Blog: Evaluations

Date: 2018-Jan-31 02:00:47 EST

I find it hard to evaluate Donald Trump and not see one of the worst political leaders I have seen in this country. Before being president he had a business career best characterised as tasteless hucksterism. While running for president he ignored norms, some fairly and some not, that would've sunk other political figures. He's courted conspiracy theorists and brought the fringe into the spotlight, and made promises to do things that are alternatively idiotic (a wall wouldn't do squat) and disturbing (talk of killing family of terrorists). He's attacked rule of law and our legal norms (talking about removing limits on libel cases, pushing for personal loyalty rather than commitment to our country). And then as president he's appointed largely incompetent people, many of whom have expressed animosity for the department they were appointed to. He's adopted policies that buy a short-term win at the cost of the longer term (cuts to research, moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem). He's removed people out of personal spite, often after engaging with a prolonged public war with them. He's repeatedly obstructed justice in the form of interference with the probes investigating his election. He's used Twitter to act like a crazy grandpa, and shown himself to be exceptionally petty and uncaring about the truth.

I think he's a shit president. I think the nation would be better off if he were to have a heart attack right now and his VP were to take the reigns.

This doesn't mean that I like Hillary (I don't), or that I wish she were president (I don't, although I definitely don't prefer him). It doesn't mean I think every single thing he's done or tried to do is a mistake, but I think most are. And it also doesn't mean that I hope for liberals to win forever. I think a healthy and regular transfer of power is necessary for our country to function, and that each party ideally acts to keep the other in check.

As an example of the crazy that I see on the side I favour, consider this article by a group called 500 Women Scientists. They're going after Bill Nye for attending the SOTU right now, claiming that Nye, despite what he asserts, is supporting Trump's agenda by being there. To which I say that exclusive notions of meaning for an event cannot be attained; perhaps to them it has a meaning, but to Nye it has a different meaning and to the rest of us, we'll all attach our own meaning to Nye's presence. They pull out the (almost always wrong as a move in an argument, in my view) tool of attempting to dismiss Nye by claiming he has privilege. This is a bad move because it is facile and has no content; a claim of privilege is to claim that were somebody to have lived a different life they may have had different views, so we should dismiss them. It's empty. And likewise they claim to speak on behalf of "the scientific community". With that, either anybody in the sciences can, or nobody can; as a community we are naturally very diverse. Some support Trump, presumably. Some are very conservative, presumably. Not all of us are American, and not all of us care about their criticisms of ableism or misogynism or so on. Many of us do, but there is no unity. Not all scientists are "bold and progressive", nor should we be. Science is an ancient, international, and broad discipline with very little intrinsic ideology. I know that, despite my being a kind of liberal and as somebody in the sciences, "500 Women Scientists" does not speak for me. They speak for themselves. Whether we all can speak for the scientific community or none of us can is a matter of perspective.

Would I go to the SOTU? Probably not. But there are reasons somebody might decide to go - one might decide to make the best of the situation they find themselves in and get as much funding for the sciences as they can. I would not disrespect them for that. Instead, as is often the case, I condemn the activist that insists there is one path. Shame on them. Although as should be clear from my first paragraph, there's plenty of shame to go around.