Viewpoints

Will you help this demagogue win?

The other day I received an email that read: “Why is it not surprising that someone named Rubin would be a full fledged lib-tard? Go f–- yourself you biased piece of s–-.”

No surprise, the sender was a Trump fan. Of course, not all Trump supporters who write me are so vile or so anti-Semitic, but a substantial number are – and many are worse. They clearly feel empowered by a candidate who encourages them to attack their opponents.

This is the kind of hatred stoked by the rancid rhetoric of Donald Trump.

So I have to ask those Republicans who are on the fence, or Democrats who might vote for a third party, do you really want such a demagogue in the White House?

The U.S. president is the face of our country to the world and to American citizens. Moreover, America has been the model for democracies elsewhere. Electing a man of Trump’s character would convince our friends and adversaries abroad that America’s democracy is stumbling. What’s even worse is the example it would set for our kids.

Trump’s style of campaigning has already sullied America’s image and debased the nature of political campaigning – in ways that will haunt the country for a long time.

Perhaps you have become inured to Trump’s racist, sexist tweets and threats to opponents. His ugly insults flow so fast and furious they may seem like the new normal.

But it is not normal to break all the basic rules of civility that enable democracy to function. Trump’s lack of respect for the system and failure to treat others with a minimum of decency threatens to rip that electoral system apart.

It is not normal to belittle opponents within your own Republican party in the most derogatory language, calling them losers or liars or wacko. Nor is it normal to slander their family members. Remember when Trump tweeted that Jeb Bush’s wife was an illegal immigrant (she isn’t) and linked Ted Cruz’s father to the Kennedy assassination?

In unprecedented fashion Trump has made personal insults and threats an essential part of his campaign plan. The New York Times recently ran a list of around 250 politicians of both parties, along with journalists, world leaders, you name it, he has demeaned on his endless stream of tweets.

In an astonishing display of hypocrisy, Melania Trump just went on CNN and said she would focus on combating social media bullying as first lady. She never mentioned that she shares a home with the nation’s leading cyber-bully.

Imagine the tweet-obsessed Trump pumping out his nastiness every night from the White House bedroom. What kind of example would that set for our kids?

And it is not normal for a candidate to scapegoat entire groups of people, including blacks, Mexicans and immigrants. Nor is it normal for a major candidate to promote racism and talk anti-Semitic trash. That’s the province of a George Wallace or a David Duke.

It is not normal for a candidate to insult Gold Star families and war heroes. Trump called Sen. John McCain a “loser” because he was captured by the Vietnamese.

Could you ever have imagined, before Trump, a GOP candidate who bragged about groping women? Or one who boasts publicly about his sex life, his adultery, his several wives and the size of his privates – and talks about his suppressed desire to date his daughter. What kind of man does this?

Is it possible that this candidate’s vulgarity and immorality has become the new normal for you?

Think for a moment, whether it is normal for anyone, let alone a wannabe president, to insult the disabled in the most disgusting fashion? You may recall Trump’s gross imitation of a disabled reporter on video – which alone should disqualify him as a candidate.

But did you know that Trump also mocked the disability of the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is a paraplegic? When Krauthammer criticized him, Trump scoffed: “I get called names by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants?”

What’s so disconcerting about Trump is that he has liberated many Americans to display their racism and misogyny openly. Before this, they might have resorted to unsigned emails to vent, but now their candidate has given them license to emerge into the open. (He also praises web sites that feed their rage and encourages dangerous conspiracy theories; his campaign manager Steve Bannon comes from one such site, Breitbart.)

So why should we be surprised that Trump threatens to arrest his political opponent as if he were a Russian ruler? But don’t confuse this with normal.

And I hope you don’t think it’s normal for Trump to urge Second Amendment fanatics to shoot Clinton. Think about that for a moment. He actually urged them to take her out.

There is no way you can delude yourself that such behavior is normal. This is the stuff of old-style populist Latin American dictators in a banana republic. But for someone who aspires to the U.S. presidency, it is shameful. It reminds us of Germany in the 1930s. It makes our democracy look sick.

Of course, not all Trump supporters are part of this hard core. You may be one of many voters who are still leaning toward Trump because you dislike Hillary Clinton.

Yet, whatever your feelings about Clinton, she will not empower America’s darkest instincts the way Trump does.

The people who write me these emails are waiting in the wings for their leader to enter the White House. He won’t change his character if he gets there.

You can’t pretend you’re unaware of the views that Trump regards as normal. You have to decide whether you will help such a demagogue win.

Trudy Rubin’s email is trubin@phillynews.com.

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