Co-Authored by Maclen Zilber, Democratic Strategist and Campaign Consultant based in Hollywood, CA
Public safety -- both domestically and abroad -- holds a special place in American discourse. Without a secure homeland and safe neighborhoods, bread and butter issues like the economy, our education system, or healthcare, all fall by the wayside.
When nations face security problems, businesses can't operate properly or thrive, consumers will stay home, and a myriad other things we take for granted become less of a given. We've never experienced that in the United States, but we can't be so sure of that if Donald Trump becomes our next President.
Just imagine how the world would be if, on January 20, 2017, billionaire Donald Trump raised his right hand, took the oath of office at his inauguration, and was sworn in as America's 45th President.
Now visualize how Trump would respond, as President, to a horrific tragedy as the one we witnessed this past weekend at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Would a President Trump call for more universal background checks to reduce the likelihood that those who purchase guns, like Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen, receive an intense screening prior to legally buying the weapons he used to commit mass murder? What would a commander-in-chief Trump do to minimize the ease in which terrorists can slaughter nearly 50 innocent victims using a military grade assault rifle in a matter of minutes?
Given his past comments, Trump's answer would probably be more guns, bigger guns, "the classiest guns you've ever seen."
Rather than enacting tougher laws to make it more difficult for terrorists, like Mateen, to purchase guns through additional background checks, Trump has made it clear he would like less oversight, not more, on gun purchases. He says the current background checks on the books are sufficient and also supports the use and sale of military grade weaponry, the type of weapons that are necessary to carry out such a large-scale mass shooting.
Trump sees nuclear weapons the same way he sees guns. For both, he believes more is better.
In Trump's mind, giving more people guns will prevent further acts of carnage. At least that's what he said after the terror attacks in Paris. Likewise, Trump believes nuclear proliferation is inevitable, and that's why he'd prefer that more of America's allies have nukes, rather than not. Giving them these capabilities, Trump suggests, will help to minimize the risk of nuclear war.
Here's the rub when it comes to Trump and nukes.
Since the 1960s when President John Kennedy initiated negotiations for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the U.S. has heavily prioritized reducing the number of nuclear weapons around the world. It's been a longstanding pillar of America's bipartisan foreign policy. President Obama has made nonproliferation a priority even back when he was a rank-and-file U.S. Senator. Trump, however, has made comments suggesting as President, he'd support a 180 degree reversal of this well-established objective by calling for more nuclear weapons, specifically in Japan, South Korea and in Saudi Arabia. Think of it as the Strangelove Doctrine.
Perhaps what Trump fundamentally misunderstands, is that by allowing more nations to stockpile nuclear arsenals, he will help to spur a domino effect where bordering countries of those nuclear armed nations will feel compelled to build up their own cache of nukes, thus creating a world-wide ripple effect. It is a minor miracle that nuclear weapons haven't been used since World War II, but that would almost certainly change in a world where the "nuclear states club" has no bouncer at the door.
Trump's dual philosophy of more guns and more nukes represents an opening for Hillary Clinton, as she seeks to peel away some of his support from moderate Republicans.
Even 2nd Amendment loving Republicans support more common sense background checks. They believe Americans ought to be able to bear arms, but that those who seek to harm others should be prevented from purchasing guns. There's even data to prove this.
A poll highlighted by the Center for American Progress released late last year by Public Policy Polling showed that, "83 percent of gun owners nationally support criminal background checks on all sales of firearms, while only 14 percent of gun owners oppose them. There is strong bipartisan agreement on the issue, with 90 percent of Democrat and 81 percent of Republican gun owners in support of background checks. Additionally, 72 percent of NRA members support them."
Even if you believe most people should be allowed to have guns, we can all agree that suspected terrorists shouldn't be allowed to purchase them. Orlando terrorist Mateen was on the FBI's terror-watch list back in 2013. Had there been a more vigorous and thorough background check on him prior to the recent massacre, it's plausible that some of his gun purchases could have been thwarted.
When it comes to who voters trust to oversee America's nuclear arsenal, according to a recent May FOX News poll, 49% of registered voters trust Clinton to do a better job of making decisions about using nuclear weapons, compared to 38% for Trump. Some of the nation's top national security experts, such as Republican and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have criticized Trump's calls for more nukes around the globe.
Donald Trump's most potent electoral weapon is fear, but fear is a double-edged sword for him. Many people support Donald Trump because they're afraid and they see him as somebody who is willing to loudly combat what they're afraid of. If they start to see him as a catalyst of chaos, of instability, of uncertainty, then the very fear that has given him his electoral base could deal him his electoral demise.
By standing with the NRA, however, Trump's strength is sapped, because he begins to look like a typical politician. Standing against something as popular as common sense gun safety regulations, like more background checks, because a special interest group tells him so cuts against his brand as a plain-speaking truth teller.
Furthermore, Trump's strength comes from his appeal to peoples gut emotions, and right now one of the strongest visceral emotions many Americans are feeling is that something must be done about gun violence. Trump is like a shark that must keep swimming to stay alive - he needs to keep gobbling up news cycles to remain relevant. If he refuses to offer a realistic and meaningful plan to reduce gun violence, he risks relegating himself to the dustbin of "past viral phenomena" like Herman Cain or Rick Astley. Even worse, Trump's pursuit of delusional conspiracy theories by suggesting that President Obama had anything to do with the Orlando shooting makes him come off not as a strong nominee of a major political party, but instead as unhinged and unstable.
Trump's failure in response to the Orlando catastrophe coupled with his spine-chilling approach to nukes are both wedge issues that can start to peel away some of the very traits that give him strength, and Hillary Clinton has every moral and political justification to begin hammering away at them. Who knows, Trump is so impulsive and rash that if he begins feeling the heat over these issues, he may well switch his position on them (one could only hope!).
Chaos and global uncertainty may have been the last thing the chaos candidate needs. Instead of capitalizing on peoples fears like he did in the primary, Trump's recklessness may turn off the moderate Republicans he so desperately needs and could crack open the door for Clinton to sew up those votes.