I grew up in a conservative, Mormon family in Bakersfield, California, the city who brought you the likes of Earl Warren, Bill Thomas, and Kevin McCarthy. As a pretty vocal liberal, I know a thing or two about being a political outcast among your friends, family, and coworkers, and until this election cycle have always been an advocate of not allowing political differences to influence which I had in my life. I believe that democracy simply can’t exist without logical, reasonable, dissenting opinions forcing a middle compromise.
When we quote the Bill of Rights as the doctrine of the Founding Fathers, we often forget that when Madison wrote them. The Amendments were compromises introduced to unite the opposing viewpoints of the Federalists and those arguing for State’s individual rights almost half a decade later, and he didn’t just write ten, he wrote another seven that dissenting voices opposed and rejected. This is truly the American way, and it’s what has kept us afloat since our inception.
But this election, what we have isn’t a difference of opinion, raised by reasonable parties arguing about what’s best for the forward direction of a nation. What we have now is a cold civil war for the very existence of the American concept.
‘‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…’’ (Now, there is relevant comment to be made that the author of those powerful words, dismissed the value of women as equal and dismissed the humanity of the stolen, enslaved people upon who’s back he built his wealth and position of authority. That is a valid response, but I choose to view these documents as living, and be inspired by the spirit in which the words mean to me in a modern context as defined by the 13th and 19th amendments, and not their historical context.)
Jefferson says here that the conceptualization of equality is so inherently ingrained in the American ideal that it is self-evident. That it requires no further explanation is necessary other than to acknowledge its existence. The concept of equality has been so deeply entrenched in our culture that the right is inalienable, unable to be taken or given away.
Donald Trump’s candidacy threatens to undermine everything that I hold dear about that concept. And it isn’t just Donald Trump, who isn’t the problem. With no knowledge of how government works, no understanding of foreign policy, no understanding of macroeconomics, Trump, if elected would be too inefficient to cause much harm himself. The danger in Donald Trump isn’t the man, but the symbol.
He, while claiming not to be a politician, expertly panders to the fears and hatred bubbling just under the public surface of America. When he says Syrian Refugee, what he means is Muslim Americans living next door will kill you, even with the logical fallacy that Muslims represent almost a quarter of the world’s population. When he says immigrants are taking your jobs, what he means is Mexicans are taking your jobs, and rape our women. When he says Inner City crime, he means Black Americans will kill rob you and kill you.
He doesn’t even bother to code his disdain for American women. He openly calls them fat, ugly and devalues them so much that he can barely muster a defense suggesting he has sexually assaulted many women using his status as a celebrity as cover, even as they victims come forward in number.
He suggests that the media wouldn’t be allowed to cover him if elected, cutting off the Fourth Estate’s moral mandate to inform the electorate.
By playing on these fears, Trump allows the most dangerous elements of our political discourse to be socially normalized. Breitbart, which was until this election cycle a blog that was only read by conspiracy theory toting racists, is now the public voice of the conservative party. David Duke, who had been banished to the outer fringe, is a household name again. Supporters openly shout racial slurs in the safety of his rallies, while egging each other on to beat those who protest. His advisors are people like Roger Ailes, Stephen Bannon, who objectively worked for years to undermine democracy and push a propagandist conservative nationalism agenda.
All of this is to say that this election isn’t just dealing with the differences between conservatism and liberalism, or the electing of an inexperienced politician who has never been part of the Washington establishment or an over-experienced politician who undoubtedly represents political dynasty. This is no longer about email servers or Benghazi. This is no longer about the economy or Foreign Policy; this is now about who most closely represents your values as a human being.
And now am forced to argue that perhaps, if you support this agenda, the things that united us as friends, or family, or collogues are perhaps not strong enough to overcome the massive difference in the way I view everything else. That maybe, just maybe, this discussion has placed a spotlight on the essence of our inherent biases.
To steal from a much better writer, I urge my fellow men to remember that ‘‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’’
How do you want to be measured? How do you want your children’s children to remember you when they read about this moment in their history books?
If you can’t look yourself in the mirror and say that you chose at this historic moment to stand for what’s right for all American people, regardless of religion, gender expression, race or creed, I’m just not sure you and me ever really were friends, to begin with.