Democracy and diversity trump Trump

By Bill Kaplan

The ever evolving American mosaic of democratic diversity is a beacon to the world. Immigrants made our nation an economic giant and enriched our culture. But plutocratic GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump is the antithesis of American ideals. Trump's campaign has been based on bigotry, fear-mongering, hysteria and lies. His latest firebomb: "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States...we have no choice." The political fallout has been withering: 

• The Washington Post editorialized: "The plain truth is that a Trump presidency would not only fracture U.S. society along ethnic, racial and we now know, religious lines. It would also demolish American prestige on the world stage and alienate our most important allies....Criticizing Mr. Trump is no longer sufficient. It is time to say clearly he is anathema to the Republican Party, and to the nation"; 

• The New York Times opined: "The time to renounce Mr. Trump's views was the day he entered the race, calling Mexico an exporter of criminals and rapists. He played to the politics of nativism and fear...The racism behind the agenda of the right wing on immigrants and foreigners has long been plain as day. Mr. Trump makes it even plainer"; 

• First Homeland Security head (Bush administration) Tom Ridge said: "Not a chance" of his supporting Trump as the GOP presidential nominee. Ridge went on to call Trump "an embarrassment to the country...(who) belittles, demeans and ridicules people that disagree with him"; 

• Finally, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble delivered a knockout: "I will not support Donald Trump for president of the United States, no matter what the circumstances." Contrast with GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan who made a welcome denunciation of Trump, but incoherently said: "I'm (Ryan) going to support the nominee". 

Time to be blunt about Trump. Trump's rhetoric and style are reminiscent of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Both the buffoon and sinister strongman: flamboyant strutting machismo, loud-mouthed talk, serial lies, xenophobic scapegoating of immigrants - minorities and an undercurrent of violence (see the New Yorker, August 31, 2015, on Trump's support from white supremacist groups). 

However, not all Trump supporters are racists. Many have been discombobulated by deindustrialization, globalization and soaring income inequality. A new report released last Wednesday by the Pew Center said: "the U.S. middle class is no longer the nation's majority" (Washington Post). Moreover, the response from both Democrats and Republicans to these calamities has been profoundly inadequate. And, then there is Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who has presided over the nation's largest decline in the percentage of middle class families (Pew). When asked by the press on Friday whether he would support Trump as the GOP presidential nominee, Walker said that choosing a nominee is a "long ways off" and "a lot will happen between now and then." No wonder the Walker presidential campaign collapsed. Not "big and bold." 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.

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