Sandy’s article, Defending the Ramparts of Civilization Means Fighting Trumpism, appeared in the Huffington Post on July 20, 2016.
Trump says that if elected he will build a wall between the United States and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it. What would Abraham Lincoln say about that? As a junior Congressman from Illinois, Lincoln raked President James Polk over the coals for starting the Mexican American War to accomplish one of the world’s most successful land grabs since the beginning of the 19th Century. Years later, President Lincoln invoked the Monroe Doctrine to force Emperor Napoleon III of France to withdraw his troops from Mexico, resulting in the collapse of the French installed Emperor Maximillian regime and return to power of the elected Mexican President Benito Juarez.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Is it “a foolish consistency” to ask Trump and his supporters if their call for a wall squares with Ronald Regan’s June, 1987 call out to Mikhail Gorbachev that he “tear down this [Berlin] wall?” How do Trump’s absurd rants about building a wall square with Robert Frost’s quintessential rejoinder to his neighbor’s repeated but unexplained declaration, “good fences make good neighbors?” “Before I built a wall,” wrote Frost, “I’d ask what I am walling in and walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”
Trump and his supporters double down on his call to build a wall between Mexico and the United States when he declares he would keep Muslims out of the United States and essentially ghettoize Muslims already in the United States, including citizens and green card holders. His rants stir memories of Nazi Germany.
As an American Jew whose East European grandparents had the good sense to relocate to the United States in the early 20th Century, and whose late wife’s family had to flee Europe ahead of the Nazis, I am steeped in the pathology of walls and of governments singling out people because of their religion. Countless tens of thousands of Jews and other victims of the Nazis went to their early deaths because the United States and the European countries west of greater Germany refused them refuge, and even sent many who escaped back to Germany.
Too often the United States has given in to nativism, xenophobia or ideological hysteria. In addition to centuries of enslaving blacks, our most notable such descents into darkness include, just to name a few: The Alien and Sedition laws enacted during the John Adams Administration, the Trail of Tears forced on the Cherokee nation during the Andrew Jackson Administration, the Palmer Red Raids during World War I, imprisoning Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II, and the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunt during the Cold War. History has judged each of these and other such outrages to be abominations. All these could pale if the country were to elect Donald Trump, a narcissist, who says he will wall out our southern border, round up and expel all undocumented aliens, keep all Muslims from entering the country, put all Muslims including citizens under intense government surveillance and detain or expel many.
The recent pro-Brexit vote in Great Britain was fueled in large measure by nativism, not economic issues. Many who voted for Brexit did not think it could pass; they now suffer buyer’s remorse as they face an uncertain future in which dark forces have been unleashed. Brexit’s aftermath is littered with racist and xenophobic incidents. Some of my extended family who live and work there due to their citizenship in other European Union countries have experienced first-hand the sting of taunts directed at their grade school children by British schoolmates. A Trump election would legitimize such bigotry in the United States.
Some who appear to oppose Trump say that comparing him to Hitler is inapt because a president Trump would be hemmed in by the Constitution, the separation of powers and political realities including political deadlock. Others muse that he does not really mean what he says, even though he has been saying much of it for decades, starting no later than his Playboy Magazine interview published in March of 1990.
My late wife’s grandfather read Hitler’s Mein Kampf as soon as it was published in 1925, and understood that Hitler meant and would implement every idea in it. He started right away making plans to move west. There is no reason to think that Trump is any less forthright than was Hitler. So I stand with Meg Whitman who reportedly compared Trump to Hitler.
In Trump we have a man who unapologetically borrows slogans from Mussolini and anti-Semitic imagery from white racist websites, and who refuses to disavow support from self- declared Nazis. In Trump we have a man who encourages his bully boys to beat up opponents and reporters, and who rides a tide of support from the most hating in our society.
I stand with Sinclair Lewis whose 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” published a few years after the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, posited a near future in which fascism takes over in the United States. The Brexit vote unmooring Great Britain from the European Union and the rise of extreme right wing parties and politicians in much of Europe make all it all too clear that tribalism, xenophobia, and racism remain at large in the world, even in western democracies.
Hillary Clinton deservedly has taken her lumps due to her cavalier treatment of emails and failure promptly to cop to that wrong. She is, however, a person who actually learns from her mistakes. So far as he is concerned, Donald Trump never does or says anything wrong, despite real time evidence.
Barack Obama is right, rarely has the American electorate been offered a candidate who is so well experienced and prepared to be President as Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders, her populist opponent in the primaries, agrees and has endorsed her. And, of course, there is the kicker, as Bernie understands, electing Hillary Clinton President is the only way to make sure that atavistic forces of darkness do not flower under a President Trump here in the United States, I hope that all Republicans, independents and Bernie’s supporters who value decency will take note, understand and vote accordingly.