Former NBA great and cultural ambassador Kareem Abdul-Jabbar penned an insightful critique for the Washington Post on the Donald Trump candidacy with a notable comparison to the Bernie Sanders campaign in how they’ve handled adversity. Mr. Jabbar highlighted some of Trump’s journalistic attacks, vindictiveness and a belief that his campaign will, at some point, end ignominiously.
I tend to look at the Donald Trump’s campaign through an analogy of strobe lights in a dance hall. Strobe lights are emotive, glitzy, appeals to the senses, grabs your attention, make you want to stay longer (e.g. past 2am as the equivalent of Trump possibly making it to the primaries), the dance hall stays open until 5am, but in the end, the lights will go out(as will his candidacy). How it ends does matter (self-inflicted or through the election process). Either way, his candidacy will provide us an opportunity to honestly assess his campaign, the political parties and how it contributes to civil and political discourse, in general.
News flash! Donald Trump is a carrier of an American Transmitted Disease (ATD) that can be contracted by members and voters of either party as it mutates and spreads white nationalism, supremacy, fear and anxieties. With regards to the Republican Party, it was the natural home for Donald Trump and the explicitly racist views regarding immigration he’s been espousing since his campaign started. The Republican Party is at a crossroads in trying to determine how much they can camouflage its objectives in maximizing the white vote, perceived white interests, maintain damaging policies and practices that disproportionally hurt non-whites, speak in generalities, deceit and a nice tone about their intentions, and still somehow grab the Presidency. Sounds pernicious because it is.
For the Republican Party, this has been a delicate balancing act long before Donald Trump was on the scene. But he’s decided to exploit a hidden truth and this has alarmed the Republican establishment. He’s letting out the dirty laundry. Breaking the code of silence. Up until now, the Republican Party have mastered the art of political, racial subterfuge. More often than not, Republicans have suggested ‘something’ is being taken, lost, needs to be preserved or protected without ever using the word race. And when the word race is mentioned, they deny, accuse the accuser or disqualify its implications. This is why they can disenfranchise Black and Brown people with stringent voter ID laws again and not have public outcry strong enough to deter their actions. This is why Republicans can consistently attempt to dismantle Medicaid, ACA, slash government jobs and allow a comprehensive immigration reform bill to lay dormant and not feel there will be repercussions of great magnitude.
I believe Donald Trump is confronting the Republican establishment and forcing them to be honest about the existing nativism and patriarchy. Donald Trump has been around the political power structures for a very long time, he’s given money to many of them, entertained them, reciprocated favors and through this experience, knows firsthand what they think and why they think it. Donald Trump, a strong proponent of the birther issue regarding the President, knew when he questioned the country of origin of the President, some of the voters and elected officials within the Republican party, was promoting this nonsense. When Donald Trump told the popular Mexican anchor and reporter Jorge Ramos: “to go back to Univision” it appeared to be a code phrase for saying,”stay in your place, you are not my equal, go back to where you came from”. When Donald Trump continued to attack Fox’s Megyn Kelly after the first Republican debate, it seemed like Trump was uncomfortable being questioned by an assertive woman and the follow up attacks was his way of saying,”know your role and don’t deviate from it, or else.”
Donald Trump is not blind to the fact that acknowledged white nationalists, white supremacists groups and racists are lining up in a spirited defense of his immigration recipe. Now the Republican establishment, led by uber-jerk, Reince Preibus are nervous that these invaluable voters to their governance could be siphoned off in a national election if Trump ran as a 3rd party candidate, so they’ve scrambled to avoid democracy with attempted bribery, pledges and conditions to be on primary ballots. It borders on corruption.
Is Donald Trump running on a conservative agenda, platform and policies? No, no, no. As politico’s Michael Lind reported in his excellent piece, he argues Trump exposed the Tea Party as a right-wing form of populism, quoted some of Trump’s stated policies/belief. “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that.”
“As far as single payer [health care], it works in Canada, it works incredibly well in Scotland. … You can’t let the people in this country, the people without the money and resources, to go without healthcare.”
“People as they make more and more money can pay a higher percentage” of taxes”. This is not a typo. Here’s more. Conor Lynch in his article for Alternet, also referenced some eye opening statements made by Trump regarding a progressive view of the tax code. “I would change it. I would simplify it. I would take carried interest out, and I would let people making hundreds of millions of dollars a year pay some tax, because right now they are paying very little tax and I think it’s outrageous. I want to lower taxes for the middle class.”
When asked about paying more taxes himself, he affirmed his willingness:
“I do very well, I don’t mind paying some taxes. The middle class is getting clobbered in this country. You know the middle class built this country, not the hedge fund guys, but I know people in hedge funds that pay almost nothing and it’s ridiculous, OK?” The article went on to note Donald Trump’s support for Planned Parenthood as a viable women’s health center and refusal to sign Grover Norquist’s twisted no taxpayer pledge. All laudable positions. But one could argue the farther along the campaign survives, there may be an “evolution” on some of these positions by Trump.
It is in this vein that the Democrats should caution against dismissing Trump because his positions and speaking style leaves the voter reaching for their own explanations on much of what he says. And because of it, the potential of coagulating economic anxieties and social issues in a dumbed down version of cause and effect, could peel off white democrats in sentiment, but not their vote because he won’t win the Republican nomination. The Democratic tent is bigger, more inclusive and tolerable, but it is also susceptible to frustrations that could look outside for answers. Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” has a gravitational pull to it, that will, at least make people listen.
Trump’s candidacy is giving America an opportunity to confront itself, ask the hard questions regarding the very fabric of our nation. The history of our nation must be taught differently and in doing so, the depths of America’s brutality, sponsorship of violence and development of systemizing otherness will be painful to review for many. The inhumanity of our past is extensive. But avoidance can’t continue if America wants to be better. US politics needed Donald Trump much more than he needed us. He’s a breath of pollution telling America needs political climate change. The toxicity of his message is bigger than him and he knows it. Ignore at our peril, otherwise, there will be more carriers of an ATD and who knows what will happen next.
Writer, trained Social Worker and Mental Health Therapist. Husband, father and anti-racist at my core.