Ahead of tonight’s CNN Republican debate, there has been a lot of talk about whether a Donald Trump presidential nomination will mean the end of the Republican Party. While that is certainly a vital question, it is far from the most important one posed by the rise of an anger-stirring demagogue. The far more critical question we should be considering is: whether Donald Trump becomes the nominee or not, where do we as a nation go from here?
Though many people do find his views repulsive, Donald Trump obviously does not exist in a vacuum. As evidenced by stunning poll numbers across the country and astounding victories in three out of four Republican primary contests up to this point, many Americans obviously embrace the bully tactics, racism and isolationism that Trump stands for.
Throughout its history, the United States of America has struggled to live up to its ideals of liberty and justice for all. The examples of our failures are numerous and stark. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, mass relocations of Native and Japanese Americans, closing our borders to refugees both in the past and present, and supporting vile dictatorships even as we fought the tyranny of communism are just a few examples.
But we have also shed our blood to stop genocide, stood up for democracy around the world, and have truly served as a beacon of hope to millions of people.
We now find ourselves at yet another point in our history in which we face the choice of regressing to our baser fears or striving to live up to the ideals of our republic and be something better tomorrow than we are today.
Alarmingly, it appears that even at a time when global connectivity is said to be bringing more people together than ever before many are choosing the former instead of the latter. Donald J. Trump is not merely a symbol of a seismic shift in politics, but in the very values of our society. In 2016, we find ourselves dangerously close to repeating the mistakes of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Hopefully, it is not yet too late for a course correction. Tonight especially, but also in the days and weeks ahead, the Republican candidates for president and other party leaders have an opportunity to appeal to the better angels of Americans’ nature and call for tolerance and unity. They can stop decades of social attacks against fellow Americans and focus on the issues their party was founded around, small government and economic growth, and lead by example by working with the Obama administration to confirm a new Supreme Court justice instead of bullying the president into submission.
Of course the Democrats should play their part as well and work to unite their own potentially fracturing electorate instead of digging up dirt against each other.
The choices we and our leaders make today could very well affect the next few decades and even century to come. Let’s hope we choose wisely.