Faithful adherence to democratic values will be the key to defeating Donald Trump in November. Trump is a demagogue and such people feed on chaos. So Trump has worked in earnest to create fear and division. His words incite violence. Falling to his level will only help create political conditions favorable to a Trump win in November.
Donald Trump is no ordinary political candidate. Like George Wallace in 1968, Trump has run a campaign based on racism and bigotry. He is a white nationalist candidate. Trump threatens immigrants with police actions and journalists with retribution. His attitude toward women is misogynistic. There is more.
A 1936 pro-Nazi book quoted Adolph Hitler as saying:
In a hundred years time, perhaps, a great man will appear who may offer them (the Germans) a chance at salvation. He'll take me as a model, use my ideas, and follow the course I have charted. ("Der Führer als Redner," Adolf Hitler. Bilder aus dem Leben des Führers")
Those words came back to me this week when Donald Trump said:
"Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing," Trump said. "I will give you everything. I will give you what you've been looking for for 50 years. I'm the only one." (The Washington Post)
Like Hitler, Trump believes that he alone is powerful enough to control the word. Trump has stolen pages from Hitler's playbook. He has used race, religion, and sexism as food for an army of disaffected Americans, many still suffering the Great Recession and growing economic inequality since the 1970s, in much the same way that Hitler used the post-World War I economic crisis to scapegoat the Jews as he rose to power. Trump's Jews are Muslims, immigrants and women. Whether or not Trump is a fascist is a matter up for debate. Trump's rhetoric certainly echoes fascism.
Diverse faith leaders, from across theological and denominational lines, have said:
The ascendancy of a demagogic candidate and his message, with the angry constituency he is fueling, is a threat to both the values of our faith and the health of our democracy. Donald Trump directly promotes racial and religious bigotry, disrespects the dignity of women, harms civil public discourse, offends moral decency, and seeks to manipulate religion. This is no longer politics as usual, but rather a moral and theological crisis, and thus we are compelled to speak out as faith leaders.
For many reasons, I have endorsed Hillary Clinton. My endorsement was made long before it was clear that Donald Trump would crush the GOP and take their ring. Anyone who says that this election - Clinton vs. Trump - is a fight between the lessor of two evils is "just plain wrong," according to former U.S. Labor Commissioner Robert Reich, one of Bernie Sanders' strongest advocates, who recently wrote:
Trump has revealed himself to be a narcissistic, xenophobic, hatemonger who, if elected, would legitimize bigotry, appoint Supreme Court justices with terrible values, and have direct access to the button that could set off a nuclear war.
Clinton, on the other hand, said Reich, has "shown herself a capable and responsible leader."
There is a lot of anger and fear this year. Trump has tapped in the mood. Like many aspects concerning Trump, however, there is a debate about whether or not he could will the national election. Take him very seriously.
Violent protests will only help Trump. Those opposed to Trump need to elevate ourselves to a place high above the raucous rallies of the Tea Party. Take to the streets in non-violent protest. More importantly, register people to vote and then vote. It will take a tough but high-minded approach - a moral, political approach - to crush Trump in November and make it clear that democracy has been reaffirmed, and that bigotry has been rejected.
Then we will need to work like hell to make that moral, political approach a moral agenda that continues to push and pull and bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice. Our universe never bends without sacrifice.