The sin­gu­lar dan­ger of Trump

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Milbank

WASH­ING­TON — My re­cent col­umns on Don­ald Trump have gen­er­ated a con­sis­tent re­sponse from his sup­port­ers:

“If ... that lying psy­cho b—— wins, there will be noth­ing left of this coun­try. You bet­ter stock up on bul­lets to pro­tect your house!”

“Keep preach­ing to the Hil­lary choir.”

“Please no­tify me when you are go­ing to write your col­umn on the lies of Hil­lary Clin­ton. Oh, ex­cuse me, that’s not hap­pen­ing is it?”

These peo­ple are not de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble Trump but ac­cus­ing me of be­ing in the tank for Clin­ton. And I do sup­port Clin­ton — but only in the sense that I would sup­port a ham sand­wich for pres­i­dent if it were the only thing stand­ing be­tween Trump and the Oval Of­fice.

Mod­er­ates and rea­son­able Repub­li­cans who are con­sid­er­ing vot­ing for Trump por­tray it as a choice be­tween two un­palat­able op­tions. But it isn’t. It’s a choice be­tween one un­palat­able op­tion and one dem­a­gogue who op­er­ates out­side of our demo­cratic tra­di­tions, pro­mot­ing racism, con­don­ing vi­o­lence and mov­ing paranoia into the main­stream. This pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is not about party or ide­ol­ogy. It’s about Trump’s threat to our tra­di­tion of self- gov­ern­ment.

You’d be hard pressed, read­ing my cov­er­age of Clin­ton over the years, to think me a fan. I mocked her 2008 cam­paign with com­par­isons to Monty Python’s dead par­rot and black knight sketches. I gen­er­ated jus­ti­fi­able out­rage with a video ref­er­ence to Clin­ton in 2009 that was a failed at­tempt to play on a Tina Fey sketch. I’ve called Clin­ton ob­ses­sively se­cre­tive. Her han­dling of mat­ters from White­wa­ter to her email server has en­cour­aged doubts about her hon­esty. Though I’m ex­cited about the United States elect­ing a woman as pres­i­dent, Clin­ton is a poor re­tail politi­cian and a too- cau­tious leader.

If Marco Ru­bio or John Ka­sich were the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, I sus­pect we would now be writ­ing Clin­ton’s po­lit­i­cal obit­u­ary — and I’d be con­tent find­ing ab­sur­di­ties on both sides. Though I don’t hide my cen­ter- left views, I pre­fer a pox- on- both- houses ap­proach.

The sin­gu­lar dan­ger of Trump makes this year dif­fer­ent. Trump isn’t really a con­ser­va­tive or a Repub­li­can. Vot­ers know this, which is why Demo­cratic ef­forts to tie down­bal­lot can­di­dates to him aren’t work­ing well. When Trump (hope­fully) is gone, these sur­viv­ing Repub­li­cans need a reck­on­ing to re­claim their party from the fringe.

This com­ing week, I’ll be talk­ing about Trump, and how we speak to chil­dren about Trump, to teach­ers at my daughter’s school. The school is un­der­stand­ably wary about ap­pear­ing to take sides in a po­lit­i­cal con­test. But I’ll say such re­luc­tance should be set aside, be­cause Trump stands op­posed to the civic val­ues we teach chil­dren.

He shows an au­to­crat’s dis­re­gard for our con­sti­tu­tional sys­tem. He bans news or­ga­ni­za­tions that he doesn’t like. He wants to “open up” press laws to weaken the First Amend­ment. He claims an Amer­i­can-born fed­eral judge can’t be im­par­tial to­ward him be­cause of his Mex­i­can her­itage and threat­ens to use the pres­i­dency to go af­ter him. He once said he would or­der the mil­i­tary, il­le­gally, to tor­ture de­tainees and tar­get in­no­cent civil­ians. He has talked of ban­ning mem­bers of an en­tire religion from en­try into the United States and forc­ing those here to reg­is­ter.

Trump in­vites vi­o­lence as a po­lit­i­cal tool. He sug­gests “Sec­ond Amend­ment peo­ple” — gun own­ers — could stop judges Clin­ton nom­i­nates. He has spo­ken of pay­ing the le­gal fees of sup­port­ers who as­sault heck­lers at events, say­ing things like “knock the crap out of them” and “I’d like to punch him in the face.” Trump has al­leged the vote will be “rigged” against him, and those around him sug­gest vi­o­lence could en­sue. There have been dozens of in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence at Trump events, in­clud­ing by his then- cam­paign- man­ager.

Trump brought racism and paranoia into the main­stream with his “Amer­ica First” cam­paign and his lead­er­ship of the move­ment chal­leng­ing Obama’s Amer­i­can birth. He hes­i­tated to dis­avow David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. His tweets have in­cluded mes­sages from white su­prem­a­cists, a Jewish star atop a pile of cash, phony crime statistics that orig­i­nated with neo- Nazis, a quote from Mus­solini, even an image of Nazi sol­diers su­per­im­posed on the Amer­i­can flag next to Trump’s like­ness. Trump has mocked Asian ac­cents and the dis­abled. He has said “half” of the 11 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants are crim­i­nals.

So how do we talk to chil­dren about Trump? We tell them what Holo­caust sur­vivors have told me: that what Trump is do­ing re­minds them of 1930s Ger­many, and that grown-ups are not go­ing to let that hap­pen here.

Dana Milbank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­

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