"Is Trump Working For Hillary?"
That's what a recent National Review article wondered aloud. "It’s not clear whether he set out intentionally to elect Hillary Clinton, but there is little question that he could not be fulfilling the role of Republican bogeyman to greater effect," the author, Mona Charen, wrote about Trump.
Weird conspiracy theory aside—if that were the case, couldn't Trump have just, y'know, endorsed Hillary?—Charen's basic sentiment has been repeated widely as Trump has morphed from mere bigot to worse than Voldemort. Republicans have started pushing this framework in an attempt to scare voters away from Trump.
"Donald Trump would be the dream opponent for the Democratic Party," Karl Rove opined in the Wall Street Journal. "Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton's Christmas gift wrapped under a tree," Carly Fiorina warned.
Pop culture's also getting into this idea. "Saturday Night Live," for instance, opened its last show with a sketch where Trump recalled Clinton calling him on the phone and gleefully telling him that she hoped he would be her opponent in the general election.
The idea that Trump is the Democrats' best weapon has been around for a while—consider this Washington Post article from July about Democrats "cheering" his candidacy. And it's perhaps understandable why some would see a Trump nomination as a boon to Hillary Clinton or anybody else who wants to block a Republican from the White House. But I hope that this line of thinking doesn't gain too much credence, because Donald Trump's candidacy is no gift to anyone. Nobody, even the most hardened Democratic partisans, should be gloating about his continued strength, because it's helping to plunge us into truly dangerous waters.
A chilling Politico article highlighted some of the people who are profiting the most off of Trump's activities -- white supremacists and neo-Nazis:
Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike. And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s. [...]
“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” said Stormfront founder Don Black, who reports additional listeners and call volume to his phone-in radio show, in addition to the site’s traffic bump. Black predicts that the white nationalist forces set in motion by Trump will be a legacy that outlives the businessman’s political career. “He’s certainly creating a movement that will continue independently of him even if he does fold at some point.”
Even Trump on his worst days would probably admit to himself that he didn't intend to strengthen the white nationalist movement with his candidacy, but that is precisely what he is doing. There's already evidence that white supremacists constitute the biggest domestic security threat in the United States. It's not outlandish to imagine that threat increasing in the wake of the leading Republican presidential candidate whipping up such an openly racist frenzy.
The dangers posed to Muslims are all-too-obvious. A recent survey showed 56 percent of all Americans saying that Islam is incompatible with American values — and that poll was taken before the Paris or San Bernardino attacks and before Trump's fascist escalation. Broken down, the numbers are even worse: 76 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 43 percent of Democrats sided with the idea that you cannot be a Muslim and a decent American at the same time.
If Trump were the nominee, these numbers would only increase. If he were the nominee, the media would treat Islamophobia as one side in the election campaign—even more so than it already does. Trump's fellow Republicans would rally around him. We'd be told that his bigotry wasn't so bad after all. It would be the biggest platform those ideas could possibly hope to occupy. It is hard to think of of a single outcome more damaging in electoral politics, short of Trump actually winning.
And even if—as is far more likely—Trump doesn't become the Republican nominee, the damage wrought by his candidacy and the forces propelling it has already been considerable. Beyond the fact that there's no significant daylight between him and his GOP rivals on Islam, the climate of anti-Muslim racism we're living through is having real-world consequences. Just look at what happened to Saadiq Long, a Muslim American veteran who was falsely smeared by right-wing media as being an ISIS operative. There will be lots more where that came from. The Council on American Islamic Relations -- whose Washington office was evacuated on Thursday after receiving an envelope containing white powder -- has reported an "unprecedented" spike in Islamophobia after the Paris attacks.
There will be lots more where that came from too, unless and until there is an all-out assault on this kind of racism.
We have been here before. One of the most persistent ideas to crop up as Trump has gone on his rampage in the past few weeks has been the notion that his antics are "un-American." This is, of course, ridiculous. Racism has formed a core part of the American identity since the country was founded on the backs of slaves. Anti-immigrant hysteria has targeted group after group after group for hundreds of years. Wartime has only made things worse, as Japanese-Americans know all too well. This all goes for religion, too; Catholics, for instance, were once viewed with deep fear and loathing.
So Trump is tapping into a familiar strain in American life. The only thing that has ever effectively countered this strain—that has ensured the advancement of progress in the U.S.—has been the continual resistance to it by determined movements of ordinary people. Anyone crossing their fingers for a Trump nomination should remember that. This stuff cannot be allowed to go on. It has to be fought and defeated. Nothing is more important.