The core assertion of Trump’s acceptance of the Republican Nomination for President of the United States is that it is Trump’s power and Trump’s voice that will ensure a safe America, where all citizens will find their voice subsumed by Trump with implicitly little need for them to act, or even to think.
In a democracy within a republican form of government established via our Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States as presently amended, citizenship is not only that of a plebiscite, but an informed and rational vote at the ballot box free from the coercion of a demagogue. The presence of the Bill of Rights protects the citizen’s ability to speak with their own voice about who governs and how they govern them.
That same Constitution protects not only majority rule, but especially minorities of all kinds within our system including everyone from Black Lives Matter to the KKK.
Donald Trump subverts all of that. He attacks only those minorities whose skin colors feature more melatonin over those with less. He subverts legal protections for American citizens from nations we fear, and those with religious preferences that are not Christian. Note we are speaking of American citizens.
His only solution to the presence of 11 million people outside our immigration laws is immediate deportation despite the fact that they work, and that they materially aid our prosperity. Yes, they all should pay the civil fine that goes with violating those laws, and it should be recorded as such. But they do the most labor intensive jobs amidst economic exploitation by their employers, and they pay billions in sales taxes. We ought to think first before issuing a blanket deportation order, with the cost of hundreds of billions and the disapprobation it will engender around the world. We can sort out the openly criminal from the much greater numbers of people who are not, and who deserve either a green card or a path to citizenship
His acceptance speech as so many have noted is of a dark, frightening, dystopian America, where only he can bring safety, law and order, and economic prosperity.
A democracy is the product of all our people and their best strivings and expressions of the ideals promoted by democracy. There is no liberty or freedom when you give up your right to even give voice to someone who tells you overtly and bluntly that he will now do your speaking for you and battle for what you strive for on your behalf without the heavy lifting required by citizens of the unique American form of government, the envy of and copied all over the world.
No, I am not a proponent of American exceptionalism as to Americans as humans being unique or better than the rest, but yes, I am the most vigorous American exceptionalist when it comes to the great principle of the old Declaration that “all men are created equal,” in setting up democratic government. It is that one quintessential idea we exported and should continue to export to our brothers and sisters all over the world.
Then let me contrast how Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who led us when our system of government and our survival as a free people were threatened more materially than at any time then or since, said what we were fighting FOR and not what we simply were frightened of and were against.
FDR, The Four Freedoms, 6 January 1941:
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression-everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments so such a point and in such a through fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor –anywhere in the world . . .
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the Guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.
To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”
FDR here amidst the threat of the dictator powers to our nation’s survival called upon each American to sacrifice and to something higher. By contrast Trump called for us to be afraid, very afraid, and let him alone determine what should be done and how it should be done. It bluntly suggests that he would do it in the manner of an authoritarian leader unconcerned with the niceties of democracy and, an accountable government of all the people, not merely the product of Trumps cult following, nay, it must be a product of all Americans sacrificing, striving, and working together in unity.
Another American, the very founder of the GOP, Abraham Lincoln, at a point when Union victory to preserve the United States of America was at its darkest, December of 1862 prior to his declaration of the Emancipation Proclamation said this about our democratic experiment, 1 December 1862:
“. . . Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. The world knows we do know how to save it. We—even we here—hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just—a way which, if followed the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”
As a professional American historian, naturally I set the bar high. Most in the media just praise Trump for making a speech and getting through it.
Only now are they noting that Trump rarely says how he will make us safe, prosperous, and so much else. The call to something higher is missing. If Trump’s thesis is that our cities are burning, and crime is rampant everywhere and we all need to be afraid, but only safe if we just let Trump re-establish law and order, something Nixon appealed to in 1968, we distinctly lower the bar.
Great presidents both appeal to something higher, and ask for real sacrifice in times of great distress. Trump does neither. Mark that.
Trump’s now expanded he says, Muslim ban, makes a mockery of FDR’s second freedom. His call to the very first day of his presidency establish law and order when the statistics as to law and order do not suggest that, and his vision of our cities as places of lawless disorder, where much of the cities are ablaze are low and shameful dog whistles to racists and white supremacists. Nixon’s law and order presidency and use of Roger Ailes’ Southern Strategy were appeals to the very same constituency, primarily George Wallace voters.
Historians have long memories and understandings that prove difficult to bigots and tyrants.
Black Lives Matter (BLM), despite their sometimes angry rhetoric, have not set our urban areas ablaze with lawless disorder and arson. Even those who demonstrated so often in Ferguson, Missouri were peaceful. It was the police who were out of control. And the few black Americans who used violence and arson were for the most part arrested and jailed. Exercising your first Amendment rights peacefully, particularly if it is in order to provide for an appeal to government for a redress of grievances, is protected activity. Police following BLM’s demonstrations still arrest those who travel outside these First Amendment protections. Nearly all do not. Remember FDR said that human rights were superior
FDR placed the nation’s destiny, as did Lincoln, on the people, and not some power mad egomaniac, who loves other dictators most. Trump placed the nation’s destiny entirely in his small hands, and his small minded conception of the nation and what makes it truly great.
Hillary Clinton, now it is your jump at the bar this week. That bar is precisely set at the same height as for Trump. Good luck.