Four years ago, my elementary school held a mock presidential election, when the real one was just around the corner. Most girls voted for Hillary Clinton. I was crestfallen when she lost, because I had wanted a female president. Donald Trump, as far as my pre-adolescent mind was concerned, had no redeeming qualities. He frankly reminded me of a schoolyard bully. I was no expert on politics, but Mr. Trump just didn’t act like a president. He mocked people he didn’t like and attacked them not by presenting a logical argument, but by resorting to name calling.
I asked a particularly vocal supporter of Donald Trump, a boy in my fourth-grade class, why he voted the way he did. He simply replied, with clear enthusiasm in his eyes, “I think he’s cool. I mean, he’s funny and like super gangsta.” This got the gears in my head turning, even more so after the real election results came out. My classmate’s reasoning was flawed, certainly, but it incited a different question. Why did half of America feel compelled to cast their ballots for Trump?
Over the past four years, his flap of platinum blond hair, his apricot-colored face, so alive with indignation and defensiveness as it always is, has become familiar to all of us. Reading books such as “Hillbilly Elegy” helped me to better understand why some people chose a businessman over a seasoned politician. For people who felt forgotten and betrayed by the establishment, an outsider was a more logical choice. I learned about the social issues in our society that propelled some swing states to vote for Trump. I understood his appeal to some American citizens, with his promise of “America first.”
But under President Trump, we’ve abandoned our role as the leader of the free world. We are at a trade war with China and a number of other countries. International relations and trade have become a game of win-lose. President Trump has hammered down old systems, but where’s his new one?
To President Trump’s credit, the economy under his administration grew and unemployment declined to an all-time low with the help of his tax cuts. But it wasn’t a Trump “rescue” as he boasted. All economic indicators showed that the economy was already steadily recovering under President Obama’s second term. On the flip side, the U.S. deficit soared. His tax cuts served the rich more than the poor. Income inequality reached an all-time high. When the pandemic hit, it affected minorities and low income families disproportionately and exposed fissures and cracks in the healthcare system.
Instead of leading the fight against coronavirus with a unified approach, President Trump continued to act the way he has always acted, dividing people, pointing fingers, and turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to those who are struggling. He downplayed the threat of Covid-19 initially (and still does), sent messages that conflicted with his own public health experts’, and like a petulant child, refused to take responsibility for his actions.
Not only that, but he repeatedly and deliberately referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus” and the “kung-flu.” His press secretary said it was a joke. As an Asian-American, I do not believe that Asian-Americans being cursed at, spit on and stabbed in public is funny and his actions were certainly partially responsible for the rise in racially motivated hatred against Asian-Americans. President Trump repeatedly stifled and dismissed racial injustice, often displaying troubling racist behavior himself. Immigrants or people of color who disagree with him, are “other” to him and should “go back to their own countries”.
President Trump’s personality and mannerisms are the exact opposite of how schools teach children to behave. In class, you raise your hand when you want to speak. You wait for your turn, and stay respectfully silent when someone else is speaking. You respect people who have different opinions. President Trump turned the first Presidential Debate into a feverish mess of interruptions, low blows and insults. When he was chastised by both his opponent and the moderator, he plowed resolutely on, seemingly determined to get his point (whatever that was) across. He acts like that one kid during recess who hurls insults at his perceived opponents, hollering all forms of verbal slander towards his so-called adversaries, until he has exhausted himself. As the teachers drag him to the principal’s office, he turns away believing he has won the metaphorical battle.
Bullies are for the schoolyard. They are not for the Oval Office.
Joy Wei is an eighth-grader at Great Neck North Middle School who likes writing and art.