The political tsunami that is Donald Trump will continue as those who seek to counter him completely miss the mark.
International leaders chimed in their dissent. Editorial boards cranked out stoic prose. And the other GOP candidates leveraged varying degrees of rebuke. But the remarks, many passionate and well-crafted, only counter Trump’s caustic verbiage. These words alone don’t stand a chance of cooling his appeal.
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The problem isn’t Trump. It’s that so many Americans are swallowing his shtick. Trump will stay viable as long as a sizable number of American voters eagerly fill his sails with air.
For too long, media and Trump’s political critics have focused on Trump, not his supporters. Yet it’s Trump’s followers who need to be shaken with truth.
They need to understand that continuing to support him in this latest rant against all Muslims is courting disaster. Life-threatening disaster. Trump’s position ensures that more deranged, violent people will join the ranks of the Islamic State, increasing the likelihood of an attack here.
Trump supporters need to be told not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.
If that means basic explanations of religious freedom, then other GOP candidates need to quit merely distancing themselves from Trump, they need to educate. Democrats, anyone who can be dismissed as a progressive, hold little to zero clout here.
Military leaders have already begun saying that widespread support for outright bans on all Muslims feeds into ISIS propaganda about Western nations’ disrespect of Islam. Trump is a tool of ISIS.
The concern isn’t so much that there will be a Trump White House, but that the videos of scores of people cheering anti-Muslim rhetoric at Trump rallies will show up next in ISIS recruitment.
Americans’ fear of radicalized Islamic terrorists is understandable following San Bernardino, Paris and any number of other acts of bloodshed committed in recent years. Their fears, those threats, are real. But solid political leadership would never stoke panic for the sake of ego.
So enough of the “with all due respect” and genuflecting that follows The Donald around because he’s rich.
Commentary was pithy fun early on. Trump was a gift to cheeky pundits and Democratic hopes of retaining the White House.
Others (myself included) tried to ignore and then psychoanalyze. Trump’s rise was explained as conflating celebrity with leadership, an inability to recognize and value attributes befitting the president.
As the months wore on, he continued to gather steam. And now, Trump’s cheering crowds aren’t just placating the self-importance of a reality TV star; they are playing into the hands of terrorists.
For sure, America created Trump. He is the result of people hesitant to firmly counter a wealthy man when he goes on a nonsensical rant. It’s eggshell walking, similar to what people do around bombastic drunks. Don’t challenge, avoid allowing grounds for them to make a scene.
Trump has probably benefited from this form of reluctance his whole life. It certainly played out as many a broadcast interviewer gingerly engaged him.
The sad truth is that Donald Trump would not exist as a leading candidate in a nation with a better-informed population, with more families economically stable and more people engaged in the welfare of their neighbors, even when those people don’t look or worship like them. He’s feeding off of our deficits.
Those complex problems aren’t stump speeches. They speak to changing demographics, deeper economic realities of labor and global markets, access to education and the disruption of the middle class that’s been occurring for decades. Engaging more voters in those conversations requires more savvy than what too many politicians have become comfortable shoveling out.
Candidates “court” voters — they seek ballots by appealing to what people like hearing, regardless of fact or outcome. Voters are soothed to believe that all their views are valid.
Not all views are legitimate. Not if they are not based in fact, not if they are blatantly unconstitutional and certainly not if they run counter to keeping America safe. Trump’s success is due in part to our losing this focus. And both political parties are guilty.
Trump’s blanket attack on Muslims would have zero appeal to people who thoroughly grasp the lessons of U.S. history, the inviolability of religious freedom and the nature of terrorism that is threatening the globe.
Sometimes, voters need to be told how off-course they are straying. Trump is one of those moments.