Jun 13th 2016

Dump Trump

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

 

Recent Trump outrages have thrown the GOP establishment into a tizzy. Reactions have been varied, ranging from a few brave souls who have denounced their nominee's bigotry to those who continue to hope against hope that Trump will begin to behave more "presidential". Ignored in all of this are two important realities: Trump is Trump; and his message and movement are the handiwork of the very establishment that is now rejecting their creations.

Trump's xenophobic, male chauvinist, and bigoted bullying campaign rhetoric is not an act. It is who he is and it what the constituency that has propelled his candidacy wants him to be. While this simple truth has been self-evident throughout the campaign, the establishment has been in denial, unwilling or unable to confront reality. With every display of brutish behavior, they pronounced Trump fatally wounded—only to discover that his appalling and dangerous attacks on Mexicans, women, Muslims, people with disabilities, news reporters, and incitements to violence against demonstrators—caused his poll numbers to rise.

Party leaders shouldn't have been surprised, since it was they who set the table for "The Donald". For decades, the GOP has preyed off the fears of white voters who are in economic distress. Since the days of Richard Nixon, they have used subtle and not so subtle racial messages to win support. Whether the targets were "welfare queens", "Willie Horton", or resentment over "affirmative action"—the appeal was the same: "they are a threat to you" and "they are privileged and are taking from you".

With the election of Barack Obama, in the midst of the most severe economic crisis since the Depression, this effort swung into high gear with the Tea Party and "birther" movements. New targets were added—Mexicans ("illegals" and "drugs") and Muslims ("terrorists" and "an existential threat to our way of life").

In each instance, the GOP fed the beast. They funded, helped to organize, and used the Tea Party to win elections, and with "a wink and a nod" they let the "birthers" fester in effort to deligitimize the president. They encouraged and celebrated vigilante actions against "illegals" and callously exploited the fear of Muslims with trumped-up campaigns against Sharia law and TV ads in congressional races charging Democrats with being "soft on Muslims".

All of this created a constituency which Trump, the entertainer, understood and toward whom he directed his campaign. He is but the latest in a long line of demagogues to tap into resentment and fear—following in the footsteps of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann.

The hope of the Republican Party establishment that Trump would become a more "respectable" candidate has been, in part, disingenuous. If he were not the nominee, they would be thrilled to have him campaigning for GOP candidate. But as the standard bearer, he is an embarrassment.

His racist attack on the judge who is hearing the case against the so-called "Trump University" has left party leaders flailing about. In an effort to distance themselves from his behavior, they have expressed everything from disappointment to disgust. Last weekend, Trump compounded his bigotry by noting that not only did he feel that a judge of Mexican descent couldn't give him a fair trial (because Trump was planning to build a wall between Mexico and the US); he also felt he couldn't trust a Muslim American judge (because he had called for a ban on Muslim immigrants to the US).

While I do not have polling data on Mexican Americans, I did conduct a survey of US voters a few months ago that demonstrates the sad reality that is behind Trump's calculations. American voters were asked "If a Muslim American were to attain an important position of influence in the government, would you feel confident that person would be able to do the job, or would you feel that their religion would influence their decision-making?"

A plurality of voters (46%) said they felt that Muslims would be unduly influenced by their religion. More telling: while a plurality of Democrats (47%) were confident that a Muslim American could do the job, 63% of Republicans said a Muslim couldn't be trusted—including a whopping 75% of voters who said they were Trump supporters.

The bottom line is that Trump didn't create this mindset or this constituency. It was created for him and he is merely playing to the crowd. Instead of hand-wringing, the party leaders who for years have encouraged this phenomenon need to accept their responsibility. It didn't just happen, and Trump didn't will it into being. The fear and/or resentment of Mexicans/Muslims/blacks/strong women/etc has long been cultivated and has now given birth to its evil fruit.

I warned that this beast would turn on its creators, and now it has. Whining or expressions of disappointment won't make it go away. Decisive action just might.  Republicans should repudiate bigotry and demonstrate resolve by listening to those courageous voices who are calling on them to "Dump Trump" and undo the damage they have done to their party and to our country.      

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Nov 27th 2019
EXTRACT: "Jay Willis at GQ reports that Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said on Fox and Friends that Trump is God’s Chosen One. He said he told Trump, “If you’re a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet and our government.” Perry also said that he had written a memo for Trump about how God uses imperfect people, comparing Trump to biblical figures such as Solomon, Saul and David, who were also flawed. This evangelical discourse that a providential God controls political power goes back to old West Semitic Religion"
Nov 7th 2019
Extract: "The PSA test is done using a small amount of blood to detect raised levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA). Yet, despite its relatively low cost and ease of administering, it is not offered for routine screening in many countries, including the UK. This is because a significant proportion of those testing positive have no disease (a false-positive result), slow-growing cancer that doesn’t need treatment, or positive results caused by a relatively benign condition, such as a urinary tract infection. Detecting prostate cancer early is important and saves lives. But many of those identified by the PSA test as having elevated levels of the antigen could potentially undergo painful treatment with significant life-altering side effects, which were unnecessary. Also, up to 15% of men with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels (a false-negative result), meaning that many men would receive unwarranted reassurance from this test. Guidelines in most countries, therefore, note that the possible benefits of testing are outweighed by the potential harms of over-diagnosis and over-treatment, making it unsuitable for screening everyone."
Nov 5th 2019
Extract: "Ken Loach’s film, Sorry We Missed You, tells the harrowing tale of Ricky, Abby and their family’s attempts to get by in a precarious world of low paid jobs and the so-called “gig economy”. But how realistic is it? Can Loach’s film be accused of undue pessimism?"
Nov 3rd 2019
Extract: "Travel to Prague, Kyiv, or Bucharest today and you will find glittering shopping malls filled with imported consumer goods: perfumes from France, fashion from Italy, and wristwatches from Switzerland. At the local Cineplex, urbane young citizens queue for the latest Marvel blockbuster movie. They stare at sleek iPhones, perhaps planning their next holiday to Paris, Goa, or Buenos Aires. The city center hums with cafés and bars catering to foreigners and local elites who buy gourmet groceries at massive hypermarkets. Compared to the scarcity and insularity of the communist past, Central and Eastern Europe today is brimming with new opportunities.......In these same cities, however, pensioners and the poor struggle to afford the most basic amenities. Older citizens choose between heat, medicine, and food. In rural areas, some families have returned to subsistence agriculture."
Nov 3rd 2019
EXTRACTS: "Genetic clustering has existed in all past societies. People have typically been relatively genetically similar to others nearby. But most of this was because of limited mobility."........."But in the 19th and 20th centuries, people started to move about more. Societies opened up geographically, and socially. This new mobility has created a new kind of clustering – what the American author Thomas Friedman called a “great sorting out”.".........".....this is now visible at the genetic level too."
Oct 9th 2019
EXTRACT: "The idea that we are living in an entrepreneurial age, experiencing rapid disruptive technological innovation on a scale amounting to a new “industrial revolution” is a pervasive modern myth. Scholars have written academic papers extolling the coming of the “entrepreneurial economy”. Policymakers and investors have pumped massive amounts of funding into start-up ecosystems and innovation. Business schools, universities and schools have moved entrepreneurship into their core curricula. The only problem is that the West’s golden entrepreneurial and innovation age is behind it. Since the 1980s entrepreneurship, innovation and, more generally, business dynamics, have been steadily declining – particularly so in the US. "
Aug 28th 2019
EXTRACT: ". But today, the impulse to gain attention on social media has produced a discourse of extreme defamation and scorched-earth tactics aimed at destroying one’s opponents. We desperately need a broad-based movement to stand up against this type of political discourse. American history is replete with examples of people who worked together to solve – or at least defuse – serious problems, often against great odds and at significant personal risk. But the gradual demise of fact-based history in schools seems to have deprived many Americans of the common ground and optimism needed to work through challenges in the same way they once did."
Aug 8th 2019
Consider the following facts as you wend your way to the Guggenheim Museum and its uppermost gallery, where you will presently find The Death of Michael Stewart (1983), Basquiat’s gut-punching tribute to a slain artist, and the centerpiece for an exhibition that could hardly be more timely.
Jul 22nd 2019
It’s worth remembering, then, that we are not designed to be consistently happy. Instead, we are designed to survive and reproduce. These are difficult tasks, so we are meant to struggle and strive, seek gratification and safety, fight off threats and avoid pain. The model of competing emotions offered by coexisting pleasure and pain fits our reality much better than the unachievable bliss that the happiness industry is trying to sell us. In fact, pretending that any degree of pain is abnormal or pathological will only foster feelings of inadequacy and frustration. Postulating that there is no such thing as happiness may appear to be a purely negative message, but the silver lining, the consolation, is the knowledge that dissatisfaction is not a personal failure. If you are unhappy at times, this is not a shortcoming that demands urgent repair, as the happiness gurus would have it. Far from it. This fluctuation is, in fact, what makes you human.
Jul 10th 2019

 

The eight-mile ‘river of flowers’ that grows alongside a motorway nea
Jul 5th 2019
"........since World War II, 97% of unimproved grassland habitats have vanished from the UK. This has contributed to the loss of pollinating insects – and the distribution of one third of species has shrunk since 1980."
Jun 25th 2019
"For many of us, eating a meal containing meat is a normal part of daily life. But if we dig deeper, some sobering issues emerge. Every year, 66 billion terrestrial animals are slaughtered for food. Predictions are that meat consumption will rise, with increasing demand for meat from China and other Asian countries as their standards of living increase. The impact of grazing animals on the environment is devastating. They produce 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and livestock farming is a major contributor to species extinctions."
Jun 22nd 2019
"Throughout history, people who have gained positions of power tend to be precisely the kind of people who should not be entrusted with it. A desire for power often correlates with negative personality traits: selfishness, greed and a lack of empathy. And the people who have the strongest desire for power tend to be the most ruthless and lacking in compassion."
Jun 21st 2019
"In this era of Trump, it should perhaps come as no surprise to find supposed experts lacking in historical perspective. Yet it is still disappointing to find this deficit in the New York Times, which prides itself on clinging to a pursuit of the truth. So it is a bit sad to read the plaintive cry of Allison Schrager’s op-ed of May 17, lamenting that the domination of art markets by the super-rich will somehow force smaller galleries to go out of business, and imperil the careers of young artists."
Jun 17th 2019
Extract: "ust as an earlier generation resisted the limiting post-War era "white middle class" definition of being American by giving birth to an awakening of cultural pluralism and ethnic pride, it falls to our generation to fight for an expanded view of the idea of being American that rejects the narrow view projected by Trump and white nationalists. The idea of America isn't theirs. It's bigger than they are and unless our national cohesion is to unravel, this challenge must be met by projecting an inclusive vision of America that celebrates our inclusive national identity in an increasingly globalized world."
May 28th 2019
Whatever other attributes Homo sapiens may have – and much is made of our opposable thumbs, upright walking and big brains – our capacity to impact the environment far and wide is perhaps unprecedented in all of life’s history. If nothing else, we humans can make an almighty mess.
Apr 29th 2019
A century ago, unspeakable horrors took place on every continent that were known only to the victims and the perpetrators. Not so today. As a result of advances in communications – from the telegraph and radio to satellite television and the internet – the pain and loss of global tragedies are brought home to us in real time.   Because of this expanding consciousness, the post-World War II era has witnessed the rise of visionary leaders and the birth of countless organizations dedicated to alleviating suffering and elevating the causes of peace, human rights, and tolerance among peoples. Individually and collectively, they have championed the rights of peoples in far-flung corners of the world, some of which had been previously unknown to those who became their advocates. These same leaders and groups have also fought for civil rights and for economic, social, political, and environmental justice in their own countries. 
Apr 23rd 2019

 

“Cursed be that mortal inter-indebtedness which will not do away with ledgers. I would be free as air; and I’m down in the whole world’s books. I am so rich… and yet I owe for the flesh in the tongue I brag with” (Moby Dick, chapter cviii). 

Apr 20th 2019
Economists speak in numbers only, clinging to statistical data and quantitative models. We do so in the hope of looking objective. But this is counter-productive – “data” cannot tell us everything. Other social sciences such as sociology and anthropology use a broader range of methods, and consequently have a broader perspective on society. If we take our societal role of adviser on economic matters seriously, we will need to open up and adopt the insights that these other disciplines bring us about how the economy works.Politics and economics are inextricably intertwined, as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx knew all too well. Somehow this has been forgotten. This does not mean economists need to get political or choose sides. But it does mean that we ignore politics at our own peril – by blindsiding ourselves or dismissing it as “external stuff”, we hamper our understanding of the very system we study.