The Wedge of Division
In short order, the 2016 election will finally cross the finish line. To most of us, it will feel like emerging into the sun after being chained in the cellar for two years, for no matter one's political affiliation, this process has been long and stressful.
How we came to such political misery will be discussed for years to come, but the history books will not be kind to Donald Trump. He leaves a divided populace in his wake, a division he inflamed daily. Being forever known as the Pied Piper of Division is not a compliment, and for a man whose sense of self-worth is sustained by adoration, it will no doubt taint the rest of his days with some measure of sadness.
Donald Trump clapped as good-hearted Americans in his presence ignored their moral compass and chanted "build that wall" or "lock her up". He smiled approvingly as American citizens sported t-shirts emblazoned with wishes for his opponent's incarceration or even her demise. He physically mocked his opponent, and the disabled, and just about anyone else who wasn't at that moment cheering his name. Through words, inflections, and innuendo, he not only condoned, but encouraged violence.
He spewed lies like water, convincing legions of usually smart people that the election is rigged, or that his opponent created ISIS, or that any of the hundreds of his other outrageous and easily-disproven claims should be believed simply because he ended each tirade with "Believe me." He decried being caught in his lies by blaming the media when it was simply the majority of Americans who saw through his hateful nonsense.
During the campaign people called Hillary Clinton an untrustworthy liar. But Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-partisan "truth" watchdog group, documents, that as of this writing, Trump lied to the American people nearly three times more than Clinton, and his most egregious lies outpaced hers 8 to 1. Labeling her the liar was the Trump camp's biggest, most successful lie of all. Politifact even awarded Trump's body of lies its 2015 Lie of the Year Award.
Over the course of his candidacy he derided nearly every ethnicity, religion, ideology, or belief that was outside of his realm of comprehension or beyond his capacity for compassion. His true views and his treatment of women were brought front and center. His business shenanigans and his bigotry were exposed. His not-so-subtle call for hackers to interfere with the election was realized, as helpful foreign entities hacked only Democratic private thoughts and conversations, while Republican inner thoughts remained unexposed.
From early on, Donald Trump understood that "divide and conquer" actually does work. It's how dictators and unscrupulous kings have always kept the heel of their boots on the backs of those whom they believed were put on this earth to serve them. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, most Americans understand that such divisiveness hurts everyone except for those actually doing the dividing, and history will show that the American people as a whole were wise to his unsavory tactics.
Donald Trump even managed to divide his own party, sending lifelong Republicans, like me, right out of the fold. Many of us found that we could not tolerate being dragged into the darkness or continue to embrace those leaders in the party who stood with him. There is no party honor in sticking with someone who engages in deliberately hurtful actions and ugly behavior, or someone who must constantly deploy surrogates to clean up his messes: "He's just rough around the edges…" "What he meant to say was…" "He didn't mean it…" "I don't agree with what he said…what he did…but…"
Trump's bullying and name-calling was exactly what decent parents the world over teach their children not to do. His "hurt me and I will hurt you more" revenge mindset was dangerous. His "winning at all costs makes me smart" life philosophy was unconscionable. His inability to remain civil was telling.
Before the political arrival of Donald Trump, the common goal of a better, more inclusive life for everyone was ubiquitous in our nation. But "everyone" is not welcome in Trump's world, and he ripped the cloak of secrecy off of society's underbelly, providing his stamp of approval for race and religion-based hate that threatened to set our society back a hundred years.
America's frustration was understandable. All of us crave change in Washington, but at what cost? You can stop an old injury from aching by cutting off the offending body part. That's certainly a change, but it's not a worthy one. Our political system may be imperfect, but it's still the most forward-moving democracy in the world. Replacing its warts with cancer was never the answer, and just like that very first cancerous cell, Donald Trump's campaign of divisiveness thrived by feeding off of the healthy until they, too, were weakened. Weakness is exploitable and controllable. Donald Trump always knew that.
Trump the Pied Piper
Looking back, Donald Trump's influence will be admired by some, disdained by others. But he was able to penetrate many different groups to some degree.
A five-time military deferrer who once equated his challenge of avoiding sexual STDs to being a soldier fighting in Vietnam, he managed to convince some of America's veterans and trusted military vanguard that he gives a fig about them, even though such "caring" was practically nonexistent before his run for the presidency.
He convinced religious groups that he was somehow now closer to God than he had been before, and that his sins against women, religions, ethnicities, POWs, Gold Star families, the disabled, and common decency were to be ignored.
In spite of being born into privilege, with subsequent decades of enriching himself off the labors of the poor and the middle class, he convinced blue collar workers that he somehow understood what it is like to have to choose between food and medicine this week. He inexplicably convinced those with nothing that he, a man who considers the presidency of the United States a "step down" in lifestyle, a man with a life of golden everything, was their only path to a better future.
How could such diametrically different groups of people all embrace Donald Trump? He couldn't possibly be what any of them believe him to be, if he is to the others what they believe him to be.
During his faux-rock-star rallies, Donald Trump's Pied Piper blustering was relentless, and it worked perfectly to ignite excitement and mask his inability to actually address policies. He never understood policies anyway, nor did he care to learn. His entire campaign was long on describing his perception of a problem and very, very short on specific, workable solutions.
Leaders Don't Lead by Dividing
No one is pure evil or pure goodness, and all candidates will be remembered for both highs and lows. But the answers to very basic questions breed historical remembrance. What did they do for others? What did they believe in? How hard did they work to learn and understand? How well did they listen? How did they prepare to lead? The answers to just those few questions show that Donald Trump's divisive words, his erratic behavior, and his civil ignorance belied any fitness to be president.
The race is not over, but Donald Trump will not rise to become our leader. The writing of his political history can begin right now. He won't be president because he sought to divide us and make us distrust our friends and our neighbors. He sought to diminish the contribution of immigrants, which is the very foundation of this country, and as he has done so successfully in his past, he kept his eye on the long-goal of lining his pockets, inflating his ego, and letting others take the fall for his failures.
Donald Trump, the candidate, was unsalvageable. Surely Donald Trump, the man, is not. But saving his soul was never our job. Saving our country is always our job.
History will show that we chose not to be a country divided and that we honored the "united" part of the United States of America by rejecting the Pied Piper of Division.
Our vote is our own personal and sacred truth, and in the end, that is what matters most.