“I’m a journalist. I want people to be informed about events that affect them. That’s the point of my job. And if Donald Trump makes people want to engage in the American political process, well, as much as it pains me, I may just have to support some of what he’s doing.”
I wrote those sentences last October in a column called “The curious case in support of Donald Trump’s campaign.” In the piece, I argued that polls showing increased voter interest could be linked to Donald Trump’s surging political momentum.
I don’t think my argument was incorrect, but I can no longer say that the benefits of increased democratic participation are worth the costs of Trump’s divisive rhetoric.
This is not an argument against democracy, or in favor of some kind of sanitized political process that ensures only people with squeaky clean personalities run for public office. I understand that democracy is a messy endeavor.
This is instead a call to action.
Democracy can be messy, but it can also be a powerful source of unity. In the coming months, American voters ought to use their voices to unify against Trump and the violence, abuse and hatred he incites.
Let me list a few examples of Trump’s worrying actions.
During a televised town hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on March 30, Trump said if abortions were illegal, women who get them should be punished. (He has since reversed his position, saying the doctors who performed the abortions are the ones who should be punished.)
Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was arrested March 29 for allegedly grabbing a female reporter at a campaign event. Trump has threatened to take corresponding legal action, despite video released by police clearly depicting the incident.
At a Republican debate on March 10, when asked about outbreaks of violence at his rallies, Trump insinuated that protesters deserved the violence his supporters directed at them. He framed the actions of his supporters as justified.
“They have anger that is unbelievable. Unbelievable. They love this country,” Trump said. “I see it. There is some anger. There is also some great love for the country.”
Finally, in February, Trump refused to disavow David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan when pressed by CNN’s Jake Tapper about white supremacists’ support for Trump’s campaign. Trump later blamed his comments on “a bad earpiece.”
When a United States presidential candidate uses misogynist language, when his supporters (and even a staffer) use physical violence against people they do not like, when he waffles on whether to repudiate the support of a hate group — when his entire campaign is based on ideas that directly contradict the ideas our country was founded on — we need to take a step back and ask ourselves why he has had so much success.
Last summer, Trump seemed like a passing fad. In the fall, it seemed inevitable that he would lose steam eventually, even if he provided some intrigue along the way. Now Republicans are preparing for the fallout from what they see as his eventual nomination.
If Donald Trump is inspiring increased participation in this election cycle, at what cost does that increased participation come? I can only hope that increased numbers of voters means an increase in the effort to slow Trump’s rise.
Otherwise, I’ll have to reassess what I thought I knew about the principles of American democracy.
Morgan Christian is the Opinion editor.