At some point we should start getting worried about Donald Trump.
I’ve been thinking (and saying) that for well over six months now but seem to be in a minority. Trump is still being portrayed by many sections of the media as a kind of comic relief: a joke act to be laughed at the in the US presidential primaries. His ‘antics’ are presented in headlines with lots of exclamation marks:
‘What will Trump do next?!?!’
‘Trumped!!: Read Trump’s outrageous comments on Mexicans!!’
Articles with him are usually peppered with jovial references to his ‘alleged hair’, his time on the apprentice or his tower in New York. In the UK he is compared to the ‘lovable buffoon’ Boris Johnson. ‘Look! They both have blond hair! Look! They both seem a bit dishevelled! Look! They both get up to antics! They’re basically twins!! Trump is the American Boris!!’
The problem is, this kind of commentary makes people familiar with Trump. It makes them think that he’s ‘an average guy’, that he knows what he is talking about and that any ‘gaffs’ are excusable and quite comical. Commuters read about the latest ‘Trumpism’ on their phones in the morning, make a comment to the person next to them (‘Have you seen what Trump’s done now?)’, laugh, and then click on a link to something else. Trump’s provided them with a bit of entertainment on the train to work.
But this is a man who is running to be President of the United States. This is a man who is vying to be the Commander in Chief of the world’s most powerful military machine. This is a man who wants to be looked on as the leader of the free World, as the global embodiment of everything that’s great about liberty, freedom and democracy. And he isn’t a million miles away from achieving that goal: It’s more likely than not that he’ll now win the Republican nomination. And then he has a 50/50 chance. Fifty-fifty. The toss of a coin. Heads you win, tails you get Trump.
At some point we should start getting worried about Donald Trump.
‘But why?’ You ask. ‘Sure, he’s a bit of a nutter but who isn’t these days? He has some strong views but a lot of people have sympathy for them.’
I have strong views about the parcel delivery habits of the Royal Mail. I have strong views about the incorrect application of the word ‘literally’. I have strong views about the use of converted busses to run most of the rail services in the north of England.
Donald Trump doesn’t have strong views. Donald Trump is a fascist, a racist and a very dangerous man.
When I state the above to people they recoil a bit, sip their tea and say ‘oh surely he’s not that bad?’.
Let’s play a little game. Hopefully it will show you what I mean. This is how it goes: First, you take an outrageous quote from Donald Trump (spoken in 2016 need I remind you):
“I am calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on… there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. …We must Make America Great Again.”
“Hahaha! He said that?? Oh Trump you rogue! What will you do next? You’re so out there! What a maverick!!”
What you now do is take the same quote and swap out one of the words, to maybe put what he says in more of a historical context:
“I am calling for a total and complete shutdown of Jews entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on… there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Jewish population. …We must make America Great Again.”
Still think he’s a lovable rogue?
Can you image what would happen if Donald Trump said that? Overnight his campaign would have been over. He would have lost all support, all backers and sponsors and would probably also have been finished as a businessman. I think it’d be fair to say that he may even been forced to leave the United States. But when Donald Trump uttered the first quote his support soared. He went on to win the vast majority of the early primaries and dominate the news agenda. He followed his comments on Muslims with similar remarks about Mexicans. His support soared again.
At some point we need to start worrying about Donald Trump.
It’s all too easy to look back at history from a distance with scorn. Why on earth did so many people in the 1930s not see what was going on in Germany? Why did the United Kingdom do political deals with the man who would later flatten London and commit the greatest war crimes the world has ever seen? How foolish they must have been! How nieave! We would never make those mistakes today! We’re smarter than that now!
Look around people. The rhetoric and language that Donald Trump uses to demonise an entire people based on their religion is exactly the same as that which was used against the Jewish population in the 1930s. The Jews were used as a political scapegoat for the financial and political troubles that Germany found itself in. They were blamed for destabilising the economy, for conspiring against the German people and for making Germany weak and powerless. These accusations weren’t made overnight: they were built up over the span of a decade and numerous electoral cycles. They became so commonplace that people started to believe that parts of them might actually be true. And then they were true. They were accepted. The party that made them were voted into power. Three times.
Donald Trump claims there is a Muslim conspiracy against the United States. He says that they have made America weak on the World stage. He would ban them from coming to America. He bellows that Mexicans are destabilising the economy through immigration and are responsible for a fair proportion of the crime across the great land of the free. This rhetoric, these fantasies, are striking a chord. They are repeated endlessly by a media organisation obsessed with celebrity and the ‘shock factor’. People start to think that maybe there is some truth in these paranoid delusions.
And the rest of the World looks on with a mix of disbelief and mirth.
At some point we have to start worrying about Donald Trump.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the States and will happily vouch that the American people are amongst the most kind, generous, intelligent and helpful people you will ever meet. They are not (as they are commonly portrayed) a four-hundred million strong mob of red-necks who sit on their porches chewing tobacco and shooting passing rodents. They are a people who are constantly forging on into new areas of science, technology and the arts. They’ve driven us all into a remarkable new age of global communication and information technology. They are people just like you and me.
But they are voting for Trump.
I despair. I really do. I want to shake the population of the United States awake; to throw a bucket of water over them so they come round and tell me all about a strange dream they just had.
In a way it’s easier to write off Trump as only being supported by ‘hill-billies’. It’s scarier when you realise that his support is spread far and wide, across the northern states as much as the southern and mid-western ones.
I feel like I’m on a train that is careering off a cliff in slow-motion. When we stop humouring Trump and start treating him with the disdain that he deserves?