Jeff Fishman: Where is the line?

  • Former President Donald Trump  AP FILE PHOTO/MANUEL BALCE CENETA

Published: 2/28/2021 11:28:22 AM

Most people, when faced with significant and potentially costly decisions in their lives, rely on some informal or formal process of determining what the costs and benefits are of making one choice versus making a different choice.

The assumption is that when we determine that a particular choice will ultimately cost more than we will derive benefits from, we turn away from those choices and look to choices where we are more likely to have the benefits outweigh the costs.

So it goes with political votes, and assessing the personal or larger community benefits to our votes versus the costs and damages to ourselves personally or collectively. Some voters in the Valley who wrote letters or columns in this newspaper acknowledging they voted for Donald Trump were willing to enumerate what they saw were the beneficial accomplishments of Trump’s time in office.

Rarely if ever are any of the potential costs or downsides of keeping Trump in office mentioned with the clear implication that what they determine as the benefits of Trump’s leadership outweigh whatever costs they might believe Trump has cost the nation.

Many Valley voters who made the choice to vote for Joe Biden did so less for the known benefits of a Biden presidency but because the costs of keeping Trump in office would far outweigh whatever benefits he might have brought to the country or to our personal well-being. The costs of repeated incidents of lying, bullying, spreading misinformation, stoking racial divisions, eroding our relationships with international allies, leading up to possibly contributing to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds if not thousands of Americans by not upholding or modeling public health protocols in relationship to COVID-19 were so high to begin with that it was hard to imagine the costs getting any higher.

Now that the election has occurred and that next early morning the president announced himself the winner before the votes were all counted and demanded the vote counting stop then, he has repeatedly and deliberately spread false and baseless claims that the election was fraudulent and that he won the election in a landslide. He refused to concede the election despite 64 failed lawsuits and every state declaring their final vote tallies as confirmation of a fair and free election.

When the former president summoned the rioters to Washington to march on the Capitol, what we witnessed on Jan. 6 was the antithesis of a peaceful transfer of power. Trump did not speak out when the rioting first broke out, and only hours later did her urge the rioters to go home after telling them they were special and that he loved them.

That evening seven Republican senators made the decision that the president’s actions were too costly to the nation to justify continuing to object to the certifying the Electoral College results. Ten congressional Republicans made the decision that the costs to the nation of the insurrection outweighed whatever personal or political gains they might see for themselves or the Republican Party and voted to impeach the president.

We could debate whether these were acts of courage or conscience, but they were clear lines that were crossed in the cost-benefit analysis. Do any of our voters in the Valley who endorsed Donald Trump with their vote last November have the courage or conscience to openly acknowledge if their cost-benefit lines were crossed and that they would no longer vote for him today?

If their votes today would not have changed, what greater tolls would the country have to exact for that line to be crossed for them? Or was Trump correct in proudly asserting a few years ago that he could have shot a person on Fifth Avenue in New York and his supporters would still vote for him?

Jeff Fishman lives in Amherst.

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