Politics and Love, Uncategorized

Do People Want Trump to Fail No Matter What?

Do critics of Trump want him to fail no matter what?

I would like to grant two points at the beginning of this post: First, I am certain there are indeed people critical of President Trump who want him to fail no matter what he does. Second, there are critics of President Trump who behave in an unethical or immature manner in their criticism of him.

Having granted these two points, I would like to suggest that the question, “Do Critics of Trump Want Him to Fail No Matter What?” is the wrong question to ask. To understand why, I would like you to imagine a scenario I will call the Difficult Boss Scenario.

The Difficult Boss Scenario

Imagine that you work for a branch of a large, successful company. There are some great things about your branch. But it has struggled in recent years. And so your company recently hired your boss because he has a record of fixing problems like those in your branch. He has been your boss for three years. Unfortunately, while your new boss has helped the branch in some ways, he is difficult. He has anger issues, and he regularly berates his employees and curses at them for trivial reasons when he is in a bad mood.

Pic #1

In addition, he has also fired several women that he thinks are too old. And he regularly tells everyone that he thinks older women are unattractive. This behavior violates your company’s policy against age discrimination.

Furthermore, it is common knowledge that your boss has made unwanted advances to women in the work place, even touching them inappropriately on several occasions. He has also actively worked against his company hiring any African-Americans, even ones who are highly qualified for the job. And he says that they ruin the “look” of his company, actions which (again) violate your company’s policy on discrimination.

To make matters worse, there are increasing reports, documented by evidence, that your boss cooks the company books. He does this so that he can use company dollars to fund his own pet projects that have nothing to do with the business. And it is also common knowledge that he regularly communicates misinformation or flat-out false information to investors about key facts regarding the financial well-being of the company.

So even though he is brilliant in several key areas of the company, many of your colleagues who listen to him discuss investor reports are concerned. That is because your boss has a very weak or non-existent grasp of some of the other basic facts of the company. And he shows very little desire to become acquainted with them.

Business #2

Over the past three years, these problems have become so frequent that many of your fellow employees have collected memos, and other media documenting the behavior. Many of your colleagues have tried to talk with your boss or get him to reconsider his behavior. But your boss is so adverse to criticism that anyone who does this is routinely demoted, “let go” or transferred to another company branch.

Your colleagues are deeply concerned about your boss’s behavior. And they are concerned about the negative effect it could have on the company. So they are considering reporting the boss’s behavior to HR or even to your company’s executives. One day a few of them are talking to you about their concerns. Another employee overhears the discussion. And he accuses your colleagues of wanting your boss to fail.

Here is an important question to consider at this point. Do your colleagues want your boss to fail or do they have legitimate concerns about your boss’s behavior? Furthermore, do they have an obligation to do something about such behavior?

Reflecting on the Difficult Boss Scenario

If we reflect on the Difficult Boss Scenario, we understand that whether his employees want him to fail is beside the point. That is because the boss is engaging in inappropriate behavior that harms both individuals and the company. It may even be the case that some of the employees have bad attitudes towards the boss. This is still beside the point, however, because the Difficult Boss is engaging in inappropriate behavior. And his behavior is consistently wrong, no matter the attitudes of other people.

Inappropriate behavior does not suddenly become appropriate because of the attitude someone holds towards you. For instance, if you steal someone’s stuff, this inappropriate behavior is not justified because the person has a bad attitude towards you. Or, for example, punching someone in the face is not justified because the person has a bad attitude towards you.

In the same way, the boss’s inappropriate behavior does not suddenly become appropriate because of the bad attitudes people hold towards him. There is no moral or ethical system that excuses unethical behavior because other people are being rude. Even when we must defend ourselves, we are still required to do so ethically. For instance, we are not permitted ethically to defend ourselves from slander by slandering other people or, as an extreme example, blowing up their house.


And we are not permitted to defend ourselves by, for example, assassinating their spouse. In the same way, the Difficult Boss may not act in any way he chooses simply because some of this employees have a bad attitude.

In regards to our Difficult Boss Scenario, it is also certainly true that employees can become disgruntled with a boss and engage in sabotaging behavior that makes his or her life extremely difficult. However, in our Difficult Boss scenario, it is important to note that raising concerns about unethical and potentially illegal activity is not sabotaging the Difficult Boss. When his employees raise such concerns, they are right to do so because their boss consistently engages in in appropriate behavior for a boss (or anyone). And He does so in a way that harms both his employees and the company. Furthermore, he is actively ignoring or retaliating against those who rightfully raise these concerns to him.

And while no boss is perfect, such behavior becomes especially problematic when a boss fails to learn from his mistakes and acts consistently in unethical and potentially illegal ways.

The more a boss consistently demonstrates these problems, the more his employees have an obligation to speak out about it in some way. After all, if they do not speak out, they will become complicit in their boss’ unethical and illegal activity.

We certainly aren’t responsible to call out every single instance of unethical behavior we see in the world. That would be intrusive and moralistic. We are, however, responsible to call out inappropriate behavior that consistently occurs within our personal domain. We especially need to do so when the inappropriate behavior entails harm to other people. And we especially must do so when it is perpetrated by someone more powerful upon those that are less powerful.[2]When we fail to speak out about such behavior, we  become complicit.

Back to Politics

The Difficult Boss story relates to the question “Do critics of President Trump want him to fail no matter what?” We are in a better position now to see why this question is irrelevant. As I stipulated at the beginning of this post, it is certainly true that some people do have bad attitudes towards the President. And some want him to fail no matter what.

That, however, is beside the point because the question is whether the President regularly and consistently engages in inappropriate behavior. If he does, then we (meaning voting U.S. citizens) have a responsibility to speak out about it. And in fact, we become complicit in such behavior if we do not speak out about it.

To help us determined if the President’s behavior is appropriate, I would like to ask you to use your imagination for a minute.

Imagine that you are an outside political consultant from another country whom a bi-partisan Think Tank hired to give an objective, non-biased view of U.S. political leaders. You have a high school education and two years of college education as well. In addition, you are neither Democrat nor Republican. And you are not aware of any of the hot U.S. political issues nor any U.S. political figures.


The Think Tank has isolated you in a room by yourself for three weeks. There is no TV, radio, or computer in the room. But it is very comfortable. And you are well-fed with all your favorite foods and snacks. You have a lovely, comfortable bed to sleep in, and you are well-compensated for your time.

During your three weeks, you are not allowed to read or listen to any news. And you are not allowed to talk to anyone other than members of the Think Tank. All you are permitted to do is read the President’s own Tweets and watch videos of him speaking at rallies and at White House conferences. You are also permitted to read transcripts of his speeches and interviews he has done with various people.

You have also been assigned to read the U.S. Constitution. And you can also read documents from the original Continental Congresses in which the Constitutional writers debated various parts of the Constitution.


If you need background information on the information you are reading, several members of the Think Tank are available to answer your questions with basic factual responses.

Lastly, you also have a dossier on the the President’s life, which has been compiled by the bi-partisan Think Tank. It contains basic facts about the President’s early years, his education, his marriages, his business ventures, and several scandals associated with the President. It also discusses several of his notable successes. At the end of the three weeks, the Think Tank asks you to rate the President on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 low and 10 high) on ten criteria (see below).

They also tell you that they have ten other people in ten other rooms just like you. And they ask you to write a written statement providing consistent evidence from the President’s own Tweets and speeches that clearly support the ratings you have given for the criterion below. They ask you to do this so that you can justify your claims to the other consultants [3]. The Think Tank wants to gauge the overall impression of the consultants.


One: The President consistently shows that he has a strong grasp of the US Constitution and that he is willing to be held accountable by other branches of the government.

Two: And the President shows a consistent effort to listen to experts in various political, social, and medical matters (especially in areas where he lacks expertise). And he allows their expertise to inform his presidential policies.

Three: The President shows a consistent effort to work with people from other parties and to listen to the concerns of all U.S. citizens.

Four: And the President is open to constructive criticism and shows a consistent desire to learn from his mistakes.

Five: The President is willing to work with and be held accountable by a variety of news outlets of different political persuasions.[4]

Six: And the President consistently shows respect for the dignity of all human beings.

Seven: The President operates from a clear and apparent set of ethical principles that aim at both his good and the good of everyone in the U.S. And his life conduct has consistently demonstrated high ethical standards.

Eight: And the President consistent communicates in a way that demonstrates clear, evidence-based, critical thinking.

Nine: The President shows a willingness to consider other people’s points of view.

Ten: And the President refrains from speech that could be construed as prejudiced, racially motivated, or influenced by derogatory views about women.

What Would Outside Consultants Conclude?

I would ask you to consider that, it would be difficulty for them to give consistent evidence from his own speeches and tweets to support a passing grade.

And I would also ask you to consider that the above criteria are the minimum standard for presidential competence. That is, if a president cannot receive a passing grade on these criteria, he lacks basic presidential competence.

White House

And if that is the case, which I think it is, then people have a right and even an obligation to speak out about the President. Whether they love him or want him to fail is completely besides the point because his behavior is inappropriate. His inappropriate behavior is made worse by the fact that the President is, arguably, the most (or one of the most) powerful people in the world. So his behavior inflicts suffering on folks with much less (or even no) power.

Some Rejoinders

There are some common rejoinders I hear to such concerns, which I would like to address in closing.

The President is bad, but his opponents are worse.

This may or may not be true. Either way, it is a false dichotomy. It is not as though we only have two choices: either vote for the President or his opponents. We have another choice. Namely, we can demand ethical, humane politics by holding all our leaders accountable, whether they belong to our party or not.

The current Republican and Democratic parties are a recent development. Political parties change over time in response to people’s demands. We must demand better politics by holding all leaders accountable, whether they are in our party or not.

All political leaders are corrupt. That’s just how the world is.

This common belief is seductive but at odds with the evidence. For example, if we look at the world, we see that very little about it is set in stone. And most of what we see around us in the world today is a result of our collective thoughts and actions. You already know this on some level because you know that the world is radically different today than it was two hundred, a hundred, or even fifty years ago. Such changes have occurred because of human intervention in the world.

The world changes when we decide it must change. If we want better, more ethical leaders, we must decide together that we want them. And we must then act on this decision. One of the ways we do this is by acting courageously and holding all our leaders accountable, whether they belong to our party or not. If, on the other hand, we continually say, “That’s the way the world is”, we will keep thinking and acting in the same old way. And we will get the same old world and leaders we have now.

It’s naive to think we can hold leaders to high ethical standards.

I would suggest it is a misreading of history to believe we cannot hold leaders to high standards. For example, it shows a lack of consideration of historical movements likes the abolition and suffrage movement. And it overlooks the civil rights movements lead by Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi.  It also overlooks the anti-apartheid movements in South Africa, as well as the impeachment trials of Nixon an Clinton in the U.S.

I don’t care about the ethics. I just want the economy to be strong.

Folks who say things like this, I believe, want to be economically stable and able to provide for their family. That is perfectly reasonable. What is not reasonable is to adopt a code that goes something like this: “Any political action is acceptable as long as it makes the economy strong.” If we adopt this principle, it means that the President (or anyone else) can harm anyone they like as long as it makes the economy strong. I don’t think you want people to harm you or your family to strengthen the economy.

Because of that we must also take a stand that it is also not permissible to harm others to strengthen the economy. And that means we must hold everyone, including the President, accountable. Our desire for a strong economy cannot take precedent over other values.

I am a Christian, so I must vote for Trump

Please know that there are Christians all over the US (including myself) who are deeply committed to their faith and who have voted for someone other than the President. You can read about this here and here.

People who criticize Donald Trump are so hypocritical. They never point out the faults in their own party’s leaders.

This may or may not be true. (It certainly is true in some cases.) This, however, is irrelevant. The point now is that you have a choice today to act with integrity and avoid hypocrisy. I do, too. My goal is to hold all leaders accountable, no matter their party. I hope that’s your goal, too.

 To do this, we must

1) Hold all our leaders accountable to consistent standards that apply to any leader and not make exceptions for the leaders we like.

2) Stop, drop, and roll out of partisan politics. Just like there are people all over the political spectrum who have good insight into education, medicine, sports, and business, there are people all along the political spectrum have wisdom and insight into political matters. And we can learn from each other. In fact, if we do not learn from each other, we keep thinking the same old things and repeat the same old mistakes.

3) We must commit to living according to a clear ethical code. Such a code should express values like these: “Be kind. Treat others how you want to be treated. Don’t enable inappropriate behavior in leaders.”


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End Notes

[1] When I use the word ethics in this post, I refer to the principles that guide our conduct to help us aim for a higher good both for ourselves and others. One of the most common ethical principles is “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Most businesses attempt to operate by a code of ethics. (There is a whole philosophical discipline called business ethics that studies this matter.)

It is very wise for businesses to do so. This is not only because it helps them be better businesses but because it helps them avoid whistle blower complaints, human rights violations, environmental contamination, and expensive lawsuits. Two of the most common ethical standards ethical businesses follow are these: 1) Maximize quality pleasure and minimize pain for the most people. (This is the standard of utilitarian ethics.) 2) Treat people as an end in themselves and not merely as a means to some other end (this is the standard of deontological ethics).

If a business fails to conduct itself according to ethical principles, it might follow this rule for conduct: “Do whatever you have to in order to make the most money.” If you would like to read a story about a business that failed to adhere to ethical conduct and instead made its sole goal making money, you might like (or lament) reading about the Ford Pinto fiasco here.

[2]Most religions and ethical systems advocate that we have a special duty to defend those who can’t defend themselves. So, for example, both the Old Testament and the New Testament in the Bible are especially concerned about people who are harmed by unjust rulers.

[3] You may be concerned that the objective observers in this scenario are too strongly influenced by the country they grew up in. If so,  imagine that the objective observers are all the adult children of U.S. medical workers that worked in other countries. The parents grew up in the U.S. and were educated in U.S. schools. But they were almost completely apolitical because they were so focused on their medial practice.

Their children grew up in a variety of countries—both European and non-European, first and third-world countries. And they were home-educated with a variety of home school materials used in both public and private U.S. schools. They have lived in countries that were socialist, communist, and capitalist. For their history and government curriculum, they mainly read primary historical sources and the Constitution. And they have had little to no exposure to television or news sources.

[4] A press that can investigate powerful leaders and hold them accountable is one of the only tools we have to hold powerful people accountable. Powerful leaders, for example, can intimidate and control branches of the government. But it is very hard for them to maintain total control over all the media outlets, none of which are beholden to or funded by him.

2 thoughts on “Do People Want Trump to Fail No Matter What?”

  1. This is a brilliantly composed post, Shelly, in two senses of the word! The bipartisan nature of US politics certainly appears to cloud judgement from an outsider’s perspective. That’s not to say the UK is any better! Maybe we all hold on to our established identities and belief patterns too tightly, rather than engaging universal ethics. It seems like there is fear-based judgement going on. If I had a wish for the world it would be a release from paranoia, so that we can see possibilities instead.

    1. Ali, I really appreciate it that you enjoyed this post! I actually had fun writing it because I loved developing the Difficult Boss and Outside Consultant thought experiments. A lot of philosophers use thought experiments in their articles, and I thought, “Why not use them for a post about politics?” Sometimes I feel like I should stop writing about the President and politics, but I feel like we have collectively lost our blooming minds about politics in the U.S. I am sure it feels that way sometimes in the UK, too. You are so right that we are really acting out of fear. And I know my blog posts won’t change everything. But, I feel like if maybe even just one or two folks read them and start to think about politics a little bit differently, it is worth it. And it is exactly as you say: We have got to start practicing ethics–not holding onto our political party like our life depended on it. All of this is to say that I appreciate your kind words so much. And I will probably keep writing about politics along with all my other subjects, too.

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