The Ascendance of Hate: Donald Trump’s Campaign Rhetoric
Labels often accompany actions or deeds. During this campaign, we’ve read headline after headline of a prejudice spewing, hate mongering, bigoted, racist, Donald J. Trump, lead the Republican field in pursuit of the 2016 Republican nomination. His consistent bombast is unwavering, but surprisingly effective. As Trump puts it dismissively, “I am what I am.” It is this indifference to the regard of others that appeals to many. His bravado, his showmanship, his aggression, and his willingness to remain unremorseful as he insults his way to the top, is working.
Being labeled a loud mouth, pompous jerk by his opponents does nothing but boost his poll results. This reality makes the other GOP presidential hopefuls hesitant to challenge him, despite Trump's apparent lack of knowledge on essential foreign policy or the basic operation of government. It does not matter. Trump wears his label of ignorance and hate, proudly, as badges of bigoted honor. He is fueled by these labels and the distinction they provide.
During her speech in June at Trump’s announcement, Ivanka Trump, Donald’s daughter, informed the crowd, “My father is the opposite of politically correct. He says what he means and he means what he says.” That has proven to be an understatement of epic proportions. Trump’s success this election cycle is surprising. It surprises because his critics are unaccustomed to candidates refusing to apply a filter to rhetoric that is knowingly offensive to the majority of America. As we learn, Trump does not operate under accepted normative behavior.
Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”, begs the question, make America great for whom? For people of color? For women? For people that disagree with him? Who exactly is Trump pledging to make America great for?
Trump ‘wears his heart on his sleeve,’ Ivanka declares. Donald Trump has made a lifetime of hateful statements, and offended countless Americans, after just six months of campaigning. That’s impressive! Don’t mistake New Year for new attitude, as in the Patti LaBelle song. No, there will be no new attitude for Trump considering Republican primary voters have yet to demand his hateful propaganda cease. Their steadfast support of his message, no matter how inflammatory, has emboldened him to persist.
It all started with the outrageous claim he made about Mexicans: “When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best… They are sending people that have lots of problems and they are bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they’re rapists and some I assume are good people.” Remember, this was his FIRST introduction to the world as candidate for the highest office on Earth.
The list of ignorant remarks could fill every page of the New York Times for several weeks. When describing rival, Carly Fiorina, Trump lamented, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” When called out on the statement during a live debate, Trump attacked the physical appearance of another presidential candidate, Rand Paul. Exasperated by moderator persistence on Trump's view of Sen. Paul, Trump deflected, “I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.” Trump’s hate is too vast to catalogue, thus I leave you with Trump's parting shot for a beloved conservative TV show host, Megyn Kelly of Fox News, “Megyn Kelly…You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”
Hypersensitivity is typically not an attribute of someone aspiring to the highest office in the world. But Trump is not your typical candidate. Never before have we seen a candidate intentionally self-destruct for the betterment of his campaign. Maybe that’s an unfair characteristic. Maybe, his intention is not to implode. Maybe he truly believes all of these terrible, hateful, racist things. And maybe THAT is the problem!
He’s as hateful, bigoted, and misogynistic as he’s ever been. But we mistakenly dismissed his act as a mere sideshow. Trump has figured out that Republican primaries are a traveling circus and his act draws the largest audience. “How stupid are the people of Iowa?” Trump asked. Admittedly, Trump may have a point. But expanding that question beyond Iowa makes the most sense. How stupid are the 35% or so of Republicans polled that support Trump for president?
Trump’s recent fear mongering ignores the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and targets Muslims. Calling for a, “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on” is precisely the sort of dangerous rhetoric that leads to Muslims being victimized at Klan, excuse me, Trump rallies. Conventional wisdom tells us that people are too ignorant to understand. But again, Trump is unconventional, both in sentimentality and political strategy.
No person should be judged based on a few episodes of misspeaking. But, when a person goes out of their way to make headlines by sharing the most racist, sexist, derogatory thoughts at every turn, it’s safe to judge that person. What would that person look like? What would this person say or do? Better yet, would this person be fit to be the next President of the United States?
Enough of the notion that Trump does not reflect the Republican consensus. He does. If Trump were not the loudest bullhorn trumpeting the Republican cause, he would not still be on the stage. But he remains on stage and his Republican audience is growing. Dexter Thomas of the Los Angeles Times writes, “Trump is a particularly embarrassing figure because of whom he purports to represent. His rhetoric might appeal most to white nationalists, including former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, but his target is not the fringes. Instead, as Duke says, Trump’s campaign is an appeal to “the values and interests of the European-American majority.”
However poignant Thomas’ words, we should remain ever mindful of these three facts: (1) Trump’s rhetoric of hate has created deep divisions just within our borders; (2) He is just a few elections away from representing the U.S. abroad; and (3) Trump’s penchant for division will travel, and eventually divide the U.S. from the globe.