If there were any doubt left that Donald Trump is a narcissistic, demonizing spinner of half-truths and outright lies, the case has been rested.
Closing arguments came in stunning performance by the 2016 GOP presidential candidate himself, live and televised. The Republican Party’s choice for the next occupant of the White House intends to seize upon people’s fears and transform the nation into an isolationist country, inwardly focused and always on the lookout for scapegoats. Trump fancies himself as some sort of dictatorial leader at the helm.
“I am your voice,” he declared, addressing the “forgotten men and women” of America. Then he proceeded to tell them who they can blame for their woes: immigrants, foreign countries and, of course, Hillary Clinton.
Thursday night’s address to the Republican National Convention was the most scripted, controlled, practiced and vetted speech from Trump so far. And it dug deeply into a philosophy that is antagonistic to the values our nation was founded upon. Trump showed a disturbing lack of insight and respect for the ideals that are carved in stone at the nation’s landmarks and ingrained into our laws and constitution.
The creepiest part of Trump’s speech was watching him seemingly struggle to read his own children’s names off of the teleprompter. It wasn’t that he doesn’t love his family, or is forgetful. Rather, Trump was on lockdown.
He didn’t dare stray too far from the prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of time to media. Trump rogue wasn’t going to be allowed at the convention closing. No matter. What he delivered was the truth of how he sees America and how he believes himself to be the superhero that will rectify the nation’s woes.
Zap! Flash! Bam! After his coronation on January 20, 2017, violent neighborhoods will suddenly begin to be safe, millions will be employed and prosperous, crime will plummet, gangs will be no more and terrorism will be obliterated. Oh, and those awful undocumented immigrants, they will be sent packing, and Trump will slam the door in the face of anyone he deems to endorse violence, hatred or oppression.
Sometimes, the more a person talks about an issue, the more apparent it becomes how little he understands it — or, in this case, how little he understands the people he claims to care about. For example, Trump listed some statistics on black and Latino unemployment and then blamed illegal immigration for the disproportions.
He mentioned the shooting deaths of 49 people at a gay club in Orlando, vowing to protect the LGBTQ community from terrorism and violence. But he made no mention of the problem they face daily — namely, the type of discrimination that so many Republicans show when fighting same-sex marriage and other civil rights protections.
For Trump, unity is a matter of finding a scapegoat, some person or group we can all hate together. That makes it so much easier to avoid the messy complexities and moral ambiguities that inform actual policy making.
Yet leadership is about good policy. Any candidate can condemn the recent murders of police. It’s something we all concur with. But what are you going to do about police training and oversight? How are you going to rebuild broken trust with communities? What are you going to do about entrenched poverty, addiction, child abuse, domestic violence and the myriad other factors that feed crime and despair? How are you going to reassure African-Americans and Latinos and poorer people of all races that they will be treated with the same consideration and justice as white people?
Trump doesn’t say — a good indication he doesn’t care.
To him, our nation’s problems don’t need collective solutions. Unity, solidarity and common burden aren’t necessary. All we need is a strong leader. We’re going to be so dazzled by the way he humiliates and punishes our enemies, he seems to tell us, that we don’t need to worry about the details. “Believe me!”
Now it’s onto the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and Hillary Clinton’s moment to formally accept her party’s nomination.
Clinton, for sure, has her own problems with authenticity and appeal. But she’s never been possessed with a penchant to cast herself as a savior. And she’s not standing atop a party platform that seeks to sort the nation into those who are inherently more worthy and those who are not. Maybe voters will decide that that makes Clinton too much of the same-old, same-old.
But that is also the point. America’s problems are possible to tackle. Democracy is set up to function that way. If we want a better future, Americans must commit to honesty and diligence and common cause — not to the strongman fantasy Trump is selling.
(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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Photo: Donald Trump stands in the Trump family box with his daughter Ivanka awaiting the arrival onstage of his son Eric at the conclusion of former rival candidate Senator Ted Cruz’s address, during the third night at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein