"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." ~Maya Angelou
During the 2016 presidential campaign, I was horrified as candidate Donald Trump made abhorrent and incendiary statements about African-Americans, Muslims, and immigrants. As the son of immigrants from India, I was certain Americans would see through Trump's hateful demagoguery and elect Hillary Clinton, who I had openly supported.
When Trump won, I was flabbergasted. But unlike many of my progressive friends, I didn't get depressed. I wanted to understand; obviously the nation saw something positive about Trump's character and agenda that I (and so many others) had missed.
With this spirit of bipartisanship, I vowed to give our new president the benefit of the doubt on the few areas where I might narrowly agree with him. As an entrepreneur who has built and sold companies, I saw benefits in lowering taxes, loosening regulations, setting term limits, and investing in infrastructure. I wrote an op-ed citing these possible economic benefits of a Trump administration, and cautioning progressives against getting hysterical too soon. I appeared on CNBC and said I hoped Trump would get bi-partisan deals done on healthcare and taxes. I recently told the New York Times I was "rooting" for certain aspects of Trump's economic agenda.
But then I saw what happened last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. I saw the president of the Unites States cowardly signal tacit support of white supremacists and Nazis. Every time Trump reworked his response in subsequent days, he dug a deeper hole that revealed more and more. I realized the deep wisdom in Maya Angelou's statement: Donald Trump has now shown us who he really is, and it's time to believe it.
The truth is, after Charlottesville and its aftermath, I will not defend Trump even if the Dow hits 50,000, unemployment goes to 1 percent, and GDP grows by 7 percent. Some issues transcend economics, and I will not in good conscience support a president who seems to hate Americans who don't look like him. Trump rose to political prominence touting the insidious "birther" rumor about President Obama, fomenting suspicion that Obama wasn't "a real American."
But calling the president names will change nothing. Trump is a reflection of the USA today, and we must ask why there is such an appetite for dog whistle politics. I'm not smart enough to know, but I am certain banning Muslims wholesale isn't the answer. I am certain cutting immigration by 50 percent with an offensive points system ("Do you have a Nobel Prize?" and "Do you have an Olympic medal?" are real questions on the new form) isn't the answer. I am certain taking health care away from 20+ million poor people isn't the answer.
Over the last 6 months, I have talked to many Trump supporters, and I believe the vast majority of them are good people with honorable intentions. They are justifiably angry about the liberal bias in the press, but I believe social media is leveling the playing field in their favor. Either way, we've arrived at a moment where the leader of the free world represents policies that are antithetical to my life story.
From birth until junior high school I lived in Waukegan, Illinois, a blue-collar town near Chicago. Our next-door neighbors were African American, and our block was comprised of cops, firemen, and immigrants. I grew up with the best America has to offer, a true melting pot. In the 21st century, how can America have a president who sees diversity not as a blessing, but a curse? I am very proud to have built a successful business that employs hundreds of people, and has paid millions of dollars in taxes to the country I love more than anything.
In this era of deafening polarization, why do I bother speaking out? John F. Kennedy liked to say: "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality."
With this in mind, I have a message for our president: Mr. Trump, the only thing necessary to "Make America Great Again" is ensuring you are a one-term president, and I'm excited to start working toward that goal.
Commentary by Ravin Gandhi, CEO of Chicago-based GMM Nonstick Coating. Gandhi is also a VC investor and has invested in technology companies KeyMe, Ampsy, Tred, Lettrs and Hester Biosciences. Follow him on Twitter @Ravingandhi1.
For the latest commentary on markets in the U.S. and around the world, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.
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