WE NOW HAVE SOME ANSWERS TO TRUMP’S “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?”*
Untitled, Watercolor, 9.5" x 9.5", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trusts**
With some perspective on Trump’s August 19, 2016 rhetorical device — that things were so bad for Black voters they might as well give Trump a try — I’m not anticipating a red tsunami of Black voters for Trump on November 3, 2020.
“What the hell do you have to lose?” by voting for Trump, however, is one of the most consequential questions confronting all voters in anticipation of the 2020 presidential election.
As for the question originally posed, Trump has shamelessly put his racism, his white nationalism, his disdain for non-whites, his contempt for shithole countries and their inhabitants, and now his vocal segregationism, on full display during his presidency. The expanding list of racist acts and rants is long, beginning with immigration, the Muslim ban, fine people on the other side in Charlottesville, NFL player protests, family separations, caging children. His latest was eliminating an Obama-era housing rule intended to fight racial segregation and then stoking racist fears by bragging about it and reassuring white suburbanites on Twitter and in a speech in Midland, Texas. He recently characterized “Black Lives Matter” as a “symbol of hate,” presumably devaluing his gold-colored property in Manhattan. He continues branding the Novel Coronavirus in racially-charged terms.
Every fair-minded person knows Trump is an unapologetic racist and white supremacist.
As for the question put more broadly, presumably we elect a chief executive to serve as president for the entire country, to unite the country. We hire someone so s/he is responsible and takes responsibility. We reasonably expect the president to anticipate and prepare the country for virtually every conceivable contingency. These include threats of every kind to the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, internal threats, domestic and international terrorism, threats to the national security of the United States including the country’s interests throughout the world, natural disasters and highly contagious, deadly pathogens. We hire the executive to competently manage and direct a vast array of agencies by appointing experts in the varied disciplines to accomplish the foregoing, honoring the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
With the benefit of hindsight, what the hell do you have to lose by voting for Trump?
A few things come to mind.
If you think any of these are hyperbolic, you have not been paying attention:
• Your life.
• The life of a loved one.
• The life of a friend.
• Time that cannot be recaptured with (and comforting) a dying loved one.
• The opportunity and ability to properly mourn and grieve such losses.
• Time that cannot be recaptured with loved ones, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, grandparents, great grandchildren, great grandparents.
• Time that cannot be recaptured with friends.
• Your livelihood.
• Your job.
• Unemployment insurance.
• Financial security, now and in the future.
• Health insurance.
• A place to live.
• Formative educational opportunities that cannot be recaptured.
• Reasonable, responsible measures to reduce and reverse global warming.
• Reasonable assurance against Iran’s and Saudi Arabia’s nuclear proliferation.
• Reasonable assurance the president is motivated by what is in the best interests of the country.
• Reasonable assurance the president is not misusing the office for personal financial gain and/or that of his family and friends (in transparent compliance with the emoluments clause).
• Reasonable assurance the president has no undisclosed conflicts of interest in carrying out the oath of office.
• A president who understands the concept of delayed gratification and implements it in appropriate circumstances.
• A president who values competence over fealty.
• A president who values, relies on/does not deny expertise, including science.
• A president who will not make decisions based on praise or flattery.
• Unequivocal assurance the commander-in-chief is taking every conceivable measure to reduce threats to and protect and have the backs of United States service men and women.
• Progress toward equal application of the law without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or social or financial status.
• A system of justice that shows no favoritism to the president, his family and/or friends.
• A system of justice that is not used to punish the president’s enemies.
• Progress in areas of civil rights and racial justice in the United States.
• An attorney general who serves the interests of the country as a whole, including by enforcing the laws passed by Congress.
• Important alliances throughout the world.
• The United States as an honorable, trusted ally.
• The United States as not a laughing stock throughout the world.
• The United States as a country not to be pitied.
• Respect throughout the world for the United States as a moral leader in advancing human and civil rights.
• Reasonable assurance the United States is and continues to be a fierce opponent of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity throughout the world.
• A president who will not praise or encourage human rights violations.
• A president who experiences and shows empathy.
• A president who strives to unite rather than divide the country.
• A president who makes reasonable effort to avoid culture wars.
• A president who respects First Amendment rights of assembly, speech and protest without regard to viewpoint, and takes no illegal efforts to suppress such assembly, speech or protest.
• A president who respects the First Amendment right of the press and understands its foundational role in preserving liberal democracy.
• Advocacy and progress for free and fair elections with outcomes that reflect the will of the voters.
• Use of the bully pulpit to advocate against voter suppression laws and suspect-class gerrymandering.
• A president who discourages and works toward eliminating foreign interference and influence in United States elections.
• A president who accepts and depends on information provided by United States intelligence agencies over that from despots and tabloid news organizations.
• A curious president.
• A president who reads.
• A president who addresses the message rather than attacking the messenger.
• Reasonable assurance the president recognizes the constitutional importance of checks and balances and oversight by the coordinate branches of government.
• Reasonable assurance the president works to protect rather than attack whistleblowers and inspectors general.
• Reasonable assurance the president will not suppress scrutiny and oversight.
• Reasonable assurance the president will not mock the law.
• Reasonable assurance the president will comply with court orders.
• Reasonable assurance the president has not committed tax fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, securities fraud, insurance fraud, mortgage fraud, bank fraud, obstruction of justice, obstruction of congress, perjury, bribery, solicitation of bribery, extortion, violation of campaign finance laws, other forms of public corruption.
• Reasonable assurance the Oval Office is not the headquarters of a racketeer influenced corrupt organization that presides over a vast criminal enterprise.
• A president who is not presumed to be lying when he speaks.
• The peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. His second novel, The Contortionists, will be released by Signature Books during the fall of 2020.
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers