It is a frightening day in the United States of America. In less than 2 hours, a man who has inspired and failed to unequivocally condemn the Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups will likely become the unstoppable frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States thanks to the Super Tuesday primaries.
The media has been obsessed with asking whether Donald J. Trump is actually racist. But at this point, when he has flip-flopped between repudiating and quietly accepting the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke, whether Trump is or is not racist is irrelevant. What matters is that, with his rhetoric of mass deportations and registrations of millions of people in a tracking database, Trump has stirred the vilest elements of our society to see him as their leader.
And any candidate who has so successfully been able to do so is unworthy of leading a republic whose founding principles and historical progression call for greater liberty, equality and justice for all.
Yes, sadly America has often stumbled and regressed with these goals, but to repeat that history again in 2016 would be egregiously shameful and runs counter to everything this country stands for.
More frightening still is that many people seem to be ignoring Trump's meteoric rise in popularity. Many in the media still see Trump as a running joke instead of the existential threat to our ideals that he actually is. Media pundits also persist in insisting that whether it will be Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president will be only too happy to take on Donald Trump and secure an easy victory in the general election. But these pundits also insisted that Trump would not be able to win even a single early voting contest, let alone most of the eleven Super Tuesday states he is likely to win tonight. It's time to reevaluate what we think we know about politics in 2016 and what we believe may actually happen. Donald Trump could win the presidency!
Some commentators have likened Trump's disturbing xenophobic attitudes to Hitler's. I do not wish to hyperbolize and am thus hesitant to make such comparisons. Still, I cannot ignore the striking parallel between expectations surrounding the two figures.
In 1939, after six years of increasingly systematic, national discrimination against Jews that stripped them of their businesses, jobs, citizenship, and basic human dignity, people all over the world, including American Jews, could not imagine or believe that Hitler's policies were leading to the methodical, industrialized elimination of six million Jews in death and labor camps scattered across the European continent. But they were and they did.
Again, I am not suggesting that Trump's expressed plans for Muslim registration and Mexican deportation will lead to the same "unbelievable" results produced by Hitler—although these statements in themselves are alarming for the dark paths they have the potential to lead us on. But I am arguing that when we have a xenophobic demagogue who has secured support from America's racists and is about to clinch the Republican nomination despite the majority of people's expectations to the contrary, it is time for the entire country—Democrats and Republicans—to believe in the threat that he poses and mount a serious campaign to reaffirm America's values of equality and compassion and challenge this creature's rise to power.
This story also appears in The Huffington Post.
Update on March 3, 2016: After reading a number of comments, I would like to clarify a point of potential confusion. Yes, of course other candidates throughout history have also excited hate groups. The point of this piece is that Donald Trump did not unequivocally denounced the support of the KKK. His excuse about the bad earpiece is disingenuous at best; the clip of him answering the question speaks for itself. This has resulted in increased publicity for the KKK and other groups. Additionally, his specific policy platforms very much appeal to hate groups, which is why they are so excited about his candidacy. Finally, I am not suggesting that someone who voted for or supports Trump is automatically racist. My intention with this piece is to encourage a critical examination or reexamination of the candidate and what he stands for.