It is in no way reaching to call the 2016 United States presidential election a joke, a media frenzy desperately clinging to the latest asinine comment made by Republican candidate Donald Trump.
His most recent display of unbridled nonsense is the wild accusation that Democratic presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton is somehow a bigot. The BBC reported last Thursday that during a Mississippi rally, Trump claimed Clinton “sees people of color only as votes — not as human beings worthy of a better future.” He expressed similar statements in a Dimondale, Michigan, speech the week prior.
If ever there was a situation of the pot calling the kettle black, this would be it.
Trump is a showman, evident by his fairly impressive IMDB page and multiple media appearances prior to his bid for the White House. His past financial support of Clinton and slew of comically outrageous remarks raise the nagging question of whether Trump actually believes anything he says about race, religion or immigration. First and foremost a businessman, Trump is shrewd and calculating, feeding off increasing fear to make his bid seem like the answer to the prayers of his xenophobic base.
According to a December 2015 Washington Post analysis, a large chunk of Trump’s supporters are poor, uneducated conservative white males. By counteracting an ever-growing liberal mainstream and voicing what his supporters are thinking, Trump has painted a false image of himself as a blunt, honest anti-establishment candidate who only speaks his mind without worrying about political correctness. It is disheartening to imagine he was serious when he said that he would consider having Muslims register in a government database and carry around special identification, reminiscent of laws requiring Jews to do the same in Nazi Germany
If this is, indeed, Trump’s plan, then he is a Machiavellian, evil genius. If this is not his true motive, however, then perhaps we face the even more devastating reality that Americans allowed a bigoted racist to get within inches of the White House.
In either case, calling Clinton a bigot is both hypocritical and unfair, particularly since it seems Trump’s entire campaign runs on dogmatism and intolerance. Like the ringleader of a mob riot, the “Make America Great Again” candidate fuels the dangerous animosity and jaundiced attitude many of his supporters have toward people who do not fit the “White America” mold.
In a Salon piece entitled “Anatomy of a Trump Voter: How Racism Propelled Trump to the Republican Nomination,” writer Sean McElwee points out that Trump’s supporters “buy into the politics of resentment” and “endorse racial resentment and stereotypes.” McElwee found that the probability of Trump support reached a staggering 80 percent at the highest level of anti-black stereotyping. For Muslims and Hispanics, the probability of support rose “more than 70 percent.” Essentially, the more prejudice a voter is, the more likely they are to put in their ballots for Trump.
If the Republican nominee is going to call Clinton a bigot, he should first ask himself why so many of his supporters harbor such racial resentment. Perhaps because they see themselves in him.
There is no denying that Clinton is trying to acquire support from black voters, but she does not fuel racist sentiment to do so. According to a February NPR piece, Clinton won the South Carolina primary with support from 80 percent of black voters.
Clinton organized a strike after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and led efforts to recruit more black students, according to a 2007 New York Times piece by Mark Leibovich. Meanwhile, within the same decade, Trump was sued by the Justice Department in a 1973 civil rights case for violating the Fair Housing Act and discriminating against potential black tenants.
It is hard to imagine anybody taking anything Trump says seriously, yet the unfortunate and very serious reality remains that a great deal of his supporters hang onto his every word, while non-white populations are left feeling attacked and more marginalized than ever in a country in which they are supposed to feel safe.
His Mississippi and Michigan speeches are guilty of the exact same charge he has hurled toward Clinton: trying to acquire black votes without really caring about the issues that matter to them. He dares to ask black voters: “What do you have to lose by trying something new?” Clinton is not the perfect candidate either, but at least she is not “taking a hate movement mainstream,” as the Democratic nominee herself rebuked.
It is sad that, in the year 2016, this type of candidate has managed to gain ground in a United States presidential race and become the Republican nominee. Even so, many Republicans themselves cannot stand behind him, feeling he is an inaccurate representation of their ideals.
If Mr. Trump is so keen on walls, then perhaps he should work on tearing them down — not adding to the existing ones we already have.