already happening) What if the dead included women? Children? Seniors? Who and how many would have to die?
- If he told 20,000 lies? 30,000? 50,000? (he’s over 18,000 as we speak) Is there a threshold of mendacity beyond which you can’t stand behind him anymore? More to the point, is there/are there anything(s) in particular that if he lied about, or you found out he was lying about, he would lose you?
- If you experienced adversity as a result of climate change? (not hypothetical–his own administration is predicting climate change far worse than the rest of the world, and claiming, fatalistically and insanely, that this justifies burning even more fossil fuels) What kind of climate-induced adversity would cause you to turn against him? What proof would you need that climate was the cause?
- If X happened and he blamed everyone except himself for X–what would X be? (we’re talking about someone who has never apologized, never taken the blame, and never admitted a mistake–except being fooled by people he hired or dealt with who ‘made him look bad’–in his life) If he blamed you, or people of your social class, ethnicity, region, or occupation?
- If he had a change of heart and announced a major initiative to fight climate change? If he became an ardent environmentalist? (not hypothetical–he was a Democrat from 2000-2009, signed a climate manifesto in 2009 along with his three adult children that declared “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet,” and has a long history of switching parties–five times since 1987–often for reasons of political expediency. Clearly in this case, and the next two, this wouldn’t be a case where the end result is “common ground,” which is why we’ve put them at the end, only to be asked if nothing else has traction, both to better understand your ‘friend’ and maybe sow a little doubt, when you share the reasons to believe this could happen) Would you be ok with it if he did it to win votes?
- If you found out that he had had sex with men? Underage boys? That he was actually gay? (a lot of his habits are, at a minimum, things many conservatives [wrongly] associate with homosexuality–excessive concern with personal appearance, wearing make-up (bronzer), overtalking/oversharing, bragging about things “real men” don’t brag about, etc. Again, for the vast majority of us, we hope, finding out a friend would turn on Trump if he was gay would not represent finding common ground, so we don’t recommend pursuing this line of inquiry unless you can’t find anything else that would cause your friend to abandon Trump once and for all. On the flip side, if even pedophilia doesn’t pour out the drink, you may want to offer to buy them a one-way to a country you don’t particularly like)
If you’ve got additional questions you think we should add–or better sources you think we should cite in support of the ones we’re asking–let us know here. And let us and your fellow creatives know, in the comments section below, what happens when you ask any of these questions of the Trump supporters in your lives. Thanks much for your support of the real America!
PS Here are just a few of the myriad reasons to believe he’s not actually a billionaire and was never a particularly successful businessman, just a trust fund baby with a $400M head start that he squandered
- He lied his way onto the Forbes 400, even pretending to be his own publicist to do so, at a time when by no definition did he qualify
- He lost both at trial and on appeal in a suit he filed against an author who declared that his net worth to be much, much less than he’s claimed, and lost in part because he was caught in a myriad of lies when he was deposed (which is why his lawyers didn’t want him to be interviewed by Mueller)
- He didn’t just get a $1 million loan from his dad, he got tens of millions in loans while his dad was living, and inherited $400M+ when he died
- Much of his wealth, such as it is, is the result of massive tax fraud, which the rest of us pay for
- He claims his net worth is whatever he feels it is–seriously–and believes strongly in “truthful hyperbole” (what the rest of us in business would call flat-out lying, though not to be confused with “alternative facts“)
- His returns on investment have consistently underperformed the S&P 500, making him, by definition, below average (he would have done better to take his dad’s money, drop it into a mutual fund, and never touch it)
- When NBC decided to do The Apprentice, they had to completely redo his offices because they were so dated and rundown
- He’s been involved in thousands of lawsuits, many of them the result of his failure to pay what he owes. He’d like you to believe his failure to pay was always for non-performance on the part of the vendors, which is a tough claim to make when
- You’re also promoting/praising their work as first-rate, which he has, many times (he’s even rehired them),
- You’ve lost many of these cases, been told to pay and still haven’t, decades later (but make up for it, as part of your business model, in volume when people can’t afford to keep going to court against you), and
- You’re basically the only one in the business who regularly stiffs people like this. What, he has higher standards for dishwashing than any other hotelier? C’mon, use your common sense.
Who does this, if they really have money?
- Trump Corporation is really just a mom-and-pop family business–the one time he ran a real company, he failed at even the basic work of a real CEO, and the money raised from the public stock offering to support it was mainly squandered to benefit him
- He’s actually an incredibly poor negotiator (each of those words leads to a separate link, btw)
- He owns very few of the buildings that have his name on them, and his 500+ companies are nearly all LLC shells used to move money around for money laundering and tax avoidance purposes. It’s just phony BT to say that 98% of them are successful when the vast majority aren’t even companies at all and most of the others are just holding operations for licensing deals. Anyone could create 500 LLCs for a modest investment and claim to be 100% successful without ever selling a single product. Bottom line: he owns and runs one company, The Trump Corporation, with a long line of failures even with a $400M headstart.
- The few tax returns we’ve seen show him generating some of the biggest business losses year after year by anyone in the country, so large–nearly $1 billion in 1995 alone–that they can’t possibly be accounted for by just tax avoidance games. Why won’t he show us the rest?
- He decided to run for president to help boost the fortunes of his business
- At the time he was running for president, every publicly available record for every one of his businesses showed they were all losing money. Example, he claimed on the campaign trail that Trump Chicago was worth $2B+ while public records show he claimed its actual value to be “less than zero, due to a failed business model.”
- During the campaign, not a single businessman of any repute came forward to tout his business bona fides, and none have since (plenty of real billionaires have flatly stated the opposite), nor has anyone who partnered with him ever come forward to praise him as a partner or a mentor. Not one.
- Even in his wheelhouse, New York City real estate, he’s never been more than second or third tier vs. his competition
- He used his “charity” as a personal piggybank–who does that, if they really have money?–until he was forced by law enforcement to shut it down. He even tried to get away with stiffing military veterans on a fundraiser he supposedly held for them during his campaign.
- He never misses an opportunity to use his own businesses as presidential venues–250 times since he took office, generating nearly $1M (based on incomplete records) in room rental payments alone to his company (and making his refusal to take a salary clearly a meaningless political ploy).
- He’s also used his position to generate many millions from foreign sources to prop up his ventures–at least $500M from China alone, not to mention the significant sums governments have spent at Trump properties to curry favor.
- He’s gone bankrupt six times that we know of (and that’s a fact, Jack). He brags that it was his company that went bankrupt, not himself personally: all that means is that the people foolish enough to invest in and believe in him ended up holding the bag. Would a real businessman be proud of that? A real businessman would rather say he went under, but his company stayed afloat
- TrumpAir, Trump Vodka, Trump the Game, Trump Magazine, Trump University, Trump Steaks, the New Jersey Generals (his actions were instrumental in killing the league he joined), Trump Mortgage (started in 2006 on the basis that the housing market was going to be strong for a long long time: Trump Magazine claimed in the same year that there was no housing bubble), Trump Steaks, Trump Soho, Trump Chicago, Trump Doral, Trump Turnberry, Trump Panama, all of his casinos (a business with a license to print money), all failures.
- No US-based bank was willing to loan him money for years. The closest thing to a respectable foreign source of funds he had, Deutsche Bank, has been fined billions for money laundering, and Trump couldn’t even get a loan from them in 2016. Of course, running for and–especially–winning the presidency changed that, as he likely expected.
- More to come