There it is, in chilling black and white: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Whatever campaign aide pressed “send” on that press release should have felt what’s left of their civic soul drift away. They are complicit in something that’s an essential part of all strongman candidacies: thuggery and suspension of civil liberties.
The same is now true for any Trump supporter who still feels defiant pride in the belief that they are sending a message to Washington while rejecting suffocating conventions of politically correct culture.
No, you’re just backing a bully and a bigot.
Because the man who claims to want to make America great again does not represent our country’s best traditions; he represents some of the world’s worst.
The appeal of the autocratic strongman is so basic that the Founding Fathers worried that it would be the Achilles’ heel of democracy. The strongman candidate taps into fear and frustrations about the ineffectiveness of government. With rambling speeches that double as populist entertainment, they divide the world into us and them. And with blustery promises that would make a con man blush, they declare that everything will be better for you once they are in total control.
If you believe that, I’ve got a populist billionaire to sell you.
The thing about the strongman candidacies is that they are secretly weak. They feed off feelings of fear and inadequacy. That’s why they target minority rights first.
And that is what’s happening here. We’ve seen brushfires of fear sweep through this election season, with mayors calling for internment camps, governors refusing refugees, and presidential candidates trying to win over the angriest inmates of the hyperpartisan asylum. This competition to connect with the reptile mind is beneath the country Lincoln once called “the last best hope of earth.”
This is a time for choosing between our best traditions and our worst fears. If you care about the Constitution, the time has come to take a stand against Trump. If you believe that unity in diversity is a defiant answer to extremism, the time has come to take a stand against Trump. And if you believe the integrity of the Republican Party is worth saving, the time has come to take a stand against Trump.