There is no point in repeating the tropes that have been recycled over the last 18 months. Proposing to ban an entire religion from entering the country, mocking the disabled, bragging about sexual assault, inciting violence against protesters, threatening to jail political opponents and journalists are behaviors of an immature, racist and xenophobic man. If you haven’t been convinced of that yet, nothing I can say will convince you of it.
Trump’s election shocks me, but does not surprise me. His method is tried-and-true. Instilling a fear of the ‘other’, creating divisions and the promise of reviving the glory days; all key chapters of demagoguery 101. His platform mobilized a dormant force in American politics, the power of the disenfranchised White voter. People who felt left behind by the politicians of their country rallied around Trump, the living embodiment of anti-establishmentarianism.
While politicians scramble to find out what went wrong, I would like to stop focusing on the past and turn our attention to the future. The future that now seems so uncertain and so full of questions.
If you supported this man until the very end, who would you be willing to support in the next election? What will a politician have to say in order to lose your support? If you cheered when he proposed to build a wall across the southern border, will you cheer when the next candidate proposes to build one across the Pacific sea? If you tolerated this man when he mocked a handicapped reporter, will you tolerate when the next candidate assaults one? Do not laugh away the possibility of those things happening. Trump has done things that should have ended his political career on a daily basis. The things he has said and done were unthinkable just four years ago and it would be naïve to think that his successor will not make us say the same thing.
This is the danger of Trump. We used to have, as a society, a limit. A point in time where we could all agree that a line had been crossed. Trump has taken that line so far away; it can no longer be found. In 2008 John McCain scolded a woman for saying that, “Obama is an Arab” in a Town Hall. Fast forward eight years, and you have Trump proclaiming that McCain, a man who spent 5 ½ years as prisoner of war, is only a hero because he was captured. This is the man who respects veterans? This is the man who will hold the highest office in the world?
He got away with it. With all of it. At every turn, when we thought that everyone could finally agree that he had crossed the line, he got away with it. He has opened the door, and he has opened it wide. If we have gone from the decency of Mitt Romney to the blithering obnoxiousness of Trump, where will we go next?
Trump jokingly said that he would not lose a single supporter if he shot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, and it may have been the truest thing he had said all campaign. Accused of sexual assault by more than 20 women, his numbers did nothing but rise. How many accusers will it take for the next candidate to finally feel any repercussions? 40? 50?
Within days of his election, signs of hate began to appear. Swastikas on store windows, graffiti on the doors of mosques, “whites only” written on high school lockers. If these events persist, and get worse, will you hold his rhetoric responsible? Will you admit that this man has infected the country with a profound hatred of the other?
In just 18 months, he managed to render many insensitive to manifestations of racism, sexism and xenophobia. I fear that over four years, he will be able to normalize behaviors and opinions that many today recognize as hateful and outdated. The same way America has become numb to gun violence, it will become to racial violence. When you validate a man by entrusting him with your vote, you condone his past actions and support his future vision.
I ask people to ask themselves, what is your limit? Until when will you support candidate over country? Until when do you support arrogance over decency, hatred over acceptance? Remember your answers, stand strong with morals, and do not waver, no matter how normal hatred, fear and enmity become.