Back in 1993, I visited the billion-dollar Trump Taj Majal casino in Atlantic City. Its glitz and glamour intrigued and intimidated that naïve, 20-something girl. Huge, marble bathrooms and corridors, complete with shiny gold-rimmed mirrors and giant chandeliers, opulent richly-patterned carpets, and beautiful Indian-carved elephant statues, exuded the idea of wealth beyond imagination. A bathroom attendant there, an older woman of unknown-to-me nationality who spoke broken English, was so kind and smiled generously at me as she handed me a paper towel to dry my hands. I did not have money to leave her a tip, and she said, “It’s OK,” and smiled again as I left.
I was not interested in gambling, so I walked around the huge casino in awe. I only knew Trump from the covers of the tabloids I had briefly viewed while waiting in grocery store lines. The public affairs and garish lifestyle that brought about bankruptcies and divorce seemed repulsive to me. Looking around the casino, I realized that living a superficial life, shiny and beautiful on the outside, but empty on the inside, was not an option for me.
In 2000, I worked outside Philadelphia. I spent a lot of time driving around for my job, sometimes listening to the Howard Stern radio show. I heard Donald Trump as a guest on that show, and was struck by the appalling comments he made about women and the lurid, sexual innuendos. Trump seemed perfectly adept at rolling right along with the womanizing tone of Stern’s show. My opinions about Trump were beginning to solidify, and he was not making a good impression.
I revisited Atlantic City during that time, while the casino was in the midst of filing for bankruptcy. The environment had completely changed. It had just a few operating gambling tables, some slot machines, and an ice cream shop, where people waited in line for waffle cones to carry around on the boardwalk. I wondered about the bathroom attendant and the many other employees who had lost their jobs in the now desolate establishment, with ragged carpets, dusty chandeliers, and the scent of stale smoke lingering in the air. I wondered how a successful venture had become such an obvious failure. Talking to some of the locals, I learned that Trump was a “larger-than-life loser” who had hurt the economy of Atlantic City much more than he had helped it.
A previous fan of old-school reality TV, I could never bring myself to watch “The Apprentice.” It was a reality show so unreal that almost no one in America could actually relate to. In the show, people tried their absolute best, only to be completely humiliated with verbal abuse and the eventual, “You’re fired!”
My opinion of Trump as a bully and emperor of greed and failure continued to thrive during the rise of this show.
These experiences led to a reaction of disbelief when that same Donald Trump became a possible candidate for presidency. In the summer of 2015, long before the privates-grabbing, disabled-mocking, Obama-hating rhetoric swirled on the daily news, I recall thinking, “How could a man with a public history of womanizing, bankruptcies and lewd behavior ever become president?”
I researched his bankruptcy in Atlantic City. I found that Trump had paid millions in fines for money-laundering and was involved in numerous lawsuits related to illegal and unethical treatment of his employees at the casinos. I could not imagine that a person of such low character could ever be a presidential candidate. In my research, I learned of the many business dealings in which Trump had refused to pay for services rendered, stiffing the most experienced architects, artists, designers, resort-owners and contractors. The data kept piling up that this person was not a shrewd businessman, but a fraud and a phony. He was a superficial reality-TV star incapable of relationships with people beyond business deals. That is even the reason he gave for the failure of his first marriage.
During the campaign, I recalled the 1972 film “The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford. In it, an unlikely candidate wins the presidency by pandering to the ideals of the people, and by generally “telling it like it is,” which really means telling people what they want to hear. After winning, the candidate literally has no idea what he will do as president. Just like “The Candidate,” Trump show-boated his way to the top, with no experience or ability to actually lead a great country.
My opinion of Trump is even worse now. He shows no interest in uniting us, but is hell-bent on dividing us. He panders to our fears of national insecurity, all the while buddying up with the Russian government, possibly the biggest threat to democracy and a free-society in the world.
He claims to love all women, that “nobody loves women more than me,” while tearing away women’s rights through executive orders, supporting a health care bill that harms women by removing reproductive care as a basic service, and whose second-in-command’s ideology does not allow him to be in the same room alone with a woman other than his spouse.
He threatens our physical world by denying the existence of climate-change and refusing to do our part in curbing it. He has slashed long-established environmental protections and threatened to withdraw from the Paris Accord. His appointments are leading to the severe degradation of the departments they’ve been picked to run. On an issue very dear to myself, having worked with people with disabilities since I was 12 years old, his budget slashes funding for programs that provide assistance to people who are physically or mentally unable to live independently. This is inhumane.
I cannot support these actions by our president. I cannot expect my children to look up to him as a role model and leader. This is not about losing an election or being a cry-baby liberal. This is about common decency, respect for our common humanity, and improving, not crippling, our society. It is about helping others to see that you don’t always win by crushing everybody else in the race.
This is about really telling it like it is, rather than saying what we want to hear. Because truth matters. And because maybe a president is supposed to care about others more than he cares about himself.