We Republicans have a great deal of work on our hands to fathom how we nominated the worst Presidential nominee in American history and then how we let him lead our party over a cliff in Cleveland this week. Liberals, however, have some self-reflection to do as well. It couldn’t have been more evident than seeing one of the headlines about the Republican convention on left-wing sites like Slate being this: RNC Speaker Ends Speech With What Seems Like Nazi Salute to Giant Image of Trump. Another headline, at the beginning of the convention from the Daily News read: “White elevators” sign spotted at Republican National Convention.
Do either of these reporters, or the many more who followed their lead, actually believe Laura Ingraham gave a Heil Hitler on stage, or that there were racially segregated elevators in a major convention hall in Cleveland, Ohio? Do any of their readers? It’s undeniable this election has exposed racism, anti-Semitism and sexism in our society at levels surprising to many; but we don’t live in Jim Crow’s America or Adolf Hitler’s Germany.
Even before the GOP Convention is over, we Republicans are already proving that we aren’t going to learn any lessons from 2016, let alone previous defeats. In 2012, we outlined the path forward with the [Growth and Opportunity Project](http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/623664/republican-national-committees-growth-and.pdf] but even the Jewish voice on that project, Ari Fleischer, is fully on board the Trump Train, aiding in the destruction of the party he was tasked with rebuilding just four years ago.
How did we get to the point of nominating Donald Trump? What kind of break in our society led Americans of both parties to choose a man who mocks a disabled reporter, openly cheers violence against black protesters, tweets anti-Semitic memes, declares Mexicans are all rapists and seeks to close our borders to an entire religious group? Donald Trump brought millions of new voters to the primary polls; which means many of the people who came out to push him towards the nomination have never before identified as Republicans before this election cycle. We all bear some responsibility, not just Republicans.
So let’s use some perspective, please. It just might save our political process.
Conservatives, and even moderates, have spent the entire Presidency of Barack Obama being called every form of -ist by the media, our elected officials and even our friends. For opposing the President’s healthcare reform bill, we’ve been called racist. For our apprehension over letting our daughters share bathrooms with men who can say they are transgender, just on their word, we are transphobic. For believing a baker shouldn’t be bankrupted because they don’t feel comfortable baking a cake for a gay couple, homophobic. At some point, we lost the right to think and believe differently. Donald Trump is an extreme reaction to this phenomenon; an overcorrection to the politically correct obsessed culture we find ourselves in.
In the Atlantic recently Conor Friedersdorf interviewed a 22-year old Trump supporter living in San Francisco. I’ve read many times on social media a variation of the following request from liberal friends: “Can I please hear a non-racist please explain to me why they support Donald Trump?” This Atlantic interview is that explanation. And part of the reason this young man supports Trump is because of the folks ascribing racist views to anyone and everyone supporting Trump; because he’s sick of being called racist, sexist and homophobic for espousing conservative views. Because he’s been cowed into silence by what my friends Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson called the “outrage circus” in their book about the “End of Discussion” between opposing ideological parties, especially recently.
In discussions with friends who support Trump (yes I have them, no they aren’t racist), I point out the myriad of ways in which Trump has proven himself to be a misogynist and a racist, not to mention his flirtations with the alt-right faction of his voter base. Their response is usually a sigh; they simply do not believe it. The mainstream media and their liberal friends have overplayed that card.
The same shrill warnings made about Donald Trump by the Hillary Clinton campaign are being made about his hardly radical running mate Mike Pence.
We have had a decade of being warned that every single Republican politician is sexist, homophobic, racist and more. And now — when an actual danger to the American way of life has appeared — those on the left, in the media and otherwise, have cried wolf too many times for many of Trump’s supporters to take their warnings seriously.
In the Washington Post this week opinion columnist Fareed Zakaria had some unexpectedly kind words for former Republican Presidential nominee and Arizona Senator John McCain. He said,
We have descended so far so fast that it is sometimes difficult to remember that this is not normal. It was only eight years ago that the Republican nominee, John McCain, interrupted one of his supporters who claimed that BarackObama was an Arab and thus suspicious to explain that his opponent was in fact “a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”
I had to laugh. I’ve heard the same about Mitt Romney in the last six months who, as an aside, might end up being one of the last decent men left in the Republican Party by the end of this election cycle. McCain, like Romney, was disemboweled by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment when he ran for President. For the decency McCain and Romney showed, they were steamrolled. Finally, Republicans nominated a man who they don’t believe will stand for the same treatment, who will finally push back against it.
Like most Americans, I’m tired of the divisiveness of both parties and I’m scared by the rise of Trump and dispirited by David Duke standing for Senate. We can all do our part in changing our national political discourse; and one way is to tone down our rhetoric. Stop posting stories about obviously and demonstratively false claims of racism, sexism and more just because the target is someone you already dislike. If your friend supports a Republican, don’t jump to the assumption they’re card holding members of the KKK, out to strip your daughter of the right to vote and of her birth control. Every side of the political spectrum has some fault to bear for the rise of a would-be fascist. Without an honest accounting of how we arrived here, though, we’re going to see candidates even worse than Donald Trump capturing votes in 2018, 2020 and beyond.