No more ignoring it: Donald J. Trump is on a very real and highly probable path to the Republican nomination for President.
I. Can we stop pretending he is a joke?
Without hashing out the polls or doing the math (as more qualified sources than I have already done), suffice to say that Trump's three consecutive primary/caucus wins and his projected support in key states down the line leave no doubt that Trump is the heavy favorite. So no more pretending, as David Brooks and many other pundits continue to do, that any day now, Trump will magically disappear, and balance will be restored to the political universe.
Risking the very ideals this nation holds dear is not worth the political equivalent of believing in the Tooth Fairy any longer. The opposition to Trump remains hopelessly divided, and unifying that opposition represents the last real chance to derail Trump's train.
The Internet is littered with articles titled, "The "insert political/demographic/ethnic" Case Against Donald Trump." In the Republican primary, establishment GOP candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich, and anti-establishment candidates Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, continue to compete for votes as Trump coasts to sweeping victories in state primaries and caucuses. Even Democrats remain either gleeful at the GOP's impending collapse or tragically ignorant of the grave consequences, however small the probability, of a Trump presidency. The awful combination of either scattered opposition (GOP) and blind optimism (Democrats) is problematic.
It is time for all of us--of all politics, faiths, races, and backgrounds--to sh*t or get off the pot. And because I do not actually plan on moving to Canada if Trump gets elected (those silly Tweets and statuses are funny, but totally worthless), something real has to be done. It is dandy to bemoan about "what America has come to" around the dinner table every night, and joke perhaps more candidly than humorously about relocating to a foreign country, but the stark silence when it comes to meaningfully opposing Trump is shameful.
So too is the sense of "inevitability" that has pervaded the discussion of Trump's recent successes. "No one is going to stop Donald Trump. Except, maybe, voters" blared a recent Washington Post headline. File this complacency in the same drawer as the dinner table handwringers I just mentioned. Both types are unhelpful, and both types will inadvertently add fuel to Trump's fire.
As a Democrat who cast my first vote for President Obama, I also find the argument that a Trump nomination would be great for our party, and result in a landslide victory for (presumably) Hillary Clinton, unpersuasive, mostly because even the small chance of a candidate as maniacal as Trump is not worth rolling the dice. This is the same argument we liberals have been making about Global Warming for years--"Sure, it's alarmist to talk about how bad things could be, but even if there's a small chance, why take the risk?"
So too with Trump. For months, nearly every Democrat in the country has walked with a spring in their step gleefully hoping for the improbable: that when the GOP nominating dust settles, Trump will go toe-to-toe in the general election with Hillary Clinton. The joke's over. The head-to-head polling is much closer than most would care to admit (some polls even show Trump beating Hillary, hands down). And do Democrats really want to be one economic collapse, one (God forbid) terrorist attack, or one low-Democratic turnout away from a Trump presidency?
That also assumes Hillary Clinton's campaign, which fumbled her presumed coronation in 2008 to a then unheard of Senator from Illinois, turns into the rock star movement it has repeatedly not turned into. I could not agree more with the following assessment from last week's Washington Post:
"I believe that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, and I intend to vote for her, but it is also the case that she is a candidate with significant weaknesses... Democrats, your leading candidate is too weak to count on as a firewall."
That said, the case against Donald Trump should transcend political, religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic dimensions. In fact, the reason he has done so well is because not a single political faction in this country has the political guts to join up and oppose him. It is equivalent to the playground game Red Rover where nobody links arms. A small sampling of the things that make a Trump presidency terrifying provides an ample reason to unite.
II. Let's do something about it.
If you watched John Oliver's brilliant takedown of Trump (and his brand), last night, in which he shredded the pro-Trump case and urged viewers to trend the hashtag #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain after unearthing a biography that revealed Trump's historical family name is actually Drumpf, you might be feeling a bit better. But the fact is, every comedy show in the world can't replace the concerted, unified action by major cultural and political institutions necessary to depose the Donald and his supporters.
As a precursor, the hilarious notion that Trump is capitalizing on "anger," "angry voters," or anything close has to be done away with. Every time a news outlet or a pundit say that, your skin should crawl. The "anger" Trump supposedly takes advantage of is a sick euphemism for the real pillars upon which his campaign stands: subtle (hell, outward) racism, transparent xenophobia, a history of misogyny longer than I have been alive, and an anti-intellectual, frighteningly stupid approach to nearly every problem facing this country. Sure, it is a type of anger that drives Trump supporters--but bundling it under the term is about as misleading as explaining the Civil War through the lens of an "angry" collection of plantation owners.
Exit poll data showed that 20% of the people who voted for Trump in South Carolina disagreed with the freeing of slaves after the Civil War. Let that sink in. Does that sound like just "anger?"
Trump has called for a nationwide ban on Muslims, American citizens or not, from entering the United States. He has proposed Orwellian, 1984-style registration and monitoring of mosques. Beyond being anti-abortion and anti-gay, his history of vicious woman-hating is shocking for a serious candidate in the modern era. He has pledged to deport 11 million men, women, and children who live in the United States illegally, and keep them out with a large wall that the Government of Mexico will supposedly pay for.
He has endorsed the large-scale reimplementation of torture for those detained in the war on terror, a practice illegal under both United States and International Law, as well as killing and/or capturing the families of suspected terrorists, making him perhaps the first serious candidate in the recent history of presidential elections to openly support impeachable offenses before even taking the damn oath of office.
And what is deeply saddening is that most of us know these things, but shrug them off, perhaps because we either don't want to believe it could be true that Trump might actually win, or because we honestly believe that someone like Trump cannot win.
For better or worse, it is time to stop living in optimistic candy land. Consider the following four proposals to actually #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain:
1) The remaining Republican candidates should immediately withdraw from the Republican primary and, together with those who have already dropped out, endorse Marco Rubio. His performance in primary/caucus states thus far, combined with his broad appeal among mainstream conservatives, is unmatched. Since that's unlikely, the only alternative is the diametric opposite: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio all must stay in long enough to ensure that going into the convention, no candidate has enough delegates to claim the nomination. At a brokered convention, where delegates are up for grabs if no candidate wins enough of them on the first ballot, this makes nominating Trump much less likely ("Donald Trump would get smoked at an open convention," one state party chairman said to Politico).
2) That's where most "Let's get serious about Trump" shticks end, to which I wonder, why stop there? In addition to Congressional Republicans endorsing Marco Rubio, the House of Representatives and the Senate should formulate a bipartisan resolution in Congress calling for Trump to suspend his campaign, and condemning him for months of disgraceful remarks. Surely between Trump's allegations that Mexico is "sending us their rapists" and insinuating that John McCain is a disgraced veteran for his capture and subsequent torture in Vietnam, our hopelessly divided government can find common ground in that. This should be easy, since only four sitting Representatives and one Senator have endorsed Trump to date.
3) Speaking of governors, what about a joint statement condemning Trump from the National Governors Association, which represents, according to its website, "the collective voice of the Nation's governors?" What about the American Association of American Universities, on behalf of their students, and the professional organizations for every type of profession from brain surgeons to garbage workers? What about an interfaith coalition?
4) The networks and newspapers should tone down coverage of Trump's presidential campaign. The months of (free) air time for every racial slur, bogus proposal, and circus-style rally Trump has held, which undoubtedly fueled Trump's meteoric rise by distributing his message, free of charge to every corner of the country, will go down as one of the most misguided eras in modern journalism. Consider these stats from the Tyndall report, which tracked each candidate's air time for most of 2015:
"Trump has received more network coverage than all the Democratic candidates combined. Trump has accounted for 27 percent of all campaign coverage his year."
That is abysmal. That there has been so much coverage (and comparatively little serious reckoning by the institutions that exist to 'comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable') shows that, when it comes to Trump, the networks would rather sell their souls for advertising dollars that take a stand. If you don't believe me, consider what Lesley Moonves, the CEO of CBS, said yesterday (as summarized by POLITICO):
"Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? ... The money's rolling in and this is fun ... I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going ... Donald's place in this election is a good thing."
Only in America does a misogynist immigrant hater who proposes banning Muslims get an open invitation to every Sunday show, week in and week out, to talk about those proposals to an audience of millions, just because "the money is rolling in."
Though unprecedented, these are the important types of arm-linking necessary to ensure America doesn't come within a nuclear bomb radius of the possibility of Trump ascending to the White House, and cutting him off before he gets the GOP nomination at least avoids the prospect of throwing fate to the wind in the general election. But sacrifice for a greater cause does not seem to be the order of the day. As long as stubbornness is still the flavor of the month, Trump's rise will continue unchallenged.
Watching Donald Trump mock the disabled and profess his desire to punch peaceful protesters at rallies are just a few more of the things that make Donald Trump's America a terrible one to contemplate. His contempt for basic human decency, tolerance, and respect knows no bounds. He threatens social progress in a way perhaps no other candidate does. When Abraham Lincoln said that a house divided against itself cannot stand, he spoke about more than just a war-torn, 1863 United States. He spoke more generally about the breathtaking potential of unity in the face of a common enemy, a unity that, now more than ever, we so desperately need.