I REALLY try to stay out of politics on Facebook. Really. My personal politics are radical, not for everyone’s taste, and would frankly interfere with my friends’ enjoyment of Star Trek memes and cat videos on the internet.
However, I’m compelled to drop this note after The Donald’s latest bloviation. He’s advocating something that’s ridiculously impractical, likely unconstitutional and should disqualify him from serious consideration from the presidency. I’m referencing his call for a ‘registry’ of and ban on travel for Muslims in the United States.
I thought today of Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem, reflecting on his life in pre-war, and then Nazi Germany:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. The Muslims I know are different than me, but then again, so are most people. I’m an outlier, personally and socially. They are first generation Americans, or working to become American, who fled war torn regions looking for a quiet, peaceful place to raise their families. They are hard-workers, usually working well below their education level because of either language-barriers, or inability to get professional accreditation to transfer. If their wives or daughters wear headscarves, I’m willing to bet their daughters or granddaughters won’t. And so what. My grandmother wore a scarf to church, and if you grew up Catholic, my guess is yours did too. I’m confident that the generation or two that it took for our immigrant ancestors to assimilate is going to be the exact same process for my Muslim acquaintances. Of course, there will be exceptions, but they’ll be in the rapidly decreasing minority. Now, on Trump. So far, I’ve chuckled Trump’s rampage through party politics. This man has been, in my lifetime, a Democrat, a Reform Party presidential candidate and now, a Republican. It’s hard to take him seriously and yet, there he is, leading the charge in a Presidential party primary. Eleven years of prime-time exposure on The Apprentice and an on-call status on the Larry King Show for years before that has made him, if not his ideas, familiar to us.
I smiled from the sidelines, as he bloodying the noses of his fellow competitors and cowing them into silence, in part, because he’s bought and paid for many of their previous political campaigns. Giving out Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number was hilarious. To dip into Jewish mythology a bit, the Republicans created this golem, and now he’s coating them all with mud.
The shame is, that Trump channels a real fury in the American public with status-quo politics, and a two party system that seems incapable of making the simplest of decisions on our country’s future. Not unlike Trump, the political establishment would have bankrupted the country over and over again were not for their ability to keep raising the country’s debt limit. As most people can’t conceive of voting a different party into office (like, for example, the Libertarian party, which I support), Trump is attracting that amorphous discontent into the Republican party.
I’ve been disappointed that Trump’s rise has also masked another, fascinating development in the Republican party… the fact that they are fielding the most ethnically diverse field ever in American politics. With Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz taking up the next three slots in most public opinion polls, the GOP is looking less WASP-y that ever, despite the Democrats traditional choke-hold on ‘diversity’.
But the time has come to look behind the curtain in this Wonderful World of Oz. We have to pay attention to the man behind curtain, because, while he’s been an entertaining sideshow, Trump continues to demonstrate in his words and deeds that he has no idea about the basic functions of how our government is supposed to work. He’s summoning the worst kind of populism… building up the disenfranchised’s hopes of some kind of political rebellion. Finding out which way the parade is marching, and running to the front of it isn’t leadership. It’s demagoguery. And I’m not even sure he believes his own hype himself.
We’ve seen this type before in American presidential politics. Read up on Huey Long, Robert LaFollette or more recently, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace and even Ross Perot. Focusing the anger of the American public can be easy. But I don’t believe we need to wreck what it means to be America to save our country.