It has been more than two months since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, and slowly but surely the entertainment factor as been on the wane and the fear factor has been on the rise.
As his poll numbers steadily keep him in a comfortable first place in the crowded GOP field, and he packs stadiums—receiving raucous applause in Alabama and along the Mexican border—his fiery and divisive rhetoric has taken on a new meaning. His positions have now become the focal point of the GOP field and all candidates must respond to Trump before they can proceed.
What he and his supporters say can no longer be considered a joke. During his rally in Mobile, Alabama, screams of “white power” could be heard from the audience. And last week, two white ex-cons from Boston beat up a homeless Hispanic man, and upon their arrest they told the police, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”
In response to the attack, Trump said, “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.” He did not initially decry their actions, but later stated on Twitter that he thought the attack was “terrible.”
The joke is over. The horrors of a Trump presidency should not be lost on anyone. His immigration plan calls for the deportation of the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants who have entered via our southern border. This position has definitely stoked the fire of Americans who are not pleased with our immigration policies, but an America that rounds up and forcefully removes a race or class of people is most certainly a dystopian nation that encourages lawlessness and anarchy.
If these policies were enacted, what would prevent American citizens from destroying the documentation of legal Hispanic immigrants, and forcefully deporting them or using the threat of deportation as leverage for rampant abuse? Arizona already has the “show me your papers” provision of SB 1070 that essentially treats Hispanics as illegal until proven innocent.
This reality might seem farfetched, but in fact America has traversed this territory before. My forebears in South Carolina were free persons of color since the late 1700s and lived as second-class citizens, but in the 1860s prior to emancipation, certain municipalities started requesting that FPCs show their papers or be forced into slavery. Many FPCs had never needed papers before, so they regularly went about their lives without documentation.
But overnight this changed. Without papers you were assumed to be a slave, and white America would see to it that you were “returned” to a life of slavery. Additionally, it was illegal to educate blacks in South Carolina, so some FPCs were illiterate, and therefore even if they had documentation it was difficult for them to prove the papers’ legitimacy. Many FPCs ran for their lives, and attempted to flee the state, but countless of them were rounded up and forced into slavery.
Essentially, even though 150 years may have passed, too many Americans are still advocating for oppressive, segregationist, and pre-Civil War policies. But this time these Americans may have decided to direct most of their hatred towards a different shade of people.
When you examine Trump’s unilateral and authoritarian foreign policy positions more red flags are raised. Invading a country to take its oil is something America has already attempted with dire consequences. Does he honestly think that he can force Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall along our border?
Concerning women’s issues and basic respect for another person he is equally troubling, and the rekindling of his vile and sexist war of words with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly shows this. He again called her a bimbo and demeaned her physical appearance. If these were merely the comments of a clown, we could brush them off and ignore them. But when it is a billionaire clown that is the GOP presidential front-runner, we all should be incredibly concerned. If this man had the authority to create and approve laws, what would his policies regarding women’s rights look like?
Even his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” stokes a nationalistic fervor that makes some Americans—predominately conservative white Americans—feel as though they are under attack from ruinous anti-American elements that need to be defeated. Yet if American greatness existed prior to the 1960s, I am sure that countless other Americans would not want to return to that era, which sure wasn’t very welcoming for them.
In another time and another place we would probably view Trump’s rise to prominence along a fascist trajectory similarly to the European movements of the early 20th century and discuss his every move as a cautionary tale, but as of yet we have not. But we should pay attention when the Daily Stormer, a conservative, Neo-Nazi and white nationalist publication, endorses Trump for president, as it did Tuesday.
This is alarming. Yet I wonder if this lack of alarm exists because his language is not foreign to American society. We have always proclaimed ourselves to be a meritocratic society where anyone can work his way to the top with hard work, but parallel to this narrative was the reality that persons of color have always had limited opportunities for advancement. Therefore, it has always been commonplace to demean the poor and/or persons of color because they supposedly had “earned” their lower station in life due to an assumed predisposition toward sloth or some other negative activity.
As long as America ignored its oppressive structures then people had an unlimited license to demean and ridicule people who they felt had “earned” less than they. It now became acceptable to fabricate negative narratives to explain an oppressed group’s lower station in life, and Trump is invoking this cultural trait to a dangerous effect.
Trump is rallying his supporters around a narrative of nationalistic pride, collective frustration, and dehumanizing language regarding persons of color and women, and this cannot be a platform American society can embrace again. Our collective fear concerning his candidacy should be about what era of America’s past he wants to return us to in his quest to “Make America Great Again.”