The dangerous hubris of Mr Donald TrumpSaturday, March 12, 2016
The growing support for Republican presidential candidate Mr Donald Trump has transformed his campaign from a quixotic quest into a clear and present danger that he could become the president of the United States.
Until recently, many dismissed Mr Trump as a vulgar joke, citing some of his many outrageous remarks. That is no longer possible. He now has to be taken seriously because of the support for him across the US and the fact that Mr Bernie Sanders is making Mrs Hillary Clinton fight for the nomination of the Democratic Party.
More importantly, Mr Trump’s pronouncements are appealing to and encouraging racism, which has surged in reaction to the existence of President Barack Obama. The eruption of racism is evident in the escalation in the number of Black Americans who have been shot and killed by the police.
Mr Trump has been exploiting the fact that the standard of living of working class people and parts of the middle class has stagnated in the last 20 years; many jobs, albeit at the lowest wages, have been taken by Hispanic migrants, particularly Mexicans; and Chinese goods are displacing more expensive US goods – all of which are fanning discontent.
The discontent has morphed into racism because it is always easier to blame foreigners than to face the stark facts of reality. Foreigners are easily identified because they differ in ethnicity, language, dress, culture and, in some cases, religion.
Foreigners are the ones being blamed when in fact they are doing jobs that Americans do not want and the US economy would grind to a halt without them. The tendency to blame foreigners has a long history in the US.
The English were blamed for colonialism, then it was enslaved Africans, then the Yellow Peril, then the Irish, then the Italians and now it is the turn of the Mexicans whom Mr Trump has labelled as bad people to be sent back and kept out by a wall.
There has to be an ideology that allows one ethnic group to discriminate and exploit other races and to systematically exclude them from their human rights, economic opportunities and access to resources. That ideology is racism in America.
Umberto Eco reminds us that sometimes a country has to invent an enemy to blame and to rally the gullible to ultranationalist jingoistic themes like ‘they hate us, they want to destroy our freedom and democracy and they do not believe in our Christian values’.
Having established that there is a credible threat, the call to action is rolled out as ‘take back our country, be strong again and make them respect us again’.
Some people have found analogies between the themes used by Mr Trump and those of Hitler, Mussolini, and Pinochet. Americans will have to decide whether that is so.
But we believe that Mr Trump’s stirring up of racism and making utterances which are not constructive are promoting conflict and tension in an already troubled world.
We hope that if Mr Trump becomes a candidate for the presidency of the United States he will be far more responsible in his utterances and will realise that the rest of the world is watching the example being set in the globe’s biggest democracy.