Sunday, June 24, 2018
Politics

Donald Trump's stances increasingly isolate his supporters

A Facebook friend posted a photo of himself glad-handing with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump after his rally Saturday in Tampa.

Some congratulated him, but others offered a level of condemnation uncommon for normal discourse.

More than one person said he should be ashamed of himself. Another asked what's it like to shake hands with the devil and a third described at as "incredibly disappointing."

If the reactions came as a surprise, it's probably because people aren't paying attention. Trump's candidacy has created a schism unlike any we've seen in modern presidential elections. It's a scorched earth policy that has offended Muslims, Mexicans, women, African-Americans and the disabled — let me know if I forgot a group — without apology.

His tweets in the wake of the Orlando tragedy only added to the discord among his detractors.

This isn't to suggest he's without supporters — obviously he wouldn't have won the nomination without them — but those who oppose Trump bring a more virulent disdain to the debate.

Unlike supporting presidential candidates of either party in past elections, rallying behind Trump can strain relationships and end friendships. Back in March, I gathered a group of friends for an NCAA basketball watch party at a sports bar, and one of the friends gleefully spoke about supporting Trump.

Three months later, I ran into someone who was at the bar and the person said, "Oh yeah, you're the guy who's friends with the Trump supporter."

Yet Trump's divisive nature seems to be lost on the folks who focus solely on self-interest. Endorsements by Gov. Rick Scott and state Attorney General Pam Bondi without any caveats strike a chord of insensitivity. Those who support Trump simply to grab another rung on the political ladder ignore how much Trump's toxic approach has split the nation. And the GOP.

As Mitt Romney said, Trump's vitriol fuels "trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry and trickle-down misogyny." All things "dangerous to the heart and character of America."

How does someone standing with Trump reconcile his offensive and racist comments? And it's not just me calling Trump's comments about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel racist, it's also House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Trump enthusiasts may castigate Hillary Clinton supporters in similar fashion, and I respect those who argue on principle that she's not the right choice.

But with respect to Trump, it's different. In a commentary written for Context Florida last month, Republican attorney Mac Stipanovich challenged Republicans to recognize this isn't just another election and Trump isn't just another candidate.

"On a personal level, Trump is a boor, a bully, a carnival barker and an embarrassment," Stipanovich wrote. "Politically, by intent or instinct, he is a neo-fascist — a nativist, an ultranationalist, a racist, a misogynist, an anti-intellectual, a demagogue and a palingenetic (sorry) authoritarian to whom clings the odor of the political violence he encourages.

"He appeals to our fears, preys on our anxieties and exploits our ignorance. A worse candidate to sit in the Oval Office for the next four years cannot be imagined."

Clearly, Trump's rhetoric goes beyond politics. His reckless rants can't be laughed off or labeled strategy because those who cheer them propel a fear that they will "Make America Hate Again."

Trump backers would do best to offer an endorsement laced with nuance that goes beyond a simple photo. Need help crafting the message? Ask Ryan. He works on his every day.

Really, you owe a meaningful explanation to yourself if you support Trump because his antics have brought the nation's very soul into question. Don't move forward without grasping the reality that Trump's campaign has made this election about diversity, acceptance and really, decency.

To ignore those facts and blindly support Trump puts your own character into question, and the results may extend far beyond receiving critical posts or getting unfriended.

That's all I'm saying.

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