After reading about peaceful protesters being cursed and assaulted at Donald Trump rallies, I went online to watch videos of his appearance in Louisville last week. They reveal much about the Republican candidate, the followers he attracts and his effect on them.
“Get him the hell out!” Trump yells, referring to a protester. “Don’t hurt him. See, if I say ‘go get him’ I get in trouble with the press, the most dishonest human beings in the world.”
Other videos show white men cursing and assaulting Kayisha Nwanguma, a black University of Louisville student, in the convention hall. A man follows her, taunting and shoving.
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As this is happening, Trump is onstage advocating the torture of suspected terrorists, which is a war crime. “What do you think of waterboarding?” he says, referring to a question he was asked. “It’s absolutely fine!”
Trump then denounces Syrian refugees and immigrants. “They’re taking our jobs!” he yells. “They’re taking everything! We’re doing downhill fast!”
Yes we are going downhill fast, and Donald Trump is leading us there.
It is appalling that Trump — who has never held public office and whose temperament makes him dangerously unfit to be president — is the front-runner for the Republican nomination. It is all the more disgusting that Trump was the top vote-getter in Saturday’s Kentucky GOP caucus.
I understand people are angry. The slow economic recovery has been accompanied by widening wealth inequality. Many people feel threatened by economic and social change. They worry about terrorism. They want somebody to blame.
Angry people have flocked to Trump and Ted Cruz on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left because those candidates make a lot of attractive promises they have no way of keeping. The right-wing anger is especially disturbing, because so many of those voters seem to want a dictator rather than a president.
As many commentators have noted, Trump is a harvest the Republican Party has been sowing for decades. Richard Nixon’s 1968 Southern Strategy welcomed racist white Democrats. Ronald Reagan denounced government as “the problem” rather than the way a representative democracy solves problems. Christian conservatives have been pandered to but rarely satisfied, because the theocracy they seek is unconstitutional.
In the early 1990s, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pioneered modern hyper-partisanship, where political opponents must be enemies, ideological differences justify shutting down the government and nasty, over-the-top rhetoric is acceptable.
Obama’s presidency brought latent racism and xenophobia into the open. Talk show hosts and websites stoked anger, and Republican leaders took advantage of it.
Years of exploiting voter cynicism has created an atmosphere where compromise is a dirty word and political experience is a liability. It makes about as much sense as a patient, angered by his doctors, who decides to have someone with no medical training or skill perform surgery on him. What could possibly go wrong?
My main objection to Trump is not political. Who knows what his politics are? His platform is no deeper than slogans and outrageous promises. His ideology is all over the map and constantly changing.
As for accomplishments, Trump has expanded his inherited wealth primarily by marketing himself as a classy business genius, which he is not. He is nothing more than an entertainer, and his act is no longer funny.
My main objection to Trump is personal. He is a vulgar bully, a narcissist, an egomaniac and a hateful bigot utterly lacking in character. Anyone who challenges him is insulted and threatened. He acts like a spoiled toddler who needs a spanking.
Inexplicably, Trump has the support of many Christians, despite the fact that he has been a prolific and unrepentant sinner whose behavior and beliefs are diametrically opposed to those the Bible attributes to Christ.
But Trump’s most dangerous quality is that he brings out the worst in people. As I listened to him inflame his Louisville crowd, the result was telling. Only a few people cursed or assaulted the protesters, but hundreds stood by passively and watched.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said it well when an earlier generation of peaceful protesters was attacked by bigots: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Donald Trump is more than a threat to our national security and economy. He is a threat to our morality, to the very soul of our nation. What are you going to do about it?