By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
The traveling Presidential campaign trail has reached New York State. The Republican and Democratic primaries are coming this Tuesday, April 19. It is now up close and personal. With the races in both parties showing signs of tightening, the results will have a consequential effect on the race for the Presidency. Of the four leading candidates from both parties, three can actually boast of their New York roots. Republican Donald Trump was raised in New York City and the center of his business empire sits in Manhattan. Democrat Bernie Sanders (no relation) spent much of his childhood living in Brooklyn and now is Senator from the neighboring state of Vermont. And of course Hillary Clinton resides in Westchester and served in the United States Senate for eight years representing New York State. Ted Cruz traces back to Canada, and now Texas.
The last President of the United States to call New York home was Franklin Roosevelt and before him Theodore Roosevelt. Beyond the Roosevelt family one needs to go back to the 19th century to find the last President from New York State.
Say what you will about Democrats Sanders or Clinton… they are both qualified to be President. This in spite of the increased political hyperbole from both campaigns. Both have served in government for a long time and more importantly, both thoroughly understand the issues of the day. And although the United State Constitution specifies that the only qualifications needed to be President are that you be a natural born citizen and at least 35 years of age, historically we expect far more from our national leader, especially in this complex day and age.
Which is not to say that a fabulously wealthy person with only a business background cannot be President. But if such an individual does run, that person needs to demonstrate a mastery of issues and knowledge of government. And all persons who run for President must show a temperament and character that is stable and mature. Peggy Noonan who served with Ronald Reagan and has become a noted conservative commentator has said that character, above all, is most important. I think she is right.
So let me state what should be obvious by now: through his own actions and utterances Donald Trump is profoundly unqualified to be President. Yes I know that a lot of people admire him. They like his tough guy persona, they like that he backs down from nobody, and they especially like that he dislikes the same people they dislike. But President of the United States? Seriously? Space does not permit me to recount the litany of incidents and rants of Mr. Trump, any one of which would call into question his fitness to be President. But suffice to say his stunning lack of familiarity with details is frightening. Even more so is his lack of desire to learn
His casual nod to white supremacists and xenophobia; his constant belittling of women; his mocking of captured American servicemen as faux heroes; his defense of supporters who attack demonstrators; his endorsement of torture as a legitimate action to captured enemies and retribution against their families; his equivocation on the use of nuclear weapons; his ban of an entire religion from entering this country; his crude and insulting replies to anyone who challenges him; and of course his most recent incoherence about whether to “punish” women who receive an abortion, should give all voters pause.
Donald Trump is a kind of candidate that we have not seen before, at least not in this country. That is his mystique and his fatal flaw.
His election as President would be a signal that the American voters have surrendered to slogans over substance and crude demagoguery over civility and informed dialogue. We are better than this. New York is better than this. I hope that the voters of Empire State select candidates from each party who are worthy exemplars of our state motto: “Excelsior”…ever upward. Worthy of our heritage as being the gateway for immigrants and new Americans. Worthy as the protector of freedom and refuge to the oppressed symbolized by the Statute of Liberty standing proudly in our harbor.
Inexperience, ignorance and buffoonery in the highest office of the land will surely not make America great again.