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Why one independent is endorsing Trump’s reelection

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The assembly of good men and women of every race and background by Republicans and Donald Trump during their national convention last week was far more persuasive and authentically patriotic than anything the Democrats achieved a week earlier. 

One person they couldn’t have (and likely wouldn’t have had, in any circumstance) was acclaimed actor Chad Boseman, 43, who succumbed last week to cancer. As best as I can tell, Mr. Boseman did not use his celebrity to intervene in politics to the often overwhelming extent that many actors and entertainers do — although, notably, his last post on Twitter congratulated fellow Howard University graduate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on becoming the Democratic vice presidential nominee and urged everyone to vote.

Playing such iconic figures as Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall, Boseman borrowed from the luster of those characters — but his real talent was an ability to question seemingly settled stereotypes premised on race. His reward? Years of being overlooked by many movie execs who, perhaps, did not want the sometimes messy truth of history to be written or acted with depth and nuance. He explained it this way to the Associated Press in 2013 while promoting his first blockbuster movie role in “42,” in which he played baseball’s Robinson: “You don’t have the same exact experience as a Black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities. … How often do you see a movie about a Black hero who has a love story … a spirituality? He has an intellect. It’s weird to say it, but it doesn’t happen that often.”

God rest Chad Boseman’s soul; without bitterness or the irresponsible reckless allowance of violence, he faced racially based denial and exclusion where it hurts the most — in the very understanding of human identity and day-to-day experience. Those in authority who abuse their power by killing the unarmed, or those looters who steal and destroy wantonly, do not comprehend a single word of the late Mr. Boseman’s message to Howard University’s 2018 graduates. 

In his own, startlingly different manner, Trump’s approach to presidential governance also dares to look behind the so-called customs, traditions, and unfeeling bureaucratic “we’ve always done it that way” attitudes which, when accumulated, paralyze democracy, erode trust in law, and diminish the universal hope for a better tomorrow.

In 2008, I endorsed Barack Obama for his eloquent representation of America at her best and most generous. That endorsement came at a price so dear that it ended my public career and impacted my personal life. Because the resulting wounds are deep and unrelenting, the price still seems too great to endure.

And yet, can the price ever be too high when it is a matter of conscience? Thomas More remarked in the 16th century that “When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their own public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.” 

Mr. Trump’s manner of presentation certainly is not one of humility, and it can mislead one to think he lacks empathy. He doesn’t. He is just more interested in empathy of action rather than of word. For example, it is hardly uncaring when Trump advocates school choice for all families, or seeks to control the pandemic while simultaneously urging that jobs be restored, seeking fair trade with diplomatic friends and cautioning the proponents of terror to stand down — or, lest we forget, his keeping our military well-equipped and trained, at home, as a corollary to moderating the temptation to intervene internationally without a well-thought-out purpose and a realistic means to achieve it. 

The “to do” list for the next president includes wrestling with the inscrutability of pandemics, melting ice caps and “unsurvivable” water events, costly wildfires, and domestic rioting beyond comprehension. President Trump did not choose this formidable “to do” list, at an age when most of us might prefer the comfort of an easy chair, but he has undertaken it with fresh eyes and unconventional thinking.

We cannot meet the problems we face by leaning upon the steady but prosaic legislative record of a likable man such as Joe Biden who is well-suited for supporting roles. It is possible, but unlikely, that Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris, if elected, intend to revive an understanding of the vice presidency as primarily a legislative officer, situated in Congress to bring opposing sides into agreement (in line with the express constitutional assignment to the VP to break legislative ties as Senate president). Biden-Harris might well be superb in that role but, alas, since Walter Mondale and especially since Dick Cheney, today’s VP is thought to be deputy president even as, textually and historically, the person holding the second office was not. 

And while vice presidential candidates seldom determine a presidential race, Sen. Harris has little experience in state-level administration and none at the federal level. Intelligent and well-spoken (except when badgering congressional witnesses), Harris has potential farther down the road. One wonders why Democrats chose inexperience when actuarial tables suggest a different approach. 

The early polls notwithstanding, and barring some foreign-inspired hacking of the postal system, Donald Trump likely will receive his desired reelection. Still, it will not be a landslide of Reaganesque proportion and, right now, there will be fewer Obama-Trump voters for whom faith, family and freedom were determinative in 2016. COVID-19 remains a sizable wild card, especially if voters in all-important Midwestern states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan) must stand outside in November weather. If the president would make a greater effort to remove the negative invective from his style and presentation, his attractiveness and electability would benefit — but so would we all from his example. 

The president’s greatest temptation is to repay the rudeness and disparagement of major-media outlets. That repayment, as a matter of justice, may be warranted. Yet, his response should not be to match it but to ignore it. In this, Michelle Obama’s advice to go high when others go low is a good one to follow.

So, President Trump has this independent’s endorsement to make the world great again — again. Note carefully that the charge is to make the world great, not just our beloved America. He likes “firsts.” I do too. My support is for him to do something no prior president or world leader has ever truly attempted — namely, to transcend the small-minded 2016 nativism that broke out around the globe and that, today, blocks freedom and free markets from addressing the root causes of famine, violence, disease and environmental destruction.

Will others understand what I write here today, and why? Not if blinded by the partisan exchange of epithets which our first president predicted would be the natural consequence of political parties. Wisdom is seldom entirely red or blue. 

I accompanied my John Kennedy-campaigning father, at age 9, but would later “Seek a Newer World” and an end to Vietnam’s bloodletting as advocated by Robert Kennedy; at the beginning of my public professional life, Ronald Reagan’s commitment in 1980 to family, neighborhood, work, peace and freedom won me to his side. In 2008, the rhetorical eloquence of then-Sen. Obama appeared to be a hinge moment, addressing racial injustice with the opening of vast opportunities for minority citizens. Was there less there than met the eye in each instance? A suggestion to go with this endorsement: Let others judge.

Author Erma Bombeck once said: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.’”

America today needs — and deserves — that level of effort.

Douglas Kmiec is professor emeritus of constitutional law at Pepperdine University School of Law and founder of the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Malta from 2009 to 2011 and headed the Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Follow him on Twitter @dougkmiec.

Tags 2020 presidential election Barack Obama Chad Boseman civil unrest Donald Trump Fair trade Independent voters Joe Biden Michelle Obama Presidency of Donald Trump

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