The election of Donald Trump was not some inexplicable aberration in American political life. Rather, it was the culmination of the Republican Party having been hijacked by the extreme right and transformed into a party that rejects fundamental ethical values and has mounted an assault on democracy.

Conversation About America backs up this claim in a thought-provoking and unsettling fictional dialogue between a ‘mainstream’ Republican Congressman and a potential donor looking to support candidates who will champion values that truly represent America—respect, truth, majority rule, and loyalty to country.

While primarily aimed at energizing citizens committed to addressing this problem, the book finally answers the question that has been haunting distraught Republicans, “What happened to my party?”

Topics that suggest the seriousness and extent of the G.O.P’s moral failure include:

  • Rejection of the concept of “respect” seen in the likely race-based treatment of President Obama. (Chapter Two)
  • Rejection of “truth, facts, and intelligence” in denying climate change (despite the connection to international terrorism) and false account of how the economy works.  (Chapter Three)
  • Desire to impose a conservative religious objection to abortion, held by a minority of Americans. Danger of theocracy. (Chapter Four)
  • Hypocritical allegiance to “defending innocent life” in seeking to ban abortion while rejecting any attempt to protect children from school massacres. (Chapter Four)
  • Parallels between Faux-G.O.P. and Weimar Germany. The Republican Coup.  Treason. Imposition of Minority Rule. (Chapter Five)

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What led me to write this book

While the election of Donald Trump was as much a shock to me as anyone else, what spurred me to write this book was that so many Americans who see themselves as good and decent people were willing to cast their vote for someone whose “brand” was defined by the aggressive and unscrupulous pursuit of self-interest. Trump’s business dealings have been characterized by failing to keep promises to banks and contractors. He rejects truth and facts. He displays shocking levels of ignorance and arrogance. And his behavior towards men and women alike is that of a schoolyard bully. And yet, millions of Americans apparently thought that these traits represent our country.

The more I brooded about these voters, the more I saw that the 2016 election was simply the culmination of a transformation of the Republican Party over the last 20 to 30 years. The former protector of “traditional American values” had become an extremist party that shamelessly trafficked in fear, racism, misogyny, ignorance and White nationalism. The election of Donald Trump, then, was simply the end result of this conscious rejection of the core notions of ethics and the fundamental values of America. Sadly, since Trump got into office, his behavior, that of William Barr and the Republican Party have only made matters worse. American democracy is under such an assault that even former loyal Republicans are sounding the alarm. Neoconservative Bill Kristol has written, “Not presumably forever; not perhaps for a day after Nov. 3, 2020; not on every issue or in every way until then. But for the time being one has to say: We are all Democrats now.” Similarly, Steve Schmidt, George Conway, Rick Wilson, and John Weaver have founded the Lincoln Project, with the goal of “persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.” 

While Conversation About America is written as a dialogue set in the context of a political campaign, it is a book primarily about ethics. And while members of all parties are guilty of significant ethical failures, I have never seen such a frontal assault on such basic moral values as honesty, respect and fairness as I have with the Trump-G.O.P. When this is combined with the party’s successful use of gerrymandering to impose minority rule, it shows how dangerous the current situation is.

I have written this book in the hope that it will encourage honest, sincere, and patriotic men and women of all parties and political allegiance not simply to reflect on the ethical challenges posed by the “Trump G.O.P.” More importantly, we all need to take action to correct the situation.

About the author

A noted ethicist, Thomas I. White is Founder and Director of IBECC: The International Business Ethics Case  Competition. He is also the Conrad N. Hilton Professor Emeritus of Business Ethics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Now living in Amherst, MA, he has written seven books–primarily on ethics. His  Socrates Comes to Wall Street, challenges the presuppositions about business that led to the 2008 meltdown and that continue to produce ongoing corporate scandals. White’s writings also include the pioneering In Defense of Dolphins and a number of articles which argue against the captivity of cetaceans by the entertainment industry. In connection with his work on dolphins, he is a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

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