Opinion: Dry Drunks for Trump

By Christopher Dale 04/28/16

Can AAers who support Trump really consider themselves sober?

Opinion: Dry Drunks for Trump
via Author

We’re approaching the unprecedented: A situation where AA’s 12 steps are entirely incompatible with the values of a major American political party.

Anyone who's been around Alcoholics Anonymous is familiar with its preamble, which, in addition to declaring the organization's main goal of achieving and maintaining member sobriety, appropriately states that AA is unaffiliated with other institutions and neutral in matters of politics and partisanship:

AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. 

True to this statement, throughout its 80-year history Alcoholics Anonymous has largely, and wisely, stayed out of the fracas of American politics. And as the march of social progress has made the country more tolerant, welcoming and enlightened, in turn AA, too, has evolved. For example, AA meetings in Alabama in 2016 are far more welcoming to African-American alcoholics than they were in 1956.  

Incrementally, prejudices like racism, sexism and homophobia have gone from full-fledged codification to being either completely outlawed or doomed to the slow, steady death of enlightened public opinion. The takeaway: In a free society, the arc of history bends toward progress. Civil Rights in the 1960s; the mass incorporation of women into the workforce in the late 1970s; marriage equality in the new millennium… all represent progress that, despite vehement and even violent opposition, have become part of mainstream America.  

In lockstep, AA has reflected those positive changes by appealing to an increasingly broad array of alcoholics; published in 2001, the fourth edition of the Big Book, which incorporates personal stories from a more diverse set of recovering members, exemplifies this growth. Indeed, the decades-long directions of AA as an organization and America as a nation have both trended toward gradual yet significant improvement. We’ll never be perfect, but can certainly claim progress. 

Considering all this, AA’s neutral stance on outside issues has been not only practical but practicable: The tenets of the 12 steps were, by and large, workable within the moral fabric of society – a society to which AA newcomers hoped to resume contributing upon their restoration to sanity and usefulness. 

It is both simple and sensible for an apolitical organization to stay neutral when no position need be taken.  

Enter Donald J. Trump. 

Unchecked Ego, Uncharted Territory

Never in AA’s history has there been a major-party presidential nominee (let alone president) whose positions were not, at least partly, compatible with the concepts espoused in the Twelve Steps. Given his commanding delegate lead in the Republican primary, Donald Trump seems likely to end that 80-year run of respectability. 

Everyone must be judged against the times in which they live. For example, a century ago then-president Woodrow Wilson was an unabashed racist – unforgivable but, given the era, understandable.  

But this isn’t 1916. It’s 2016. And amid our vastly more enlightened environs, Donald Trump’s racism, sexism and xenophobia make him the most disgusting person ever to get this close to the White House. His tactics of race-baiting, scapegoating and instigating violence at rallies have gone from national news to national disgrace. In the process, he has hoodwinked tens of millions of angry, overwhelmingly white male voters into thinking their diminished fortune in a changing country can be reversed with the wave of a demagogue’s magic wand. 

Listing the full portfolio of Trump’s despicable traits would require a book deal, so let’s limit the discussion to a single question: 

Are the values espoused by Donald Trump compatible with the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous? 

The answer is a resounding no. 

Consider some of the AA Principles and Virtues that correspond with the 12 steps: Honesty. Hope. Integrity. Humility. Brotherly Love. Justice. Service. Not only does Donald Trump not represent these values, he is in open rebellion against them. 

In all fairness to Trump, part of this is the modern day Republican Party itself. Take honesty and hope, for example; in the modern GOP’s fantasyland, what remains the world’s greatest country is in hopeless disrepair: an economy with 5% unemployment is in the tank, illegal immigrants are flooding across the border despite all evidence to the contrary, and the Second Amendment is facing imminent repeal. Obamacare is ruining both the healthcare systems and employment prospects, despite a precipitous drop in uninsured Americans and a robust five-year period of private sector job growth. Climate change doesn’t exist, while income inequality, equal pay for women and escalating college tuition are non-factors. Threats like ISIS can be unilaterally destroyed by military might despite glaring examples of recent history.  

But true to his outsized persona, nobody is more disingenuous and less inclined to appeal to our better angles, than Trump. Perhaps most notably, he balked at renouncing the endorsement of a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. A lengthy list of similarly shameless lies places Trump in a classless class by himself.  

Regarding the remaining AA principles, is there anyone in mainstream politics—or planet Earth—less humble than Donald Trump? Does anything say Brotherly Love less than vowing to deport 11 million immigrants – including ripping native-born children from the arms of their foreign-born parents? Or generalizing Mexicans as rapists and murderers? Or promoting violence against peaceful protesters?  

And what about Sisterly Love? Ask Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly – who Trump mused had “blood coming out of her wherever” after she had the nerve to fact-check his egregious falsehoods – whether he passes muster on gender fairness. 

Justice? Poll the hundreds of people bilked out of thousands of dollars by phony Trump University. As for Service…well, self-service doesn’t count.   

Out of Step with True Sobriety

It is tempting to cynically dismiss all this as a sign of the times. After all, political polarization in the U.S. has been deepening for decades, provoking ugliness from both sides of the aisle.  

But this is different. This is worse. We’re at a point where, as far as AA goes, the organization’s primary purpose is at risk. This is because members ascribing to Trump’s tenets aren’t really sober, but rather dry drunks – who at worst are at risk for relapse, and at best are poor examples of sobriety for fellow members, particularly newcomers.  

Politically active recovering alcoholics have always toed a line between policy positions, which may serve their own interests, and the 12 steps, which teach us to serve others. Until now, both major parties have stayed at least arguably in line with working an honest, humble and helpful program of recovery. In this framework, progress in sobriety fostered integration into a worthwhile citizenry.

Donald Trump threatens to obliterate that paradigm. In siding with Trump, supporters find themselves on the wrong side of issues that are not only political but moral. And in recovery, you don’t stay clean by living dirty.   

You can’t claim that an entire ethnic group consists largely of rapists and murderers and claim to be sober.   

You can’t openly endorse torture, or killing terrorists’ entire families, and consider yourself compassionate. 

And you can’t think it’s a good idea to threaten nuclear war and claim to have been restored to sanity. 

On its surface, AA’s guidelines and regular readings won’t change due to the emergence of one Donald J. Trump. But they should. Because at this point, we’ve devolved to the point where Americans – including, assumedly, a significant portion of AA members – now need to have common sense notions against bigotry, vulgarity and violence put into writing. We should know better; apparently we don’t. 

Meanwhile, to those Trump supporters claiming sobriety: Reassess, reset, and restart your day count at zero. 

Christopher Dale is a freelance writer who frequently covers recovery-based issues. He is the founder and sole contributor to www.ImperfectMessenger.us, a blog which, in addition to topics surrounding sobriety, also discusses politics and social issues.

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Christopher Dale is a recovering alcoholic and freelance writer who frequently covers sobriety, parenting and politics. His work has appeared in Salon, The Daily Beast, New York Newsday and Parents.com, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisDaleWriter.