On American Leadership and Values, or the Loss of Them

For many people who dislike Trump, I think this is a good expression of why. For those of you who consider his policies and business acumen his saving grace, I think this is important to consider, too.

Many of us believe the presidency (not just the person who occupies the Oval Office, but the institution) should represent the highest qualities, values, and ideals that make Americans great. The common sentiment used to be that the president should be someone for our children to look up to, and while I’ve heard the argument that we’re beyond that and would wholeheartedly disagree with it, the presidency has become a much more important global figure in these last few decades than our founding fathers could have ever imagined or even hoped. Not only is the president our spokesperson in an increasingly global society, but the president is a political leader for the whole world specifically because of America’s influence, and it benefits American citizens in myriad ways.

While it’s unfair to compare anyone who holds that office to the historic presidents who came before, and while it’s unfair to expect every U.S. president to be an ideal representative for the American people, there is a certain standard we must hold the president to, and in this regard (again, policy aside), Trump fails.

I think it’s important to keep talking about it because much of this can still change. He can succeed. The wall, the Muslim travel ban, etc., that’s all important stuff, but those are separate issues to his disregard for facts in the face of easily accessible information, his tendency to tell easily disprovable lies, his inability to justify or support his claims or orders, his reckless dissemination of that misinformation to people who still think the White House is a reliable source, his incompetency at hearing and acknowledging Americans who have opposed him, and his apparent disdain and disrespect for all Americans as is apparent by the aforementioned.

You’ve probably seen this Teddy Roosevelt quote.

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

We owe our allegiance to America and its constitution, not the president. The president owes his allegiance to the people.

I believe these issues are apolitical, especially now with him in office. He said he would be a president for all Americans. He has yet to demonstrate that. With his continuous lying, his disregard for reason, and his tendency to be combative toward allies, even domestic ones such as the entire state of California, he fails his duty.

By refusing to accept responsibility for his actions, he rebukes the legacy of President Truman, who famously claimed “the buck stops here.” Think about that. He not only undermines those stories of American greatness, those anecdotes that we’ve used for decades or centuries to convince ourselves and the world that America is the greatest nation on Earth, but he acts in such a way that, supported by half of America, alters America’s legacy into something that is contradictory.

Simply, he demonstrates America isn’t what we thought it was, and when we talk of the stunning upset of the 2016 election, it isn’t in reference to his victory against the odds. It’s in reference to the realization that this place we’d called home all our lives was suddenly unrecognizable.

I think these are very real, legitimate issues we can all share concern for, regardless of party affiliation. And I think we all should demand better because we deserve better.

There’s a common ground in reason that we all can find, and I think we all need to search for it.