By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
A country weary of war, wracked and roiled by economic woes. Its citizens worried about their jobs and their future. A loss of national confidence in the present. A charismatic leader emerges running for the highest office in the land, promising to make the country “great again” while attacking a religious minority as evil and subversive. Stoking suspicion and fear towards immigrants, non-Caucasian people and non-native born residents. America in 2015? Yes. Also Germany in 1933.
I do not know if Donald Trump is a closeted fascist as some have said, or just so impulsive that he says whatever enters his mind at a given moment.
Children often times have no impulse control and just blurt out things that adults would filter. That is not being politically correct, that is acting like a grown up and understanding that words matter as well as actions.
Donald Trump has insulted immigrants, African Americans, millions of peace loving Muslim citizens and stereotyped Jews. He has attacked with childish characterizations his opponents and critical journalists. He has mocked a disabled reporter and called Senator John McCain a false war hero.
He has repeatedly referred to the President of the United States as “stupid” and suggested that Obama has lied about his birth origin and his practiced religion. Donald Trump is not just being politically incorrect as he and his supporters say, he is behaving like a spoiled adolescent unable to temper his impulses. He is dangerous.
In this political campaign Donald Trump has become more shrill and more extreme with each passing week. And to my astonishment his popularity continues to hold strong within a sizeable segment of the Republican Party…ironically the party of Abraham Lincoln.
What does this portend for the future? In all likelihood Donald Trump will not be the nominee of the Republican Party. He might run as a third party candidate like Ross Perot did in 1992, winning nearly 20 percent of the popular vote but not a single electoral vote. The result of the Perot candidacy that year enabled Bill Clinton to defeat incumbent President George H.W. Bush. With another Clinton as the likely Democratic Party nominee in 2016, could we be witnessing a repeat of history?
But what if the comparison becomes the regime change in 1933 Germany? What if Donald Trump actually succeeded in becoming President next year? Words are a precursor to action. Would President Trump actually establish an internal police force to find, and corral and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and refugees living in this country… and their natural born American citizen children? What a spectacle that would be and at what cost! Would President Trump begin construction of a wall of thousands of miles around our border and man it with machine guns 24 hours a day? Would President Trump require Muslim citizens to register with the government and be tracked? Would President Trump apply a religious test on who could enter this country and even close places of worship? Would President Trump make even more guns available to anyone who wants one? Would President Trump make torture of persons with information the government covets official policy?
These outlandish questions and many more are taken from his speeches and declarations of his intentions. Should we take them seriously? We had better!
Donald Trump has tapped into a seething anger that exists amongst a segment of the American people. It is not pretty. It has probably always been there. Other American demagogues over the years have exploited fears, bigotry and ignorance. George Wallace, David Duke, Senator Joe McCarthy and others. They all had their 15 minutes of fame and then faded into the fog of history. But none ever came this close to actually securing the power to alter American values and our heritage. None of them were billionaires with unlimited resources.
I truly shudder to think what may have befallen this country in 1962 during the Cuban Missile crisis if a person with the temperament of Donald Trump had been President. That person would have acted out their bluster by bombing Cuba. But like President Kennedy, that person would not have known that there were actually nuclear missiles ready to be launched, and most assuredly would have been. President Kennedy, with whatever his personal foibles, was a reflective and not a reflexive politician. He was capable of strategic thinking with careful and considered action. He was also not afraid to admit mistakes.
His mature and tempered behavior during those frightening days when this country and the Soviet Union reached the brink may have actually saved humanity.
The Presidency of The United States of America is the single most important position in the world. It needs to be occupied by a person of substance and intellectual maturity. Donald Trump possesses neither.