By Clarence Page
Tribune Content Agency
If anything is certain about Donald Trump's bizarre bid for the Republican presidential nomination, it is the huge favors he does for the Democrats.
That thought occurred to me last weekend, for example, as Trump was lobbing verbal mud balls at Sen. John McCain's heroic war record at an appearance in Ames, Iowa.
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Had national attention not been so captivated by the audacity of Trump, more people would have noticed the weekend's Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix. The progressive activists who disrupted a presidential candidates' forum at the liberal gathering demonstrated how the right has no monopoly on recklessly unbridled anger.
How else does one describe the sight of Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley shouted down for saying "Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter."?
O'Malley was responding to demonstrators who were chanting "Black lives matter" to protest the mistreatment of black Americans by law enforcement. The protestors disrupted the forum at Netroots as O'Malley, a former Maryland governor, was interviewed on stage.
And he later apologized. That's right. O'Malley apologized for being inclusive enough to say "all lives matter," as if that were an insult to protesters who had chanted, "Black lives matter."
It took conservatives no time to pounce on the obvious irony of this political correctness clash. Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, let his sarcasm fly. "One wonders if O'Malley spends any time on the Internet," Lowry wrote. "Everyone knows you can't tell a left-wing audience that all lives matter anymore."
Well, sadly enough in my view, Lowry's right. The slogan "Black lives matter" has grown from Twitter hashtag into a movement after a series of high-profile, racially suspicious police brutality cases nationwide over the past year.
I believe such cases need to be thoroughly investigated and that allegations of racial bias need to be taken seriously. Still, I believe all lives should matter, whether slogans say it or not.
Unfortunately, angry movements don't let such niceties get in the way of a serviceable slogan. Besides, as one "Black lives matter" supporter tweeted, adding "White lives matter" makes you sound like you've walked into somebody's funeral to declare, "I, too, have suffered."
That's why O'Malley thought it would be more prudent to apologize than try to argue semantics. "That was a mistake on my part, and I meant no disrespect," O'Malley said in an online interview after the event. "I did not mean to be insensitive in any way or communicate that I did not understand the tremendous passion, commitment and feeling and depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue."
The group later heckled Sen. Bernie Sanders, too. The self-described socialist from Vermont knew better than to dilute the "Black lives matter" slogan in front of this crowd, but also failed to show enough preparation on police issues to satisfy this crowd. Racial issues aren't as big a deal in Vermont, his supporters admit.
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton suffered through a similar booing fest eight years ago and managed to skip this one.
Clinton faces the same sort of criticisms from her party's angry left wing for being "not liberal enough" that are faced by almost the entire Republican field from their right, currently dominated by Donald Trump.
Fortunately for them, Trump appears to be determined to talk his way out of any chance to win the Grand Old Party's nomination. Apparently miffed that McCain had accused Trump of attacking illegal immigrants to incite the "crazies" in the GOP base, Trump shot back: "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."
Anti-McCain comments like that triggered a backlash from fellow Republicans and may have dampened Trump's ratings in an ABC News/Washington Post taken over the weekend. Although he finished first in the 16-person field with 24 percent, that reflected a drop from 28 percent in the poll's first three nights down to single digits on Sunday, the day after his McCain comments.
That must come as a relief to Republicans in the party's sensible center. That's also probably a disappointment to Democrats. It may take more than troubles in the other party's ranks to make up for the dissatisfaction that's brewing in their own.
Reach Clarence Page at email@example.com.