Presidential candidate Donald Trump has removed all ambiguity. He is running his campaign on a platform of xenophobia and unambiguous fascism that, if enacted, would change the character of the United States just as surely as if the Third Reich had won the second world war. The enduring popularity of Trump’s campaign represents more than an embarrassment to America; it is a genuine threat to US national security and the global community.
As Donald Trump’s presidential bid continues to steamroll the Republican primaries, I often hear the sentiment that Trump simply can’t win. Thank goodness he’ll never be elected, many say. Trump represents a dangerous and ugly strain within the American psyche, to be sure; but our country isn’t so far gone that we would actually hand this man the nuclear codes… right?
I was recently reading the blog of a good friend and Quaker thinker, Johan Maurer, who is also reflecting on what the rise of Trump says about the American people and our culture. He suggests that Trump’s intense appeal doesn’t derive solely from his blinding racism and complete disregard for the constitution and character of the United States. Instead, it is Trump’s authentic voice – his willingness to say what he’s truly thinking, no-holds-barred, that captivates a large segment of the American public.
My personal theory on this man’s amazing popularity is that it is payback for all the ways traditional politicians are seen posturing and pandering, election cycle after election cycle. Trump’s supporters… do not trust those smoother politicians, even the ones they mostly agree with. … His audience… has a sense that what they see is what they get, rough bits and all — in stark contrast with most of the other candidates and their recycled platitudes.
The American people have become totally disillusioned with the lies of the elite 1%. We have been manipulated over and over again by our political, military, business, and news media leaders. We’re tired of the slick non-answers of men and women in suits. We understand that they are ultimately beholden to the principalities and powers that are disinheriting the vast majority of the world’s people while devastating the natural environment.
Millions of us have had enough. We want courageous leadership and transparent honesty from those who would lead us. We have lost so much trust in the establishment, that we are prepared to listen to people like Donald Trump, because at least with him, we believe we know what we’re getting.
The followers of Trump are correct in one important regard: They’ve been lied to for decades. Virtually none of the establishment politicians (Democrat or Republican) are going to level with us. Our leaders have no intention of enacting a society in which ordinary people have as much of a voice as the 1% and their corporations. Donald Trump is himself a well-documented liar, but we’re so desperate for authentic leadership that millions of us are ready to give him the benefit of the doubt.
If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, it will be the product of decades of moral confusion in our nation. We have been deceived for so long that many of us have lost our way altogether. We are increasingly unable to tell the difference between the bombastic charisma of demagogues and the humble authenticity of the prophets.
Now more than ever, our world is in desperate need of the church of Jesus Christ. In this age of deception and confusion, we must ground ourselves in the truthful way of Jesus, inviting our nation and world to walk in the way of justice and peace. Amidst violence and threats, we can point to the cross of Jesus, in which God has disarmed every blasphemous power and lying mouth. In contrast to the demagoguery and distortion of the world, we can demonstrate an alternative social order: the reign of God, in which each life is valued and no one will make us afraid.
It seems like such a small thing to change our lives. It won’t make front-page headlines when we join together in communities that love the refugee, practice economic redistribution, and care for the precious land we call home. Yet from this little mustard seed blooms a revolution of peace and transformation. Humble as it might be, this is the revolution that overcomes the world. Even if Donald Trump wins.