Donald Trump and His Haters

The venomous protests over the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States is extremely revealing. Oh, I fully agree that Donald Trump is not morally and intellectually perfect. But guess what? Hilary Clinton is not morally and intellectually perfect, either. And it is also the case that the current president of the U.S—namely Barack Obama—is not morally and intellectually perfect.

Of course, I completely understand that people can be disappointed with regards to who wins a presidential election. However, the protesting that has taken place makes sense only if there is good reason to believe that in some way Trump’s winning of the election was corrupt or that he is utterly incompetent. Well, there is not a shred of evidence that warrants the thought that Trumps winning of the presidential election was corrupt in some way or that he is incompetent.

Now, to be sure, I fully grasp that idea that having the first woman president—namely, Hilary Clinton, in this instance—seemed to have had enormous amount of appeal. Indeed, it is for precisely that reason that I thought that she would win the presidential election. But there is a respect in which we need to be extremely cautious about the idea of having the first president of this or that ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation (as will surely be the case one of the days). After all, the idea of electing the first black president of the United States—namely, Barrack Obama—had tremendous appeal. Yet, there has been tremendous disappointment with regards to how Obama has done things. When he steps down in January of 2017, I do not think that there are going to be lots and lots of folks—be they black or otherwise—running around ever so grateful that we had a black president because in so very many ways America is a much, much better nation on account having had Obama as its first black president.
Interestingly, then, it is very, very likely that having Hilary Clinton as the first woman president did not have anything like the appeal some people that thought that it would have precisely because the nation had already seen that electing its first black president did not really make America a better nation for all. For it is not as if there is some extraordinary accomplishment on the part of Hilary Clinton that fundamentally redefined for the better this or that reality, either in the United States or some other part of the world. By contrast, Donald Trump has been an extremely successful business person. And that is very much a non-trivial factor.

Lest there be any understanding, I completely understand the social significance of diversity across both gender and ethnicity. But there is a very straightforward sense in which there are times when what matters most is indisputable sheer success. For example, in the case of a person having an operation performed, surely what the person wants is a very accomplished physician performing the operation. The ethnicity and gender of the physician is completely irrelevant.

In so very many ways, the president of the United States is rather like a physician performing an operation. What matters most is someone who will be ever so successful in performing an operation—and not the ethnicity or gender of the person. And there is a straightforward sense in which President Barack Obama mightily underwrites the point being made here. No doubt countless many citizens of the United are very pleased to have elected the first-black President of the United States. And he will go down in history as the first-black president. But will he also go down in history as a president of the United States who mightily made America a better nation for all?

© 2016 Laurence Thomas

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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