When Republicans nominate Donald J. Trump for president in Cleveland next week, it will mark the nadir of their party’s 164-year existence. To go from Lincoln to Trump is to descend from the sublime to the ridiculous.
As a progressive, I should be delighted because a Trump-led GOP should portend sweeping Democratic gains this fall. But as a citizen, I’m sickened by what Trump’s rise says about America’s democratic malaise.
Think about it. The party that saved the Union is about to hand its nomination to a vacuous and bigoted blowhard who isn’t remotely qualified to be President of the United States. He’s never been elected so much as dog catcher and gives no signs of having thought deeply about any public question. He is incapable of articulating reasoned arguments or engaging in public debate without slurring his opponents and belittling those who disagree with him.
Trump’s “ideas” are a toxic cocktail of some of the most discredited and retrograde tendencies in U.S politics—1920s-vintage nativism, Smoot-Hawley style protectionism and America First isolationism. Rather than appealing to the better angels of our nature, Trump aggravates the pathologies that are tearing our society apart—a belligerent dogmatism that is deaf to persuasion and prone to violence; a tribal politics that puts ethnic or religious identity above our common rights and duties as citizens, and a disdain for facts and evidence that don’t support one’s preferred political “narrative.”
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