If you live long enough you see things happen that you never thought possible. Some of the things we witness are wonderful and some are tragic. All who were alive and old enough to understand can tell you exactly where they were when they learned of the tragic assassination of John Kennedy. Those of us who were fortunate enough to witness the first moon landing will never forget the thrill, pride and exhilaration we felt. Our personal and national history is comprised of thousands of events and moments that leave an indelible mark on us as they shape our lives and the character of our nation. The one thing that most of us have learned through experiencing life’s little surprises is that life is not a straight line, but rather a series of zigs and zags that are both unexpected and unpredictable. Things that we thought improbable seem to become increasingly probable. So it is with Donald Trump as the consistent frontrunner for the position of Republican Presidential nominee.
For months we have been hearing all of the “experts” pontificate about the ultimate demise of the candidacy of Donald Trump. They have provided us with salient and convincing reasons for their predictions. Yet, the Trump campaign has continued to defy all expectation as it moves towards the upcoming caucuses and primaries. With less than two months before the Iowa caucus Trump is stubbornly refusing to follow the script of those who find this situation both unfathomable and frightening. The others who make up the menagerie of GOP candidates are both frustrated and confused by their inability to stop or even slow Trump’s movement towards the nomination. It matters not what Trump says, or what others say about him, as proven by his latest call to ban all Muslims entry into the US, his poll numbers continue to rise.
The truth has often been among the first casualties of a political campaign. Certainly, this campaign is adhering to that tradition. What makes it different, however, is that even when Trump is confronted with irrefutable evidence contradicting a statement or idea, he refuses to back down and acknowledge his error. Most recently it was astounding to watch Trump refuse to back down from his call to ban all Muslims entering the US. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe this past Tuesday he was pressed on his astounding assertions and remarks. Yet, as always, he just deflected all accusations and said that thousands agree with him. He stated that we are at war with radical Islamic terrorists and therefore rationalized his actions by inaccurately calling up FDR’s actions during World War II regarding the German, Italian and Japanese-Americans His supporters have been heard to say that it makes no difference whether he is telling the whole truth, what matters is that he is tough and will get things done. There is a kind of unconditional loyalty that seems pervasive among them. He has successfully moved his celebrity on TV and in business to the political realm as he gathers and maintains a grip on his adoring fans and admirers.
While we can marvel at his ability to deflect accusations of lying, bullying and exaggeration, we cannot ignore his frightening words. His calls for banning Muslims coming into the US and monitoring the movements of those who are here, as well as deporting immigrants and refusing Syrian refugees makes him a xenophobe of the highest order. His calls for killing the family members of ISIS terrorists shows him to be vindictive and ruthless. His words are bombastic and his attitudes are the antithesis of what America is and who we are as Americans. He is calling for America to not lead, but rather to bully the world into submission. What he is seeking will not brighten the beacon on the hill, which has come to represent American exceptionalism, but dim it.
As a Democrat, I look to the prospect of a Trump nomination with joy. It brings with it anticipation of wonderful down ticket victories along with the ascent of Hillary Clinton to the Presidency. As an American I am appalled at what the GOP has wrought. I am thankful that we have a two-party system that makes it nearly impossible for a small group of extremists to take over the government. If the GOP can survive what is sure to be an electoral debacle, it will have to do a great deal of soul-searching to make the changes necessary to participate as the second party in our system.