In the last week or so I have written about my pessimism with the direction the rhetoric has taken in this (still far-off) presidential election. Specifically, when Donald Trump said that he supported registering Muslims and that he wouldn’t be against “going into mosques” and prominent Republicans all seemed to agree with their silence, I thought it took it as a dark sign for just how low we’re willing to go.
I have long considered the Trump candidacy a bit of a joke. He seemed to enter now, as in 2012, just for the free publicity that translated into dollars in the way of customers for his Trump brand steaks and pillows (no joke… it’s a thing). His lack of serious interest for the actual nomination seemed to be proven by the half-heartedness of his campaign – he did most of his “campaigning” from Trump Tower in New York while his opponents were sitting in diners in New Hampshire and Iowa – and by the obvious pandering of his positions. He tapped into a deep mistrust and discontent in the Republican base and fed them back exactly what they wanted to hear. It seemed a little like going to a job interview and saying, “So, tell me about the position,” and, upon hearing the interviewer say, “We’re looking for a self-starter who is comfortable in a fast-paced environment,” responding, “Well, I’m a self-starter who thrives in a fast-paced environment.”
But it’s months later and Trump continues his drive to the bottom, saying increasingly outrageous things to stay relevant. So far, his fellow candidates have been loath to criticize him, offering his a kind of tacit approval. This has helped to shift Republican policy into some pretty ugly territory, anti-immigrant and anti-woman and just overall frightening for those of us who believe in individual rights and the promises of a free and welcoming society.
So that’s why when Trump made his comments about registering Muslims, I was legitimately scared. After all, we’ve seen other times in history when seemingly lunatic fringe has imposed their crazy ideas when things got hard. The silence in the face of him now, when he has no power but that of his bullhorn, seemed an ominous sign that should not be overlooked.
But, I am heartened to see some glimmer of reasonable reaction from his fellow Republicans. Jim Gilmore, former Virginia governor, said he “doesn’t agree” with Trump’s “fascist talk,” using strong language that is warranted. And sitting Ohio Governor and presidential candidate John Kasich released a brave ad based on the Friedrich Niemoller famous anti-Nazi statement, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist….” the one that ends with “…and then they came for me.”
So, some signs of a shared common concern about this troubling rhetoric. Thank you, reasonable Republicans. I am just a little less afraid.