Donald Trump’s kids shone at the Republican national convention. Poised, articulate, attractive, they’d make any parent proud and certainly reflect well on their parents. Ivanka Trump’s call for pay equity and child care support were a welcome contrast to the GOP platform. So, too, was PayPal CEO Peter Thiel’s assertion that the party shouldn’t let “fake culture wars distract us from more important issues.” Of the party’s focus on which bathroom transgenders use, Thiel said, “Who cares?” But, as reassuring as these counterpoint messages might have been, they matter not one bit. The only thing that counts is the party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump.
In a 75-minute scream, nominee Trump painted a picture of America as overrun by criminals, undermined by terrorists, marauded by immigrants, suffocated by regulators, crushed by trade deals with foreign nations, in short, a nation in imminent peril. His Kafkaesque world plays to people’s conscious and subconscious fears in ways we haven’t seen since the 1930’s. He surpassed Richard Nixon’s call for law and order in 1968, pitting groups against each other and dividing rather than uniting. Our nation is better than this and deserves better.
The media need to do more to expose Trump’s manipulation of facts, to push him to release his tax returns , which every candidate since 1976 has done (what’s he covering up?), to question his support of Vladimir Putin (campaign advisor Paul Manafort has been a consultant to several dictators), to demand details of Trump’s policies. We should all pay heed to the observations of Tony Schwartz, who ghost-wrote The Art of the Deal, whose first-hand observations of Trump’s pathology in The New Yorker make one’s blood run cold. And read tomorrow’s NY Times column by Nicholas Kristof documenting Trump’s pattern of bigotry. These portraits must give us pause.
Trump played to his base on Thursday night. His most effective line, directed to those with legitimate frustrations and feeling marginalized, was “I am your voice.” The challenge for Hillary Clinton is to convince voters that she understands their discontent and has specific strategies for dealing with its causes. Donald Trump’s voice is that of a liar, a narcissist, a demented authoritarian who believes he is the only person who can fix the challenges we face. He gave not one specific about how he’d put things right.
Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate. Very flawed. But as Joe Biden said several years ago, “don’t compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative.” The alternative this year is someone who is, as a recent Washington Post editorial lays out, uniquely unqualified by experience, temperament and character to lead the United States.* This nation cannot, must not, assume the risk that Donald Trump represents.
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