Columns

Krishnamurthy ’19: Not another anti-Trump op-ed

By
Staff Columnist
Friday, October 21, 2016

Writing an open letter or op-ed about why Donald Trump is fundamentally unfit to be president is like declaring that the earth is round or that Kenneth Bone is a glorious stallion among men. We get it. I promise, we really do. Trump is a con artist concerned only with self-aggrandizement. He has little understanding of American foreign policy or policy in general, as the three presidential debates have made clear, and his hairdo looks like a bird’s nest. These are all true things, and repeating them in dramatic fashion doesn’t make you some sort of premonitory messiah with singular sight of the truth. It’s not like the rest of us are beating rocks together, intoxicated by Trump’s second-grade lexicon.

Just to be clear: It doesn’t take an iota of courage to call Trump an unprincipled imbecile or to proclaim that he shouldn’t be president. (At least, not here on the East Coast. Some newspapers out in the southwest, though, like the Arizona Republic, have actually been threatened for rejecting Trump and endorsing Hillary Clinton.)

And individuals of the Republican persuasion especially shouldn’t be acting so self-righteous about their denouncement of their party’s nominee. On Wednesday, members of the Brown Republicans club wrote an op-ed (“Rose ’19, Tarke ’18: Brown Republicans do not endorse Donald Trump,” Oct. 19) that methodically explained how Trump “fail(s) to represent our values.” It is heartening that Republicans on this campus are cognizant of the fact that Trump, endlessly predisposed to misogyny and mendacity, represents an “obvious violation of the principles on which America stands.”

But when Republicans attempt to disassociate themselves from their standard-bearer, they’re essentially rejecting everything their party has represented. For the past half-century, Republicans have devoted themselves to the inflammation of intercultural resentments, the indifferent acceptance of systemic injustice and the deliberate impoverishment of ordinary Americans. Starting in the 1950s, Republicans have woven a simple narrative: We should fear the poor, the foreign, the nonwhite. They have rejected outright the notion of equality of opportunity, gutting crucial government programs such as support for higher education and infrastructure maintenance. In the meantime, officials in several Republican-controlled White Houses oriented the country toward a convenient political distraction: law and order, a neat excuse to slap black men with disproportionate sentences for nonviolent, drug-related crimes.

It seems that old, racist habits really do die hard. The highest ranking Republican, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan, R-WI, claimed in 2014 that men “in our inner cities” — hint: he’s not talking about white dudes — don’t care about “working or learning the value and the culture of work.” Through decades of accusatory rhetoric — blame the welfare queens, or the immigrants or the Muslims — Republicans cultivated the same climate that furnished Trump’s blasphemous ascendancy. Try as you might, my dear Republican friends — to extract your party from Trump’s predatory clutches, to claim that he isn’t a real conservative — you can never escape the scary truth: Trump is the most Republican Republican out there.

To be sure, it’s just as infuriating when liberals unleash impassioned polemics against Trump. Column after column, voices on the left vilify people who identify with his campaign, deeming them irrational, deranged or disconnected from the 21st century. But liberals, too, are responsible for sweeping generalizations — not about minorities, but about the moral character of Trump’s supporters. Clinton, for example, believes that half of all Trump voters constitute a “basket of deplorables.” In making generalizations like this, she and her surrogates are willfully dismissing a significant segment of the populace they are obligated to serve. I thought the Democrats, obsessed with social justice and inclusion, were supposed to be a little kinder than that. But, as it turns out, liberals are immensely capable of the same intolerance they decry in conservatives. Go figure.

This festering hypocrisy, on the part of both the political left and right, is why anti-Trump statements, online and in print, feel so futile. More than any op-ed, what does take courage is to admit that Republican voters aren’t all “deplorable” barbarians; that maybe, like all human beings, they are viscerally fearful of a future that very well might leave them in the dust. It takes courage to confront the historical misdeeds that have enabled the rise of a wannabe tyrant. And it takes courage for armchair commentators to see that no section of the political spectrum occupies the moral high ground — that we’re all self-interested screwups who say dumb things to win elections. Only when we realize this central fact — that we aren’t always right, and the other side isn’t always wrong — will we ever deserve a better kind of politics.

Anuj Krishnamurthy ’19 can be reached at anuj_krishnamurthy@brown.edu.

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