No doubt, the United States has a huge political divide. People on the left and right don't simply disagree on some matters of the role of government; they hate each other for the values they espouse. Rush Limbaugh and his imitators have bombarded the nation with insulting and abusive tirades about liberals, most of which are untrue defamation. He unleashed a degree of enmity rooted deeply in ignorance and stupidity and malignant deformities of character and paved the way for Donald Trump to publicly revile women, blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, union members, immigrants, people with disabilities, veterans, and anyone he fancies to denigrate when the urge strikes him.
Masses of people stood up and cheered Trump's denunciations of people. More than that, a major political party elected him candidate for the U.S. presidency. When a candidate for president openly and brazenly promises discrimination and oppression against large groups of people, sucks up to an ex-KGB agent who invades neighboring countries and employs totalitarianism as a demonstration of strength, and vows to blow other nations to smithereens, he reverses the quest for freedom, equality, and justice that has defined American progress. Donald Trump is a declared enemy of the traits that have defined American character. And half of America, give or take a few points, supports him.
Trump vows to make America one, one people under one flag. When half of the people repudiate him, not merely disagree with him, but reject everything he stands for as anathemas to all that America aspires to, how does he propose to unite its divided people? By eliminating dissent and disagreement in the way of his idol Putin? The divide between Americans is not one that political conciliation can remedy. The divide is one that can be bridged only by a change in the demonstrated values with which people treat each other.
In the context of racial executions of unarmed and innocent black Americans by police officers, of 20 million Americans living in extreme poverty, of hate rallies being held against immigrants and refugees, athletes, led in example by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick,are refusing to honor the flag because the country it represents is not living up to its promise of freedom, equality, and justice. Many people are incensed that these athletes choose not to honor the flag, but cannot seem to grasp how the nation has failed to honor the lives of so many people. A year ago when students at the University of Missouri demanded that the university president resign because he failed to respond sufficiently to racial oppression, the football team threatened to boycott its games. The university president resigned. Professional athletes are now responding to the same problem on the national level. The police have threatened to withhold their security services from the football games at which players demonstrate their protest--rather than acknowledge the problem and try to solve it. And the divide between Americans widens.
The rise of Trump confounded many people. That so many people could support a man as deplorable and despicable as he seemed incomprehensible. So, social scientists began to poll and study them. They produced explanations which show that America has lost its luster as a shining beacon of good will and humane decency. To Trump and his supporters, making America great again means returning it to the mindsets of Jim Crow and robber barons.
The rise of someone like Trump has been in preparation for a long time. Limbaugh is the tip of a berg of rotten ice that pervades talk radio and surfaces on the Internet. During the Clinton administration, the airwaves were teeming with night talk of Clinton mounting hit squads to exterminate political opponents. Every night Coast To Coast AM broadcasts over 600 stations to 3 million listeners with talk of ghosts, space aliens, monsters prowling the land, all thrown in with anti-Obama tales. Serving the deranged has become a staple of the broadcast industry. These listeners might not be able to think with any clarity, but they can vote. The election of our first black president so enraged many people that they could no longer suppress their racial, white supremacist inclinations, and Trump is their megaphone.
|The problem with this poster is that it fails to|
acknowledge that many Germans were in full
complicity with the Nazis.
America is at the point experienced by Germany of the 1930s when Jews, rather than Muslims, were targeted for violence and extermination. The GOP governor of Kentucky stoked the rage when he predicted that America would become a "bloodbath" if Hillary Clinton is elected president. Trump's rallies have given us previews of what it will be like. The American Kristallnacht is in the making.
From the standpoint of political strategy, it was probably a mistake for Hillary Clinton to make the "basket of deplorables" remark. But her remarks are unfortunately factual and accurate. The data from poll-takers support them.
There has always been in America a significant group of people who have little interest in freedom, equality, and justice, except for themselves personally. The struggle to realize the promises of our founding documents has seen gradual realization over the country's history, but has always been in jeopardy. And when just a few votes become the difference between electing a president who advocates and has worked for those values and one who flouts them, there is always the possibility that a majority of the people will choose to regress the nation into just another place where oppression and resentment rule.
The recent gains in racial equality, as in electing our first black president, and in sexual equality, as in same-sex marriage, have only enraged those who wish to subjugate other people on some basis. Conservative tampering with our education system has produced ignorance and an inability of many people to apprehend facts over malevolent prejudices conditioned in them by the right-wing media. The idea of reconciling the knowledgeable with the ignorant is absurd. It puts one in the position of compromising facts to appease the rancor of the maliciously prejudiced.
Hillary Clinton's remarks contained something that the media, in its rage to foment conflict, has largely ignored. She tried to get at some reasons that Trump has gained support. She tried to deal with why. Trump is only interested in agitating the disaffections of people into further rage, not in solving the problems and circumstances that cause their rage.
As Lincoln reminded us, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." But he did not think what divided the house at the time, slavery, would cause it to fall. He contended that "It will become all one thing or all the other. " While the governor of Kentucky has predicted that the election of Hillary Clinton as president will cause a bloody clash in the streets, few people have ventured what the consequence will be if Trump is president.
To many of us who look at the history of other nations which have reached their tipping point, Trump''s rise to prominence is a sign that the country has already taken a major step in its fall. In any case, half of the nation, give or take a percentage or two, will never submit to his rule.