By Former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
I have been doing much thinking about this Presidential campaign and the phenomenon which is Donald Trump. Like others I underestimated his appeal.
For sure he is a skilled presence in front of cameras and a big crowd. What he lacks in knowledge or even a scintilla of government experience he makes up for with years of media savvy. He is accustomed to reporters and being the center of controversy.
But how is it that much of the Republican Party is enthralled by a person with no real policy ideas about governing, or implementing programs and certainly no interest in political consensus building? How did he become the leader of a great political party?
The answer is that he is not leading from the front, he is leading from behind. In fact he is not leading at all, but rather he is the messenger. He has become the embodiment of the frustration, rage and yes even bigotry, that has been festering amongst millions of our fellow citizens for decades.
Donald Trump did not create the message, but he is delivering it. He is saying and doing what millions of Americans feel. And in him these people see the reflection of themselves. That is why his supporters are so passionately loyal to him no matter what idiotic thing he might say or do. To deny Trump would be to deny themselves and to invalidate their deep seeded dislikes and distrusts. Donald Trump is the agent to vent all that anger.
And Trump understands this dynamic and is exploiting it to great success.
Sadly, his rallies appear more and more like revivals for haters. While wrapping themselves in their own self-styled patriotism, they reject the virtues that made America unique. They disdain virtually all persons different from themselves. They label progressives as elitists, they call journalists vile names, they loathe non-American born residents and immigrants. They denigrate all Muslims, and blame foreigners for our economic woes.
As for American-born minorities such as blacks or gays, how many of these folks do you see at Trump rallies?
So Donald Trump is delivering their message. If Abe Lincoln, the Republican Party’s first president, appealed to the “better angels of people’s nature… with malice towards none and charity for all,” then Trump is the anti-Lincoln.
It is not so much to make America great again but rather to roll the clock back to an earlier time in our history when America was more homogenized and “the others” knew their place and would dare not speak out.
It is back to “us against them.” The problem for Donald Trump is that there are far more of “them” than he might imagine and they will not be silent or passive in the face of his vitriolic and divisive campaign.