Muftic: Trump appeals to our base instincts
July 9, 2015
The sudden rise of Donald Trump in the polls because of his remarks about undocumented immigrants ("rapists, criminals drug dealers") is more than disturbing. He is by definition a demagogue because he appeals to a dark corners of American culture: prejudice and racism.
If we need a leader of our nation, we need one that appeals to our better nature, unifies the nation, and inspires us to promote to the world our national motto "e pluribus unum," out of many, one. Trump trumpets "e pluribus, pluribus."
There are a variety of definitions of a demagogue, depending on which dictionary is searched. In ancient Greece it meant a leader of the people, but in current culture, it is defined as "a politician who seeks to win and hold office by appeals to mass prejudice .Demagogues often use lies and distortion" (American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy) or "a political agitator who appeals with crude oratory to the prejudice and passions of the mob" (Collins English Dictionary) . By those definitions Trump fits the profile.
Compromises were made at our very founding of the United States to accommodate the Southern slave holders. It took a bloody civil war to end slavery. But the Charleston massacre of church-goers by a white supremacist who used the Confederate rebel battle flag as a symbol of his hate-filled identity began to gel Southern opinion that it was time to take down that flag. Its original meaning had been hijacked by those defying the civil rights movement. It is in the midst of that controversy Trump raised his prejudiced voice.
Trump has a history of riding the wave of prejudice. In the last presidential campaign, which he sat out, he used his media celebrity bully pulpit to become the voice of birtherism, that President Obama was a Kenyan and for that reason he should be removed. After the release of the Obama original birth certificate, still 14 to 16 percent of the GOP still echoes the "lies and distortions," a little more than Trump is polling now (12 percent).
Is Trump also racist? Racism is a subset of prejudice, according to psychologists and common definitions. Dictionary.com defines racism as" the doctrine that one's own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others." Trump more than made the connection in his blanket characterization of Hispanic undocumented as rapists and criminals. However, Hispanics here for generations and with legal status take offense of such sentiments personally and many have undocumented family members.
Those sneering at the reaction criticizing Trump attribute it to pressure to be "politically correct." They are missing important points. The GOP knows from its own analysis of why they lost the last election that to win future ones they must get around 40 percent of the Hispanic vote and hyping anti-immigrant sentiment is bad politics. The private sector also understands that for practical reasons they cannot alienate the Hispanic market (15 percent of the total; 22 percent of millennials).
It is not just a matter of PC. It is also bad for business. But " from many, one" is an American ideal and for that reason above all we should support those who support it.
For sources tapped for the column, visit http://www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com.