Donald Trump declared his candidacy for president in 2015 with vitriolic partisanship. Since then, the words truth and fact have taken on new meaning. Truth once meant that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. Fact once meant something that actually exists; reality; truth. The words were virtually interchangeable, but no longer.
The President declares what is truthful despite the availability of solid evidence that demonstrates he is lying. The President declares what is factual, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The desire for personal political gain and partisanship motivates his lying and misstatement of facts. The result: truth and facts become casualties of his personal desire to “win” at politics through vitriolic partisanship.
But for some, within the last two weeks there has been one more significant casualty and that is life, itself. In Kentucky a white man indiscriminately shot two black people after failing to enter a predominately black church nearby. Then a staunch Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to key Democrat politicians and other public figures highly critical of Trump. And on Saturday a Neo-Nazi-inspired anti-Semitic White Nationalist shot and killed eleven members of a Jewish congregation in Pittsburgh.
The Toxic Environment
I believe it is inaccurate to state that Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric is the direct cause of these attacks. However, I do believe it is accurate to state that Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric, intentionally provoking divisiveness, has created a toxic environment. He attacks his critics as enemies of the people. He uses the term infestation to describe asylum seekers and by implication, those that support them. He dehumanizes them as if they were subhuman creatures. And as demonstrated by the Nazis during the Second World War, treating humans as less than human, makes it easier to justify killing them.
In 2017 Trump stated there were some very fine people among the Neo Nazi / White Supremacist Charlottesville marchers. That they chanted, “Jews will not replace us” was of no import. In October Trump proudly proclaimed he was a “Nationalist,” a term widely attributed to White Nationalist and White Supremacist movements. That antisemitism is central to white supremacy was also of no import. Without directly saying so, Trump has emboldened these hate groups as no other President in modern history.
The perpetrator of the attempted bombings was an avid Trump supporter. The shooter in the synagogue murders was a White Nationalist who didn’t vote for Trump because he was too soft on the Jewish faith. One does not have to be a Trump supporter to thrive in this vitriolic partisan environment of hate and bigotry.
Donald Trump the Businessman
Those of us who worked many years in the New York business community have long known about Donald Trump’s history. Though successful in certain real estate ventures and licensing, he is far from the great businessman he projects. He drove six over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses into corporate bankruptcy. Subsequently, most major banks declined to lend to him, with a notable exception of Deutsche Bank. Russia is the long-rumored source of funds for later projects. Many believe Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation will ultimately disclose that supposition as fact.
More recently, Trump settled a New York State lawsuit and two class-action civil lawsuits for $25 million centering on fraud by Trump University. In June 2018 the New York State Attorney General filed a civil suit against the Trump Foundation for $2.8 million. Trump is also well known for his litigious nature. According to USA Today, Trump and his businesses have been involved in over 4,000 state and federal legal actions.
So while there is some doubt about Trump’s business acumen, there are few who would challenge his talent as a salesman. He is the proverbial snake oil salesman. Even though many of his supporters know he is selling snake oil, they are willing to buy it. Even though many of his supporters accept he is divisive, they do not blame him for the toxic environment. The question is why?
Do Evangelicals overlook Trump’s divisiveness and moral deficiencies? Do they support him because he has appointed Supreme Court Justices that could overturn Roe v. Wade? One wonders if Jesus would react similarly?
Do businessmen support Trump because he’s delivered huge tax decreases, reduced regulations and avoided adding costs dealing with climate change? One wonders if they’ve considered the impact on future generations of soaring deficits and a warming planet?
Do Republicans support him because he keeps them in power and has promoted policies they like such as lower taxes and reductions in entitlement spending? One wonders if they, too, are concerned about soaring future deficits and elimination of healthcare benefits for millions of citizens?
It is understandable why White Supremacists and Nationalists are at home in Trump’s camp. Their bigotry and hatred of Jews and people of color are amplified and enhanced by Trump’s blatantly racist’s comments and vitriol.
Other Factors Influencing Trump Supporters
But do these “benefits” compensate for destruction of the social fabric of the United States and the values it represents? Do these substantially short-term benefits compensate for the long-term damage they will cause to the economy and environment?
Or are Trump supporters silently cheering him on because of some other reason? He has openly acknowledged his vitriolic rhetoric is divisive. But he proudly proclaims his supporters like it when he attacks the press, his critics and “the other” represented by immigrants. Does that not say something about his supporters as well?
Perhaps they share his racist views. Perhaps they like the fact that he can bully the press and others and get away with it. Perhaps that’s something they would like to do but cannot because of the moral constraints in their personal world. No one can know what’s in the mind of Trump supporters. But for whatever reason they subscribe to Trump’s rhetoric, this message is not for them.
A Message to Real Patriots
This is a message to all those who believe the United States is unique among the countries of the world. True patriots who know the United States is a country of immigrants built on a set of values worth preserving. Values expressed in the Declaration of independence, “all men are created equal.” Values expressed in the Great Seal of the United States, “E pluribus unum”— “Out of many, one.” Values expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution, “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
This is a time to consider country over party. The Republican Party has lost its way. It no longer represents the values of Ronald Reagan or the principles for which it once stood. If you are a true patriot, you must raise your voice against those who promote bigotry and hate. As a citizen you have a powerful weapon—the right to vote. Exercise that right and vote Democratic.