Littwin: Rising racism in the 2016 presidential race is no joke

Donald Trump

Once, not so long ago, it was great fun to mock the Donald. And it was so easy. He was the short-fingered vulgarian, as the late, great Spy Magazine had dubbed him.

There was the fake sneer. The naked narcissism. The 18-karat, gold-plated seat belts in his helicopter.

When he decided to actually run for president, it seemed like a Palin-sized gift to those of us who write about politics for a living. And when he shot up to the top of the polls, the joke, it seemed, had gone viral.

The one person in America who couldn’t be taken seriously was suddenly the leading GOP candidate for the most serious job in the world. And Republicans, who had welcomed Trump into the race as a novelty act, were shocked to discover that they had no idea how to get rid of him.

It was irony. Or payback. Or nativism run wild. Or something. Whatever it was, it was certainly politics at its most ugly and also most absurd, which is how Trump has come to lead in the polls for four months now. And no matter how many times Nate Silver insists that the polls tell us nothing about what will happen a few months from now, there’s still the fact that one-third of Republicans say that they would vote for him today.

And there’s this, too: Somewhere along the way, the joke just stopped being funny.

I’m not sure when the end date was, but the day that the terrorists attacked Paris, and the world really got serious, certainly fits. It was around the time that Trump extended his anti-Mexican-immigrant rhetoric to anti-Muslim rhetoric, one minority group apparently being as good to demagogue as the next. And it just gets worse.

In fact, when it comes to fear-mongering, Trump has had a few days that must be unmatched since the time of George Wallace. Here’s the short list: He condoned a crowd of supporters who had roughed up a protester, saying the man had probably deserved it. Trump’s campaign retweeted a fake Tweet citing a fake institute saying that most white murder victims were killed by African-Americans, when, of course, most white people are killed by white people. He said that Obama intends to take in as many as 250,000 Syrian refugees — Trump calls them “strong young men … tough cookies” — when Obama has put the number at 10,000, many of them, just guessing, women and children.

But what’s worse is that it’s not just Trump, who simply goes further — trashing much of the Bill of Rights along the way — than everyone else. It’s also the nearly 30 governors who say they don’t want Syrian refugees in their states. It’s Marco Rubio who goes old school to talk about “clash of civilizations.” It’s Ted Cruz who goes all crusader and says we should set a religious test — Christians only — when taking refugees from Syria. Trump, meanwhile, talks of Muslims having to register, just to be sure that no one could possibly top him. And it goes on and on, in what Michael Gerson calls a “raw and repugnant nativism.”

Trump may have hit his own personal low by taking us back to 9/11, back to a time when George W. Bush was warning against blaming Islam for the terrorist attack. Trump tells how, on that terrible day, he was watching TV as thousands of Jersey City Muslims celebrated when the towers were coming down. Were you watching TV that day? The fact-checkers say it never happened. Do you remember it happening?

Strangely, the only person who briefly remembered the celebrations was, yes, Ben Carson, who said he saw the newsreels. In other words, Trump’s top competitor in the polls said he saw the same thing that never happened that Trump had said he saw that never happened. And so the Carson campaign was once again forced into damage control, saying that Carson had been, well, confused, and noted that the candidate “doesn’t stand behind his comments.” OK, maybe that is funny.

What I did see on TV was George Stephanopoulos grilling Trump on the matter and Trump refusing to back down because the best way to tell a lie is to repeat it for as long as it takes to seem like the truth. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Not when you’ve got the tough-talking, no-surrender, Jersey boy Chris Christie himself being asked about the Trump statement and you watched as he, uh, hedged. Man, did he hedge, saying he couldn’t remember Muslim celebrations in his state, and “I think if it had happened, I would remember it. But, you know, there could be things I forgot, too.”

Yeah, maybe. But when the history of this campaign is written, it won’t be any problem remembering who stood up and who stood silent. No joke. No joke at all.


Photo credit: Thierry Ehrmann, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. History re-written…It wasn’t a bunch of Young Syrian Men, who flew the airplanes into those buildings on 9/11…and if I remember correctly, they were Saudi Men of fighting age…oh…well now…we still fought their war…we still support their war in Yemen…the GOP has fallen…a casualty in their own futile wars…Truth is always the first casualty in any war…

  2. I was looking at facebook last night, and got sick looking at all of these people in love with Trump for his stand of the 2nd amendment. Did they not see on the TV all these people killed by automatic weapons that can be gotten by anyone in this country. How can anyone in their right mind vote for Trump. as

    As I looked at facebook last night I was sickened by so many in love with Trump for his stand on the 2nd amendment. Did they not notice on the news, that most of the people killed and wounded in France, was done by automatic weapons easily gotten in this country. As Grandpa would say” what a country”.

  3. The next explanation you can offer is how, in the name of all virtues American, can people continue to justify supporting Mr. Trump?

    People who complained about candidate Obama’s lack of experience are now backing someone with NO experience. People who complain that President Obama and Hillary Clinton aren’t telling the truth about the dangers we faced and are facing are now backing someone with (from my perspective, at least) NO regard for being truthful or careful with his words. People who claim to love and respect the Constitution and criticize Obama for his Executive Orders are now pledging support for someone who is already saying he expects “…certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”

  4. Trump is the only hope for America. Mr. Trump is a businessman, not a professional politician. We don’t need any more of those, they can’t even spend the money they take in, in fact, spend more than a TRILLION more each and every year, than they have in taxes, their only source of funds. Trump says things that make some cringe, but it’s these issues that must be talked about. The Democrats, Littwin and Co., have never said one thing was EVER wrong with ANYTHING a Democrat ever did or said, ‘lies, assumptions, untruths, political payback, dirty Republicans’ Whatever it takes, NO conservative ever had a good idea, and NO Democrat was ever wrong, ever.

  5. Trump is a product of what the right set in motion over 35 years ago. They set about to destroy the power of government and those in it, and they did their nasty job well. Now, NONE of their insiders is seen as anything but the problem, which is funny because that is exactly what they are. Their base is doingv EXACTLY waht they were told to do, to deny power to those who have it. Unfortunately for them, that IS them.

    And Trump isn’t confined by ideology or party loyalty at all. He doesn’t CARE what the party wants, and he’s getting in the way of THEIR crap. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of people.

    Unfortunately, they would take the rest of us right along with them into places that NO American should EVER consider going. Trump is getting them all worked up in a frenzy of fear and hate, and unfortunately recent events have played right into that.

    So much for the home of the brave.

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