Grading the last four years
Former Teacher Gives Failing Marks to Trump administration, policies
January 20, 2021
BY TIM MUNKEBY
It’s the end of the Trump era, the end of his presidency, and it presents a good opportunity for all Americans to take pause, settle in front of the fire, sip a glass of wine, swig a shot of brandy, or imbibe whatever else helps us best contemplate what, exactly, we expect from our government.
Seriously, what should we expect? Is our government performing up to our expectations? Having been a high school teacher for more than a decade, it seems appropriate to list the things most important, to me anyway, and grade Trump over the last four years on how well he and his administration have performed.
What grades has Trump earned in every important subject area? Did he pass or fail? My priorities and expectations may not be the same as yours, but as a teacher I always tried to be fair, honest, openminded, unjudgmental, impartial, similar to the traits we should expect from a president and the government.
Here’s what I’m evaluating:
Most important to me, and I imagine for many of you, is family. I believe the primary requirement of the president and his government is to keep myself and my family safe. Has the president, and the party aligned with him, been a good influence on my family and kept my family safe? Quick answer: No.
Most obvious is the president’s, and by association his cabinet’s and the enabling Republican Party’s, delayed response and withholding of information (lying) regarding the pandemic. This put me, but most infuriatingly my family (five kids, 12 grandchildren) in extreme danger. As a teacher, if any of my students hadn’t done their homework and tried to get out of it by lying about it, put in a poor effort overall, and took no responsibility for what’s expected of them, they failed. Fairly so. Millions of Americans dead due to a lack of the president taking, especially initially, no responsibility is ‘failed’ in my grade book. I also fail his sycophants and enablers.
A teacher, as a leader, becomes a role model. In my classroom I made sure students got to know each other and got along. You can’t make people like each other, but you can expect respect. Even demand it. Everyone wants to be respected and it goes both ways. If, as a ‘leader,’ I modeled partiality, divisiveness, vengeance, spite and retaliation in my class, the students would fear, hate, and certainly not respect me or each other. If I lied constantly, my students would not respect me or ‘truth,’ as well. The current president and his enabling advisors have given permission to violent fringe groups like white nationalists, Nazis, and QAnon to not only act out but be considered, by presidential modeling, mainstream. Hate and fear as mainstream. This is a danger, as well as a poor example, to me, my children and grandchildren.
Grades aside, I’d rather just expel our government for separating children from their parents (666 permanently!). Once again, the Republican party is complicit. I’d not only expel the president, but his sycophants. Can you even imagine your children, no matter who you are, being torn from you? Try not to lie to yourself.
In addition, the deep-seated need for the Republicans, at all cost, to attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a health care replacement is a huge health danger to all of us. (No, they don’t have a replacement plan, despite Trump’s repeated, and failed, promises that one would materialize.) According to new reporting in The Atlantic, due to Trump’s efforts to destroy the ACA even before the pandemic, nearly two and a half million Americans lost their insurance accounting for as many as 10,000 deaths. Safe? No! This merits more than just a bad grade; let’s throw in after-school detention or a visit to the principal’s office, or worse.
In summary, the last four years of Trump have failed, epically, to keep my family safe.
Education is the answer, in our country and around the world, to eliminating poverty, crime, racial division, hunger, and to attaining economic equality and self-fulfillment. Many people might argue with that but, take a sip of that wine, gaze into the fire, and think critically for a moment.
If, from the beginning, students are taught behaviors like empathy, kindness, and tolerance, and then remain in school and graduate, most of the accompanying ills that are generated primarily by poverty could be irradicated. Adequately funding education figures prominently in keeping us safe as well.
Unfortunately, Trump and his policy makers struck out here as well. One obvious reason: Betsy DeVos. The woman appointed as Secretary of Education was a big donor who had no experience or apparent interest in education. Education funding has been cut, meaning not only will our already inadequate educational system not improve, but it will deteriorate further, especially with the pandemic putting an inordinate strain on a fragile, unprepared system.
A good, wise president does not act alone. He or she surrounds themselves with the brightest, most qualified cabinet members and advisors not big donors and puppets who swear loyalty to an autocrat. One of the reasons Trump has self-destructed is because he, already overwhelmed, attempted to take on too much himself. A bad call, seeing he was vastly unqualified for pretty much any kind of governance.
Trump has no advisers, only ‘yes-men.’ This would be like a school district superintendent hiring uneducated, unrespected, unqualified teachers, or his family members, or people he “owed,” and ignoring a candidate’s training, experience, or qualifications. Trump has been his own worst enemy; he’s spent four long years, delusional, wandering lost in his own ego.
Maybe I should just call this subject “the earth,” or the health (and safety) of human beings hoping to stay alive on this planet. Look hard into that glowing fire and take another sip. Many species are becoming extinct and, don’t forget, we humans are definitely a species. We are creating, by our obliviousness, a slow burn, a slumbering suicide.
If I had a student who was, let’s say, ingesting something that would eventually kill him, I’d be compelled to suggest he educate himself before it was too late. We must educate ourselves, pull our heads out of the sand, and realize we must have clean air and water to sustain our species, which includes my grand and future great-grandchildren, as well as yours. Already, millions of people die from poor air quality and poor drinking water, and this will, naturally, only get worse.
In his four years, the White House inhabitant has reversed at least 80 environmental rules and regulations. I’m sure, as Trump s*its on his solid gold throne, the furthest thing from his mind is sky blue waters, a hike in the mountains, a campfire. As vulgar an image as Trump grunting on the can might be, it doesn’t compare to the vulgarity of his administration’s destruction of our future, by ignoring the climate crisis. The solid gold toilet exposes the president’s values: pomp and poop over circumstances and science.
4) FINANCIAL SECURITY
Thought I wasn’t going to bring that up? What’s water and air compared to money, right? You need money to live well, right? Wrong. I hope you realize that in order to live at all, human beings needs clean air and water.
Of course, that’s not to say that being financially secure, being able to help your children, being able to pay your bills, and desiring a comfortable retirement is not significant. When I pivoted from teaching into a financial planning career, I soon learned that financial security is directly related to education?for example, I lecture on financial literacy at colleges and universities. But, while Trump’s idea of “rich” spotlights gaudy excess, I tried to impart to my clients (my new students) that rich is less about material possessions and more about obtaining the time and freedom to enjoy life.
Yes, rich = time. You might have heard the saying, “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” Or: “You might know how much money you’ve got, but not how much time.”
Obama left America with a recovering economy and stock market, and the momentum continued. I held my breath because I worried that Trump, in his rashness and impulsiveness, might do something to hobble the economic and market growth spurt. Little did I know it would be something he didn’t do. Ironically, by not acknowledging the pandemic because he thought it would hurt his re-election chances, it did just that.
The stock market and economy reflect each other, but are not the same. The stock market has been progressing nicely, helping those with the education and wherewithal to be able to invest. So, no F- for Trump in this category. But the pandemic has caused havoc for the millions of people struggling to make ends meet. And while the financially secure minority are still doing well, the actual economy is on a treacherous tipping-point and likely to get worse before it gets better. It all depends on surprises and events out of our control.
Those who say the economy and the stock market will always recover leave out the pre-recovery part. There will still be a lot of additional suffering coming our way,even more people losing their jobs, their homes, their nest eggs, their health due to a complete lack of federal leadership. More people are financially insecure now than they are secure. Thus, another definite failure for Trump and his administration.
I started writing this piece before the startling, abominable “insurrection” of domestic terrorists on our nation’s Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6. Now, after not a glass of wine this time but a double martini and staring into a blazing fire, I’ve contemplated and reconsidered who and what I should be grading. Considering the far-ranging, world-wide implications of the Capitol attack, and the further dividing of our country, I believe it’s our legislative branch of government that has failed us, and the U.S. Constitution, the most dramatically.
I’d give President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris an A for their post-election messages of uniting and wanting to heal a severely damaged, divided country. As of now, I’d also give our judicial branch an A for remaining impartial, fair, and refusing to cave to the pressure of a ranting, delusional child-man as he tried desperately to have the election declared invalid. But another F- is deserved by the legislative branch, primarily those cowards in the Republican party who keep giving validity to Trump’s manic lies, for whatever reasons, and choose to live in his deranged, alternate reality.
Elected members of Congress take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, which include all three branches. If they violate this oath, the result by law is removal from office. There could also be federal penalties for breaking the law.
Just as if someone accused you of a crime you didn’t commit, and there was no proof that you did it, our judicial branch would (or should) decide in your favor and find you not guilty. It’s the way a democracy works, or is supposed to work. The judicial branch, after dozens of lawsuits and appeals, ruled there was no proof of election fraud in the 2020 election, and that the election was fair and legal. Yet for many Republican members of Congress to steadfastly oppose the results is a complete dereliction of their oaths of office. Especially so, even after resigning Attorney General Bill Barr, an enabler of Trump, also declared that the election was fair and valid. Not only are they not upholding the Constitution, they’re supporting sedition. They’re only upholding their fealty to a rogue president.
No one person, even a rogue president, should be able to hold the power to divide a nation; nor can it be left up to one person to unite that nation. That power to divide needs followers and, in the United States, the followers are compelled to action by all of their leaders-their elected officials. If that action is passion without reason, chaos reigns. Insurrections are aroused.
Those in Congress who refuse to follow the rule of law, their oaths of office, and support the Constitution should be dismissed, at the very least. They’re even more to blame than the delusional, autocratic Trump. Those who, even while the insurrection was in process, continued to oppose the electoral vote, should not pretend to be leaders. They are spineless, mindless followers themselves. They made us aware of who they really are. If they stay in power, the divisions will not only remain but escalate.
If our new president is to succeed, to “heal” the country’s ills, he will need leaders all across the country to fulfill their oaths of office. He’ll need leaders from both parties that support reason, and who don’t inflame passions based on mistruths. A start in this direction is to call out and dismiss those in violation of the oaths they took.
As for the terrorists that stormed the Capitol, they need to go back to grade school (or finish it) and be taught to critically think, taught what patriotism really is, and taught to realize the psychological Waterloo of lying to themselves. They can study up in prison.
In the meantime, keep the fires crackling and the wine flowing. A toast now, to our new administration, in hopes it’ll get better marks than the last. Much better marks.
I’ll be back in four years, to grade the results.
Tim Munkeby is an author, speaker, and member of The Reporters Inc.’s Advisory Committee. You can contact him, read his blog, and buy his books via his website, www.timmunkeby.com.
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