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Trump 3: Mainstreaming hate

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One of the things a president, and only a president in a unilateral way, can do, is to set a mood, a tone, an attitude for the country. A president able to effectively do this can have a significant effect; the president is, after all, the single most-listened-to person in the country.

Typically the presidents who have some skill at it do it to encourage a sense of optimism and confidence – Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan come to mind. A president who uses that pulpit for good purposes can do some important good for the country.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who has become known through his current campaign as America’s foremost mainstreamer of hate.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff said of Trump, “We need not be apocalyptic about it. This is not Kristallnacht. But Trump’s harsh rhetoric tears away the veneer of civility and betrays our national motto of “e pluribus unum.” He has unleashed a beast and fed its hunger, and long after this campaign is over we will be struggling to corral it again.”

He was speaking there about an incident in the town of Forest Grove, Oregon, near his rural home, where “in the middle of a physics class at the high school one day this spring, a group of white students suddenly began jeering at their Latino classmates and chanting: “Build a wall! Build a wall!” The same white students had earlier chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Soon afterward, a student hung a homemade banner in the school reading, “Build a Wall,” prompting Latinos at area schools to stage a walkout.”

It takes little imagination to draw that straight line from those (newly?) racist students directly to Donald Trump. Or to imagine how many other schools have been experiencing the same thing, coast to coast. Or how many other organizations, public and private, and for adults as well as for children, have been affected. And if this is the impact from a few months of a presidential campaign, what would happen if a President Trump, who seemingly never can get enough broadcast air time, spews this same filth day after day for four long years?

This is a diverse country. Race and ethnicity, and religion, and other elements that make us different from each other, often have provided points of tension. But for all these differences among our people the United States has not (with the partial exception of the Civil War) ever become the Balkans, because we learned how to live together. We learned how to get along, at least to a point. It’s a social fabric that has been stressed and violated at times, but never ripped apart completely.

Donald Trump would need considerably less than four years to do it. And America would never be the same again. – rs

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