the danger of ignoring donald.

mjkimpan  —  November 30, 2015 — Leave a comment


i admittedly read articles and blogs shared by those that espouse a much more conservative viewpoint than my own. often times it’s due to my desire to understand those with different perspectives. other times, it’s admittedly closer to ‘enemy surveillance’.

this past week was a bit of a both/and.

i read an article shared by a staunchly conservative, republican-supporting friend of mine in which the author claimed the GOP race has come down to the ‘final four’ – but in its march toward madness it ignores the candidate whom has been the front runner in every republican poll thus far – donald trump – but not for the reasons you might think.

the beginning of the article outlines the author’s priorities in a presidential candidate – and hints toward the lens and theological framework through which they see the whole world.

from the introduction of the post –

‘As America continues hurtling down a dangerous path toward implosion, as darkness falls in the Middle East and North Africa, as the forces of evil advance and the forces of freedom retreat, anyone who cares about the American people and the people of the epicenter needs to pay very close attention to the American presidential race.

Indeed, as I explained in my last column:

  • We need a President who understands that Western leaders ignore the threat of Apocalyptic Islam at their peril.
  • We need a Commander-in-Chief who truly understands the magnitude of the threats posed by Radical and Apocalyptic Islam.
  • We need a President who has serious ideas about how to neutralize such threats, and has solid national experience that can assure us that he or she is really ready to confront this evil.
  • We need a President who sees Israel as a faithful ally — not an adversary — in this showdown with the jihadists.
  • We need a President who rejects the insane Iran nuclear deal, and the notion of allowing Russia and Iran to run wild in Syria.
  • Commander-in-Chief is not an entry level position.
  • There is no time for on-the-job training in the White House for a new President who has little or no experience thinking about foreign policy and national security issues.
  • The next President must come in ready for war — because that’s what we’re in, and the stakes are simply too high to go with an untested outsider or newcomer.’

to be clear, i believe the apocalyptic tone of the first paragraph sounds an awful lot like hopeless, bad news – i suspect when one sees the world through this narrative, it is as intellectually dishonest as it is absurd to believe that one candidate – either republican or a democrat – could make it much better.

still, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the author believes only a GOP nominated president will do. in their mind, no democratic candidate is a seen as a viable alternative – no matter how poorly run the republican primary may be – or how awful the candidate which receives the GOP nomination is.

this fact is very much a theological decision based on tightly held positions on a very few narrow policies . the author says as much in one of their first points ::

‘While I’m trying very hard in my life not to be a partisan — indeed, I want Democrats, Republicans and Independents to come together and work together for the good of the country — the sad reality is that there are not Democrats running for president whom I could support. Neither Hillary nor Bernie nor any of the others will protect the sanctity of innocent human life, or define and defend marriage as a sacred union between one man or one woman, or work to safeguard religious liberty in America, or truly reform and simplify the tax code and reduce the tax burden on the American people, or declare the Iran deal as insane and thus null and void, or move decisively to neutralize the Iran and ISIS threats. That leaves me and other Evangelicals looking only to the GOP field for credible options.’ (emphasis mine)

while i beg to differ from the conclusion the author makes on the viability of a democratic party alternative to the GOPs so-called ‘credible options’ – and do so for my own theological reasons (e.g., the need for comprehensive immigration reform rooted in generosity and compassion rather than fear and racism; equal rights and protection for all citizens regardless of their being, background or belief; an appropriate response to the sanctity of human life not only before birth, but also afterwards – including the lives of black americans, syrian refugees and muslims overseas; a commitment to the common good not just for the privileged elite but also for common folks, which is simply common sense; et cetera), what was most surprising about this article was that it simply ignores the phenomena that is donald trump.

donald trump is more than just a poorly-behaved potty mouth. as much as many folks would like to ignore it, words matter…and not just because they might hurt someone’s feelings. the self-made billionaire (with the help of ‘a small loan [sic] of a million dollars‘ from his father) and TV reality star has made incredibly asinine statements on the campaign trail that led to one of the more humorous youtube videos i’ve seen thus far in the presidential race ::

but this video is already outdated.

since its appearance, and even in the past week, donald trump has gone on to make even more laughably ludicrous comments, were they not so horrific – everything from stirring up anti-arab sentiments with widely disputed claims of seeing thousands of muslim-american citizens in new jersey celebrating the attacks of 9/11, to suggesting a government sanctioned database of muslims in this country, to promises to ‘bomb the s*** out of‘ others. the list goes on.

at a recent trump rally in alabama, his constituency turned words into action and pushed, punched, kicked and choked a black man wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt in the crowd while a white man sang out, ‘all lives matter.’

after the video of the incident surfaced, trump’s response was chilling –

Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.’

months ago when the donald announced he was running a presidential campaign – and for quite some time afterwards – pundits laughed off trump’s ridiculous claims and commentary as nothing more than worst possible version of the fringe of political conservative thought – claiming along the way that he’d never win. but he still firmly leads the republican race, and even the official party spokespeople are now acknowledging the reality that a world in which trump wins the GOP nomination is entirely plausible.

my friend david gushee wrote a stinging satirical piece on what the first 100 days of a trump presidency might look like – based on trump’s campaign promises – and it’s eerily reminiscent of a period of human history most of us would rather not repeat – the rise of hitler and nazi germany.

that isn’t the kind of world i want to live in.

to be fair, the conservative author of the article cited at the top of this post does acknowledge the need for an alternative to donald trump – even going so far as to ask who ‘can stop’ him.

but his reasons aren’t what you might think.

‘…Trump poses a mortal threat to the conservative movement. He is not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. He supports Partial Birth Abortion. He supports single-payer health insurance. He has long supported liberal Democrats. He has no foreign policy or national security experience. He has a crazy $10 trillion tax cut plan. (Last time he ran in 2000 he had a crazy $5.7 trillion tax increase plan; that would have been half of the GDP of the nation at the time.) He’s a narcissist who is very shrewdly tapping into deep popular rage against Washington and using it for his own ends, to gain attention, and ultimately to gain power and more wealth.’

if i may be so bold – writing trump off as ‘not a conservative’ due to his support of a few policies or financial contributions to a handful of democrats in the past doesn’t get to the heart of the most problematic elements of his candidacy – and most certainly doesn’t deal with the problematic reality that he is the GOP frontrunner.

this begs the question – why ignore trump as one of the ‘final four’ in the GOP primary? is he truly being written off as ‘not conservative enough’? why not denounce his statements and suggested policies which fly in the face of the faith so many republicans claim to follow as the very reason they vote for this particular party?

how is it we still insist on ignoring the reality that the world which we have created allows for someone like donald trump to be the best candidate the republican party can offer? how can we turn a blind eye not only to his pomposity, but to the problematic fact that large crowds come not just to listen to him, but to support him and his harmful policies? why is donald trump leading in republican polls in nearly every state?

and, perhaps more importantly, what led us to this place?

it seems to me that donald trump embodies not merely the ‘fringe’ elements of conservative political thought as expressed by the republican party over the years, and its official position on a whole host of issues – his rhetoric is the logical conclusion of the posture held by the party and what is seen and accepted as tolerable behavior from its politicians and spokespeople  – on military and defense, the economy, immigration and religion. the hot air he blows is gaining momentum and trump leads in the polls precisely because he is reflecting back to the GOP what they have continuously held as sacred, though in far more concealed ways – at least sometimes.

perhaps rather than republicans – as well as the rest of us – sticking our heads in the sand ignoring trump’s rhetoric and suggested policies, turning a blind eye to his false claims on a myriad of issues which incite folks to hateful action, all the while hoping for a better candidate to take over in the popularity contest, we should consider why this maniac is leading the polls of their party.

and if we have any sense, we’ll collectively work to reframe their thought and reform their positions.

no matter what happens next novemeber (and i sincerely doubt that trump will win the presidency, even if he does secure the GOP nomination), the world in which we live is one that has the urgent need for actually good news.

we desperately need to articulate an acceptable alternative to the current reality and begin to create a world in which the strong helps the weak; a world in which those with more-than-enough partner with those less fortunate and willingly help provide a path toward equality in the context of community; a world in which communities of any faith committed to hope and peace reform our unjust systems and replace rhetoric rooted in fear and violence; a world in which promises of destruction of the Other in order to protect ourselves and ‘what is ours’ give way to an admission of our nation’s sordid past; a world in which our present systems of injustice and inequality are addressed and changed not only by its victims, but by the very people whom have benefited from such a system; a world in which our willful ignorance to the plight of others is replaced with a collective conscience seeking to listen and learn from those we’ve historically oppressed; a world in which ‘the Other’ becomes ‘one another’; a world in which every individual is seen as valuable and worthy; a world in which the same respect and dignity demanded for our own is demanded for the detached and unconnected; a world in which the poor and vulnerable among us are welcomed with a radical hospitality; a world in which conformity and conversion to a particular group or worldview is not valued as much diversity being celebrated in all of its forms; a world in which we are not ruled by hatred any longer, but one in which love wins.

that is the kind of world i want to live in.

what about you? what do you think?

what kind of world do you want to live in?