This past Sunday marked the 15th Anniversary of 9/11. It was one of the defining moments in American history; on that day, and in the days that followed, ordinary people transcended self-interest through heroic acts, self-sacrifice, and bravery. Sadly, during the 2016 presidential election cycle, much of this exuberance has been eroded by the polarizing candidacy of Donald Trump.
As a nation, under the leadership of Republican President George W. Bush, we chose to keep our hearts and borders open after 9/11 and to forgive but never forget. Since that fateful day, we have continuously rededicated ourselves to unity by embracing our common values and reaffirming the ideals upon which this country was founded.
In 2008, we audaciously elected the first African-American President, Barak Obama; he has been as transformative a change agent as President Abraham Lincoln was in 1861. In 2012, despite not accomplishing all we had hoped for or dreamed of, the country reelected Obama, thus reaffirming our commitment to global citizenship, ecological stewardship, and democracy.
In contrast, the Trump campaign has given us nothing but month after month of hate and pessimism. Trump has enabled a new paradigm to take root. In this world, it is acceptable to espouse unvarnished sentiments which are patently racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobiic, nativist, and anti-Semitic.
To be clear, not all Republicans, or even most Republicans are racists. however, the reemergence of anti-Semitism in the base is alarming. Trump’s adoption of the phrase “America First” is particularly troubling. The slogan originated with Charles Lindbergh, an aviator and celebrity in the late 1930s who admired Hitler, and frequently “gush[ed] at how wonderful the Third Reich was. Before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh helped form “America First” committees that campaigned to keep the U.S. from fighting the Axis Powers. Lindbergh rose to become a demagogue and accused President Franklin Roosevelt of colluding with a Jewish lobby and Britain to drag America into World War II.”
Trump’s use of this term should give every Jewish and African-American pause. It has become a mantra to incite an aggrieved base for which the allure of his candidacy is the affirmation of their loss of social superiority and the promise of reclaiming it.
While the public and media often falsely categorize Trump’s base, which is 91% White and 58% male, as credulous due to a lack of college education and economic opportunities, but the “median household income of a Trump voter [is] about $72,000,” which is “well above the national median household income of about $56,000.”
Trump has cunningly denigrated intellectualism as the provenance of the elite while simultaneously accusing anyone who objects to his campaign of being anti-American. His campaign has empowered the “alt-right,“ a group that seeks to rebrand the white supremacist movement using a moniker that is both innocuous and non-specific. This ”alt-right” is nothing but a loose confederacy of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, White nationalists, and racist skinheads which the Southern Poverty Law Center classify as hate groups.
It is puzzling that any African-American would choose to defend Trump, yet many do vociferously engage in apologetics that belie the rabidity and physical violence displayed in videos such as the “Unfiltered Voices From Donald Trump’s Crowds.” In this video, African-American Black Lives Matter supporters are beaten, kicked, and punched as racist epithets are shouted at them. How can any African-American surrogate watch these scenes and continue to travel the media circuit decrying the injustice of Trump and his supporters being labeled as racists? Trump’s Jewish surrogates are equally baffling. The “alt right” possesses an absolute antipathy toward Jews and often advocate for their complete annihilation. This desire is manifested in the prevalence of threats against Jewish reporters who pen anything considered anti-Trump.
“Your clothes will be removed & fumigated. You will be held down and given a bath! #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.”
This threat included a PhotoShopped image of a Jewish reporter inside of a concentration camp oven with Trump dressed in a Nazi uniform poised to push a green button to gas her. Originally posted or created by the White Genocide Project, it was retweeted by @RenegadePartyUS and sent to Senior Polling Editor Natalie Jackson.
How could either an African-American or Jewish surrogate betray their people when confronted with proclamations like this?
“Let’s Face It! A world without Jews and Blacks……Would Be Like a World without Rats and Cockroaches.”
In an effort to disabuse claims that Trump himself is anti-Semitic, surrogates have called him a civil rights activist for opening membership to Jews in his Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago resort.
However, according to a Wall Street Journal article written at the time, “the Anti-Defamation League in New York, which in a 1994 battle forced Palm Beach’s Sailfish Club to open up its membership, was concerned that Mr. Trump was using the charge of anti-Semitism for his own mercantile ends. The league’s national director, Abraham Foxman, met with Mr. Trump soon after to air his concerns. According to Mr. Foxman, Mr. Trump agreed to modify his claims to allege only that the town council has treated Mar-a-Lago unfairly, compared with other clubs in town.”
Similarly, when the Trump campaign feigned outreach to African-Americans, they deliberately mischaracterized themselves as the “Party of Lincoln,” the original champions of the freedom and justice — an assertion both disrespectful to the memory of Lincoln and deceptive in historical fact. But, this did not stop real-estate developer Don Whitman, a Trump supporter, from explaining to a Rolling Stone reporter the necessity of the campaign’s efforts in this regard:
The Republicans took them out of slavery. And we’re trying to do it again. We’re trying to take ‘em out of enserfment. They’re just being used by the damn politicians, that’s all it amounts to!
This revisionist history is patronizing in its implied paternalism and uses the same justification slave owners used in defense of their inhumanity by promoting the idea that blacks could not survive without being cared for like children. Overt and covert racism have been a subtext of the modern Republican Party since 1948 when it became a refuge for Dixiecrats, politicians who fled the Democratic party following Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Staunch segregationists like Barry Goldwater, Jesse Helms, and Strom Thurmond chose to become Republicans in repudiation of the Democratic Party’s platform that embraced affirmative action, courted diversity, and promoted progressive agendas. Philosophically, these were not the same Republicans of the ”Party of Lincoln” which freed African-Americans in 1862 through the Emancipation Proclamation. Nor have the policies of the Dixiecrats and their legatees ever been concerned with civil rights or equality.
Trump’s campaign leadership indicates just how far the party has deviated from its noble origins. Stephen Bannon, the campaign’s Chief Executive Officer, is a man who promoted “sensationalist, race-baiting stories” and the “embrace of extremist white nationalist views,” according to staunch conservative and former Breitbart Editor-At-Large Ben Shapiro. Thankfully, the majority of Americans reject these ideas of bigotry and hate. Instead, we continue to unify in times of tragedy, putting aside petty grievances, and reaching out to ‘the other’ with love. This was most recently demonstrated during the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the second deadliest terrorist/hate crime attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Despite the magnitude of this tragedy, the community pulled together to lend assistance in whatever capacity was required. Throughout America’s difficulties, we continue to affirm our democracy, one in which ALL Americans deserve respect regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or political leaning. We have not always succeeded, but we endeavor to keep hope alive, to dream the dream, and not be cowed by the rise of a segment of the population who eschew multi-culturalism, refuse to acknowledge the humanity in others, and disparage intellectual curiosity.
Trump supporters try to invalidate everything that is good about us — respectful discourse, tolerance, and diversity. They seek to profane these attributes by ascribing negative connotations to “political correctness,” but we know this is a lie. America has come too far to go backwards, and despite our fear of the future, and the uncertainty of a world seemingly overrun by terrorists and fanatics, we must have faith that there are more good people than bad, and, in the words of Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha, “For us to progress, we must [exist as] a community in liberty, equality and fraternity.”
This story "How Trump Destroyed the Party of Lincoln" was written by Ayanna Nahmias.