The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, keeps getting bashed for statements that turn off many voters. While he has slammed the establishment and politicians in general, it's clear that he could use some of the skills that politicians perfect.
Hillary Clinton has recently called Trump "unfit" to serve as Commander-in-Chief. Trump's appeal largely stems from his frankness; his lack of political correctness has drawn a loyal band of supporters who helped him overcome primary challenges from experienced conservatives who previously held positions in government. In a cycle where political experience has been viewed by many as a curse, American voters now face a dire situation; their choices are either a 30-year experienced crooked politician in Clinton or an inexperienced reality television personality in Trump.
Newspaper editorials and many pollsters predict that Trump will lose in a landslide to Clinton; that voters will choose experience over inexperience and policy vagueness. Trump's rudeness to women in general and Hispanics in particular probably has doomed his candidacy. His lack of specific policy positions exhibiting a basic understanding of government will encourage many independents to vote for certainty and experience (Clinton) over inexperience and uncertainty (Trump).
Trump's comments about banning Muslims show a basic misunderstanding about religious freedom under the Constitution. While such a ban may be attractive to some, Trump's call for one scares many voters who revere religious freedom. Many of us raise our children to be respectful of others, to always tell the truth, to be tolerant of others and to be dignified and consistent in our conduct. The presidential choices this year don't reflect those traits, likely reflecting instead voters' frustration with politicians' phoniness and policy lapses. Elected officials' ineffectiveness has led to massive national debt, and their expediency has increased voter irritation.
But all that doesn't mean that such frustration justifies supporting either Clinton or Trump as the best America can produce in presidential candidates. Clinton is fundamentally dishonest and as much of an egomaniac as Trump, and her record of dishonesty is unappealing to most voters. That's why Trump is polling well against her, at least at this time. Look for his numbers to drop as she uses her political skills to highlight his past policy inconsistencies.
If Trump could only restrain himself and use political skills to persuade others to support him, he'd likely have a chance in November. He may still be able to pull it off, but he's of an age where changing himself fundamentally will be difficult. His recent criticism of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a leading popular Hispanic leader, illustrates his thin skin, his intolerance for any criticism and his innate vindictiveness when he doesn't get his way. America shouldn't want a vindictive president — it would lead to war abroad and unrest at home.
Politicians develop ways to understand differing political views without making enemies. It's an acquired skill, borne of the experience of fundamentally wanting to serve others. Those who serve in public office learn that their way may not always be the best. Few have a corner on public policy wisdom. Public service helps officeholders understand differing points of view. Principled leadership is still possible, even in policy disagreements with others. Having the "people skills" necessary to disagree without being disagreeable comes from experience. Dignity is at its heart. Unselfishness is its soul.
Even though Clinton is as petty, vindictive and selfish as Trump, and would make a terrible president, her dignity and experience may win the day in November's election. As many leading Republicans flock carefully to Trump's side, most do so unenthusiastically. While Trump says he "doesn't care," he should, since most of Clinton's support is loyal and liberal, hungry for the Supreme Court nominees she'll pick that will change American society for at least a generation.
If Trump could develop the important trait of humility, he wouldn't be so rude to others and dismissive of critics. In the process of showing altruism, he'd receive important support for what will likely be a hotly contested election. The United States presidency, under the Constitution, demands cooperation between the coequal branches of government. Trump's business experience has made him wealthy. His political inexperience has made him vulnerable to "Crooked Hillary" and her liberalism that will be unhealthy for our constitutional democracy.
Trump would be wise to listen to experienced political hands. Persuading them to support his conservative alternative to Clinton and the prosperity he hopes for America will be a major challenge for him over the next five months. ♦