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.      

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More Essays

Jul 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "--- Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. --- Author James Baldwin’s words, written in the America of the late 1950s."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in more deprived neighbourhoods tend to have worse physical health as adults compared to those raised in more affluent areas. This is the case even when researchers take into account family income and education, and whether or not parents have major illnesses. In order to address this health disparity, researchers need to understand how those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods end up with worse health outcomes. Our team’s latest study has highlighted one potential way your childhood neighbourhood may influence your health for years to come. It might do so through changing how the activity of your genes is regulated."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Ruth Poniarski is a painter and the author of Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist (Warren Publishing, 2020), in which she tells the story of her decade long struggle with mental illness, a “spiraling malady” which led her into a “pattern of psychosis”. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Poniarski about her life and work, and how she eventually overcame her demons."
Jun 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough. My confidence is big enough that I can really let people grow next to me, it’s no problem. I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you."
Jun 27th 2020
An essay about the "the enormously influential 1940 'Head of Christ' painting by evangelical Warner E. Sallman" pictured below.
Jun 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "The diverse, non-human life forms that live in our guts – known as our microbiome – are crucial to our health. A disrupted balance of these contribute to a range of disorders and diseases, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease. It could even affect our mental health..... It’s well known that the microbes living in our guts are altered through diet. For example, including dietary fibre and dairy products in our diets encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. But mounting evidence suggests that exercise can also modify the types of bacteria that reside within our guts."
Jun 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Bonhoeffer’s life holds an important lesson for us today, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof. And simply put it is this: you are called upon; you are called on behalf of your neighbor. When you are called to be responsible that is not an obligation which you can decline, discharge or acquit yourself of – it is an infinite responsibility, a “forever commitment” as Charles Blow recently put it. And we all must be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary when we are called."
Jun 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "People differ substantially in how much they’re affected by experiences in their lives. Some people seem to be more affected by daily stress, or the loss of someone close to them. On the other hand, some people seem to get through the same experiences relatively unscathed. Similarly, some people benefit strongly from counselling, or having a support system of close family and friends. Others seem better able to manage on their own. But understanding why some people are more sensitive than others isn’t just a question of how they were raised, and the experiences they’ve been through. In fact, previous research has found that some people in general seem more sensitive to what they experience – and some are generally less sensitive."
Jun 7th 2020
EXTRACT: " The root causes of anthropogenic climate change – which has led to the endangering of countless species across the globe – cannot be adequately grasped in isolation from the technological application of modern science. While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was certainly justified in calling upon American legislators to “unite behind the science,” neither can we overlook the culpability of science in bringing about the environmental crisis. "
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The QAnon movement began in 2017 after someone known only as Q posted a series of conspiracy theories about Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” OKM is part of a network of independent congregations (or ekklesia) called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW). The organization’s spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, a self-proclaimed “Trump Prophet” and QAnon influencer with a large social media following on Twitter and YouTube."
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The aim of my research for the Understanding Unbelief programme was to investigate the worldviews of non-believers, since little is known about the diversity of these non-religious beliefs, and what psychological functions they serve. I wanted to explore the idea that while non-believers may not hold religious beliefs, they still hold distinct ontological, epistemological and ethical beliefs about reality, and the idea that these secular beliefs and worldviews provide the non-religious with equivalent sources of meaning, or similar coping mechanisms, as the supernatural beliefs of religious individuals."
May 22nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Psalm 91, for example, reassures believers that God will protect them from “the pestilence that walketh in darkness… A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee”.............Luther was a devout believer but insisted that religious faith had to be joined with practical, physical defences against sickness. It was a good Christian’s duty to work to keep themselves and others safe, rather than relying solely on the protection of God. "
May 22nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Evidence from this study shows clearly that eating foods rich in flavonoids over your lifetime is significantly linked to reducing Alzheimer’s disease risk. However, their consumption will be even more beneficial alongside other lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, managing a healthy weight and exercising."
May 5th 2020
EXTRACT: "It’s possible that the answers to questions like, “how do I live a virtuous life?” or “how do we build a good society?” are not the same as they were a few weeks ago."
May 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Strangely, those with strong beliefs tend to be admired. The human mind hates uncertainty, so it is comforting to be told what to think, and to form settled opinions. But it is not rational. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote: “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Apr 21st 2020
Extract: "Humans, Boccaccio seems to be saying, can think of themselves as upstanding and moral – but unawares, they may show indifference to others. We see this in the 10 storytellers themselves: They make a pact to live virtuously in their well-appointed retreats. Yet while they pamper themselves, they indulge in some stories that illustrate brutality, betrayal and exploitation. Boccaccio wanted to challenge his readers, and make them think about their responsibilities to others. “The Decameron” raises the questions: How do the rich relate to the poor during times of widespread suffering? What is the value of a life? In our own pandemic, with millions unemployed due to a virus that has killed thousands, these issues are strikingly relevant.
Apr 20th 2020
Extract: "If we do not seize this crisis as a moment for transformation, then we will have lost the war. If doing so requires reviving notions of collective guilt and responsibility – including the admittedly uncomfortable view that every one of us is infinitely responsible, then so be it; as long we do not morally cop out by blaming some group as the true bearers of sin, guilt, and God’s heavy judgment. A pandemic clarifies the nature of action: that with our every act we answer to each other. In that light, we have a duty to seize this public crisis as an opportunity to reframe our mutual responsibility to one another and the world."
Apr 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "Death is the common experience which can make all members of the human race feel their common bonds and their common humanity."
Apr 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "A crisis such as this one demands that we exercise what the philosopher Immanuel Kant called the ‘public use of reason’ – as opposed to merely the ‘private use of reason’ where, briefly put, the expert, the specialist is tasked with resolving a defined problem. The private use of reason is sufficient when we are dealing with a problem that can be solved by simply applying the appropriate expertise...............The public use of reason asks: how we are defining the problem? Is our definition – our conceptualization of the problem – perhaps part of the problem itself? Is this pandemic solely a problem of public health, or is it also a problem of extreme economic inequality? ..............Since this crisis began, the greatest failure of the administration is not the denial, the lies, the lack of preparedness, but the inability to rally and unify the nation against this common threat, the lack of genuine leadership – Trump’s utter inability to bring the nation together."
Apr 5th 2020
EXTRACT: "Rarely has an architectural experiment aroused such extremes of ire and admiration. One side is convinced the house is a masterpiece. The other expresses brutal condemnation of the entire project (leaky roof, danger of flooding, too-hot, too-cold interiors depending on the American Midwest weather).........Farnsworth encapsulated her personal ambiguity in her comment to a Newsweek interviewer: “This handsome pavilion I own is almost totally unworkable.” She told one journalist, “ … all I got was this glib, false sophistication. The conception of a house as a glass cage suspended in air is ridiculous.”