By Gilda Morales
The current presidential race brings to mind an old cartoon episode where the hero draws multiple lines in the sand while the protagonist continues to step over it. This is a good analogy to what is happening with the candidacy of Donald Trump, who began his campaign bashing illegal immigrants from Mexico as “rapists and drug dealers.” Pundits dismissed his run for the presidency as over before it started, but to their surprise, Trump’s poll numbers rose among supporters who praised his “telling it like it is.”
His “candor” did not stop there as he systematically managed to deride women, John McCain, a decorated war hero, the disabled, and all Muslims, while voicing his admiration for Vladimir Putin. Again and again, conventional wisdom chose to deny the phenomenon of Trump’s continued popularity as a temporary phase that would quickly play itself out, and a line was drawn in the sand.
Emboldened by a lukewarm response to his cringe-worthy insults, and helped by millions of dollars of free publicity courtesy of every major network obsessed in covering him non-stop, Trump then turned his attention to personal attacks on his opponents. The Republican debates quickly deteriorated to forums with less decorum than a WWE championship event, reaching new lows with Trump using double entendres about the size of his hands, and another line was drawn in the sand.
This last week produced two events that sent shivers down the spines of every sane voter in this country. The first was Trump feigning ignorance about Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and similar hate groups. His failure to disavow Duke’s enthusiastic endorsement encouraged white supremacists to emerge from under their rocks and become a loud presence at Trump rallies. The second event was the spectacle reminiscent of Hitler’s rallies in the late 1930s, with thousands of zombies raising their arms in a pledge to vote for Trump, with yet another line drawn in the sand.
With a mere eight months left until the presidential election in November, GOP leaders are beginning to realize that Trump potentially winning the nomination is not just a phase, but also a real possibility. World leaders are scratching their heads and agonizing about the looming reality of a Trump presidency and how they could deal with a megalomaniac who truly believes that every order he issues will be mindlessly followed.
Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran clergyman in Germany during the rise of Hitler, initially wrote a famous piece that can be easily adapted to what is happening today:
First they came for the Mexicans and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Mexican.
Then they came for the Blacks, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not Black.
Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Muslim.
Then they came for the Disabled, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not Disabled.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Hopefully, the American people will return to the values that make us unique, and find the courage to speak out and draw a final line in the sand.