Maybe instead of merely reacting to GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump “crazy talk,” it’s time to start understanding its appeal.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about the correlations I’ve seen between the views of people who no longer fit neatly into either of the two dominant political parties and members of the United Kingdom Independence Party, commonly known as UKIP. An excerpt from the previous column:
“Those who identify as UKIP feel they’ve been left behind economically and are adrift politically. They are incredibly anxious about the direction of their nation. Sound familiar?
“While this British ideology that began in 1993 — the first to win a nationwide election in nearly 100 years — has been painted as a predominantly conservative movement, the survey shows its members hold liberal viewpoints. For instance, most UKIP members agree ‘gay men and lesbians should be allowed to get married if they want to.’ They also believe their country has ‘one law for the rich and one for the poor.’
“British recovery efforts are not viewed as directly benefiting the people, according to UKIP members, and they do not believe future recovery efforts will benefit the people if the country continues on the same path. They distrust the media for providing skewed values, and big business owners who benefit at the expense of workers. When ‘fed up’ UKIP members worked together, it was to take back politics. And, by any measure, they’re moving toward the goal, even while political pundits scoff.”
Last week, Trump emitted his most noxious cloud of rhetoric yet, and the correlations continue.
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” Trump said, speaking of himself in third person.
In an interview with ABC News, he doubled-down, saying he would not only bar people of the Muslim faith from entering the country, but that he, if elected president, would sign executive orders calling for the same in-country measures as outlined in President Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527. Those documents came after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and were under the authority of the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts, which remained in effect at the outset of World War II.
When Roosevelt signed his proclamations, the president had the authority to order any “aliens” of a “hostile nation” be “apprehended, restrained, secured and removed.” People of Japanese, German and Italian ancestry were gathered, held against their will and, in some cases, removed from the country. Few would disagree that this was one of the lowest points in our nation’s history.
When the Roosevelt proclamations were signed, the United States had been violently attacked at Pearl Harbor, which led to the nation’s entry into World War II. Entry pitted the United States against the Axis powers — Germany, Japan and Italy.
FAVORING RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION
Apologies for the history lesson, but the context is important. Roosevelt’s proclamations were specific, as is the law: Application is based on nationality. Trump advocates discrimination on the basis of religion, something U.S. law specifically prohibits.
Not only has Trump’s latest “tough talk” drawn the ire of people across America’s political spectrum, only a quarter of British citizens were willing to label the proposal as “appropriate.” But, when broken down by political affiliation, Trump found strong support amid UKIP members in the UK — 61 percent back Trump’s policy.
To put that in perspective, no other political affiliation registered more than 30 percent support for the Trump plan. And, support from UKIP voters comes despite a public declaration by party leader Nigel Farage that Trump had “gone too far.”
These are the views of those who no longer find stability within political structures. On the left, and to a much lesser extent, a similar movement surrounding Bernie Sanders is underway.
Those seeking more insights into the thinking of Trump supporters have no shortage of resources, including a series by the Scientific American. It’s been largely because of the overwhelming volume of analysis available, as well as a desire not to provide Trump the media attention he simultaneously distains and craves, that I’ve written around instead of directly at his candidacy. Still, I’ve remained curious enough to quiz supporters who also are close friends and family members — that is, people I might disagree with politically but also respect and love.
At least 98 percent of what they’ve explained to me aligns with the beliefs of UKIP supporters — as well as a significant percentage of what I hear from Sanders supporters. They think they’ve been disenfranchised, don’t have confidence that government at any level listens or cares.
COMPROMISE AS A DIRTY WORD
Last week, Trump increased speculation that, if not chosen as the GOP nominee, he would run as an independent by tweeting a poll that a large percentage of his supporters would stick with him even if he abandoned the Republican Party. In context, this isn’t surprising. Trump supporters, similar to UKIP members, already feel they’re separate from the party.
What should be surprising is movement by voters, formerly resigned if not content to hold their nose and pull the party lever, now demanding their minority views be given equal footing.
The previously party faithful, it seems, no longer accept compromise. In this hyperactive “us vs. them” political climate, where it not only is acceptable but preferable to demonize those with differing views, there is little wonder where the concept of compromise as a dirty word was born.
The distrust, destruction and fear mongering wrought by political parties have created new movements they no longer can contain.
This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on December 13, 2015. Photo credit: Brian C. Frank/Reuters