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I, like a lot of Americans, was initially seduced by the idea of electing a president whose CV does not include the words Senator, Congressman or Governor. My enthusiasm was quickly dimmed by a litany of offensive comments about women, Mexicans, the disabled and Muslims, as well as inaccurate statements about global warming and a questionable business record obfuscated by a lack of tax returns. But I still kept rooting for Donald Trump to win my support back, thinking that as a political novice, he could eventually explain away these faux pas and propose a message of change. In parallel, staunch rebukes from America's political class made me like him more. I was hoping that the Jeffersonian ideal of a yeoman farmer that lays down his plough to become a disinterested public servant could be realized in this yeoman billionaire.
I realize now that this is impossible.
I made up my mind after seeing a sickening 2005 video of Donald Trump bragging about how he would grope women whenever he felt like it. What was equally problematic was his apology — instead of cutting off after "I was wrong", he proceeded with a slew of footnotes. Life has taught me that when I fuck up, a real apology that I actually mean is one I can say without qualifying it afterwards. I have distanced myself from people that lack the humility to succinctly apologize for their poor judgment. Why would I elect someone like this as my president?
The second presidential debate only reinforced this sentiment. Islamic Americans must be scared and hurt by the hateful rhetoric they hear about their communities, and for Donald Trump to turn an opportunity to apologize into a plea for Muslims to spy on their neighbors only makes things worse. The nail in the coffin was the line "Aleppo is gone." Aleppo currently has 300,000 people in the rebel-controlled East side of the city. Smart, compassionate world-leaders can hopefully save them. Hillary Clinton seems willing to tackle this issue head-on. As a Jewish American that grew up in a community with several Holocaust survivors, I have formed the conviction that no population under siege is ever "gone." Not only does America deserve better than Donald Trump, but the world does too.
During the first debate, I was hoping that the candidates would point me to sources where I could learn more information, as I knew that 90 minutes was not enough time to fully apprehend the issues at play. Unfortunately, Trump did not offer any reading recommendations, but I took Hillary Clinton's advice and read her book Stronger Together. She offers several concrete policy proposals that would make incremental, positive change in a variety of areas from the environment to education to the economy. It also exposes hilights from her long career. I do not understand why Donald Trump keeps insisting she has done "nothing" instead of questioning specific legislation that she worked on. It insults my intelligence — if you want to earn my vote, then don't make blanket statements about a person's incompetency, but point to concrete places where I can get information and tell me specific proposals with which you take issue. For independents who, like me, are looking for a modicum of substance in a sea of hype, I would recommend reading this book.
...and mad props to Jason Chaffetz, Mike Lee, Arnold Schwarzenegger and scores of other conservatives that have had the courage to break with their party's nominee. So what if Republicans lose the presidency? It would be a shame if either party dominated the national debate, and people like this are as a safeguard against political hegemony. Their unorthodox and brave move will help ensure that, after November 8th, America has a balanced political debate with voices championing issues of small government and individual liberty.
ADDENDUM: During the third presidential debate, I found that Trump finally made some of the arguments that I appreciate most from Republicans, including a plea for smaller government and an indictment of pay-to-play politics with which many Americans, like myself, are deeply concerned. However, Trump's refusal to commit to the peaceful transition of power after the election is completely disqualifying. Having lived in France and Finland, two countries where bellicose power transitions have left scars and mistrust to this day, I cannot understand how any American that cares about our unique democracy can possibly tolerate such rhetoric. Most pundits that I regularly read argue that this is only a concern of "elites" but they are wrong, unless "elite" means "has taken a high-school world history course." Anyone who knows anyone that comes from a nation where losers retaliate against winners understands immediately gravity of Trump's remarks.