One of the most talked about issues concerning the 2016 presidential election is Donald Trump’s candidacy. At first, it all seemed like a big joke. He’s been likened to ridiculous TV characters and mocked endlessly via social media. It’s not like it’s difficult to find things to ridicule– he tweeted that global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” And of course there’s the interview in which he said he would build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and make them pay for it, and that he’s very good at building things. Obviously his egomania runs deep, but I think anyone who would run for president would have to be a bit conceited to feel qualified to take on the job. What worries me, though, is his intense bigotry and how he is still, if not consequently, a leading candidate.
Trump kicked off his campaign by saying that undocumented immigrants are “really bad,” that they’re rapists, and that they bring crime. Terrifyingly, this seems to be working out for him. It’s emblematic of how serious of an issue racism still is in the United States when a man with no political background and no real platform can be leading in polls after jumping into things by scapegoating of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Donald Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana, actually made statements saying that he had raped and violated her. After being threatened by Trump’s lawyers, Ivana altered her statement, saying that she felt violated but didn’t mean the word rape “in a literal or criminal sense.” Trump is actually blaming an entire ethnicity for a horrific crime which he himself is actually guilty of.
He has also given interviews in which he said that he does not support gay marriage. He has a tendency to blame the Chinese for issues with the American economy. In 2011 he claimed that he is not racist, that he has a great relationship with “the blacks.” Obviously it’s difficult for many people to take Trump seriously. That’s why his campaign is so frightening, though. We’re rather dismissive of his candidacy and fail to recognize what a serious threat he poses. It’s easy to laugh at jokes about him and to marvel at the idiocy of his Twitter account, but that trivializes the fact that a large portion of our population supports him and that his popularity sheds a lot of light on where the American people stand ideologically. Trump isn’t even entertaining “political correctness,” giving people a chance to be as blatantly close-minded, even hateful, as they please without nearly as many consequences as there would likely have been only a few months ago.
In fact, Trump is (unsurprisingly) being compared with Adolf Hitler and his rise to power. His ex-wife once told Vanity Fair that he kept a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bed, and follow-up interviews with Trump and then his friend Marty Davis indicated that Trump likely owned at least two books by Hitler. It seems more than plausible that Donald Trump has drawn some inspiration regarding his campaign from Hitler, particularly the method of blaming a specific group of people (although now it’s immigrants rather than Jews) for many major problems and promising to essentially eliminate them. One article on the Charleston city paper website had a challenge called Trump or Hitler (the link to which is provided below). I got six out of the thirteen correct. In actuality, they were all Hitler quotes. The only potential giveaway was the fact that they were very eloquent and Trump is not particularly articulate.
We look at events like Hitler’s holocaust and say “never again.” We’re so wrapped up in these remembrances and these promises that we fail to see the similarities between Trump’s speeches about undocumented immigrants and Hitler’s speeches about the Jewish people, never mind the many genocides which have happened since, which are happening even now. I can still see in members of my dad’s family some of the effects of the persecution of our ancestors. It’s treated like ancient history, but it was just three generations ago. Are we as a nation really willing to risk putting Trump in office, especially with a congress that is largely Republican, by brushing his candidacy off as a simple absurdity? Yes, our political system is very different than that of 1930s Germany, but the similarities are still there, and it’s still extraordinarily alarming.