Please allow me to preface my comments with this caveat: If you consider the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency a sign of the impending apocalypse, whatever I have to say next is going to raise your ire because I am approaching my assessment of the Republican Convention with the idea that the nominee of one of our two major political parties deserves to be judged with an open mind. This means I am not going to snark or sneer, which is an approach to politics and politicians that I believe serves no useful purpose.
First, three global comments on Donald Trump:
1. Donald Trump is a showman and self-promoter to his core, and this comes through loud and clear in everything he says and does. His personal style does not seem “Presidential” to many—but I am not certain this alone should disqualify him from the Presidency
2. Donald Trump is a born and bred New Yorker, and this also comes through loud and clear in everything he says and does. Speaking from my own experiences living and working in New York City for many years, Trump seems exactly like the people I remember shouting at total strangers for obscure and inadvertent transgressions while generally speaking at maximum volume and speed every moment of every day—but I am not certain this alone should disqualify him from the Presidency.
3. Donald Trump is a very Un-PC man colliding with PC media and academic cultures that expect everyone to speak in low tones, validate all points of view, and utter nary a discouraging word–and this definitely comes through loud and clear in everything he says and does. The Trumpian knee-in-the-groin style of dealing with doubters and dissenters seems to me an obvious artifact of his living and working in New York. Having been a placid Midwesterner in a college town for many years now, I can well understand why Trump rubs many the wrong way with his abrasive manner—but I am not certain this alone should disqualify him from the Presidency.
Now onto the Republican Convention….
I do not know whether I am grading on a curve because so much of what I read beforehand predicted something akin to the zombie apocalypse would occur in Cleveland, but it all seemed much as I expected: ragged around the edges (Melania Trump’s speech), animated by a deep reservoir of discontent and distrust (“Lock her up!”), and perhaps a fitting swan song for the jolly Rotarian style of Main Street Republicanism that has now seemingly been crushed by voter anger. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll has found that 72% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track; don’t expect a lot of happy talk under these circumstances.
Given my own driving interest in improving public education, I was very pleasantly surprised by the speech delivered by Donald Trump Jr. His comments on the need to provide high quality education for all of our children—and his broad suggestions about how this might be accomplished through expanded school choice—struck a responsive chord with me. I was pleased this was reiterated by Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence in his speech to the Convention, and I hope this reflects what we might expect if Trump wins. Trapping poor students in lousy neighborhood schools because of their street addresses is like putting a foot on their throats and demanding they stand on their own two feet.
I am, however, not at all pleased with the Republican platform’s repudiation of the Common Core standards, and I fear the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which kicked a lot of education policy responsibility back to the states, is already leading to a good deal of backsliding on standards and accountability, which unfortunately serves the interests of both Republican small government ideologues and Democratic teacher unions—at the expense of our children’s futures. A recent Education Week article describes in depressing detail just how very far we still are from equalizing access and opportunity for all students. We need fundamental and sweeping change today; throwing a bone to your followers to win a few votes doesn’t do much to help a child to learn.
As for Donald Trump’s speech on the final night of the Convention, it was exactly what I expected—see global comments #1, #2 & #3 above. Enough said.
In closing, all I can say is that we can expect to have the most confrontational and informative Presidential candidate debates since Lincoln and Douglas squared off prior to the Civil War. Two candidates with totally different views and personal styles (I somehow picture a darting pirate ship battling a heavily-armed frigate) is a prescription for a great deal of thought-provoking argument about the future of our nation—I can’t wait.