Donald Trump will bring his campaign to Lakeland today, but I won’t be at the airport to greet him. I do, however, have a strong opinion on his candidacy. Unlike the candidate himself, who threatened his opponent with jail, and just yesterday “unshackled” himself to go even lower, I will instead go high and employ all the subtlety I can muster.
At today’s Trump rally, no weapons of any kind, down to sticks, needles and produce, will be permitted. To a man who prefers his fans armed and dangerous, any gathering without guns is surely panic time, with each stop more frightening than the last. Even more unnerving to the Playa-in-Chief, men of a certain age will be strictly admonished to keep hands in pockets for the duration -- unless some thug sneaks in and needs decking, of course. After all, the Republican Party is not sending us their best, and I fear that Central Florida may not be sending its best to meet him.
To be clear, I would never in a million years have voted for Donald Trump, even when I thought he was a slightly better man than he has proved to be. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, either, in the 2008 and 2016 primaries, but I will cast my vote for her in November. Although I disagree with Hillary on several issues, and do not defend her faults and mistakes, she is sane and that’s a good thing in a leader. Viewed in the context of this election and the country’s future, her weaknesses pale when compared to those of Donald Trump, a man with no record of self-sacrifice or public service during his entire 70-year life, no comprehension of major issues facing the nation, and apparently no ability to tell the truth. Ever. About anything.
Symbolically, Trump’s biggest lie yet may have been an offhand remark in Sunday’s presidential debate. “I’m a gentleman,” he declared. That laughable quip came not from a real gentleman, but from a man unfit to be in the same room with any woman I know, and just as unfit to be in a locker room with real men. His vile temperament, overarching grandiosity and total lack of preparedness showcase a charlatan unsuited to public office at any level. Some have questioned how a con man who most likely would never be elected to a town council could become the presidential candidate of a major political party. The answer is obvious: He is the vacuum sweeper collecting and embellishing all the fear and loathing that’s been cultivated by political extremists for more than a decade. The Donald sucks it up and spews it out.
The things I find most repugnant in Donald Trump are the very things that appeal to far too many of his well-known supporters, including on-air crackpots and well-documented hate groups. His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is a clarion call to reactionaries and culture warriors determined to “take their country back” -- as if their birthright had been stolen by lowlifes and imposters. Trump’s most impassioned backers are driven by unbridled animus. Their numbers include a block of voters who to this day deny a twice-elected president’s legitimacy and mock his aspirations to continue building a more perfect union. They wave their flags and their fists as they proclaim their dedication to life, liberty and justice for all, then work themselves into a near frenzy for candidates and policies that would deny full constitutional rights to anyone they deem unworthy. Witness any Trump campaign rally.
I commend the handful of elected Republicans with the integrity to separate themselves from the nastiness that overshadows their party, but I have no respect for spineless leaders, including our local congressman, who, fearing a backlash from Trump voters, have effectively sacrificed whatever principles they ever may have possessed. My utmost contempt, however, is reserved for the cadre of so-called religious leaders falling over themselves to cast their lots with a vindictive demagogue. Their unearned claim to ownership of the high moral ground, based solely on their own self-appropriated, “deeply held religious convictions,” is not only a galling insult to people of faith who disagree with their peculiar brand of religiosity, their claim is also a full-frontal assault on the millions of thinking Americans whose values encompass our country’s secular, constitutional foundations. Even though slick politicians and self-righteous preachers, like the rest of us, are free to share their personal opinions on anything and everything, their chosen professions do not endow them with a monopoly on values. Their “political incorrectness” claims are not an acceptable cover for their rhetoric nor a license to plow the fields of hate along with a man like Trump and his shady associates.
How can we as a civilized people even pretend to care for our fellow man – the sick and the poor, the hungry and the homeless, the orphan and the refugee, the powerless and the oppressed, the person of a different faith or of no faith, the victim of hatred or of prejudice – if we choose a sniveling bully to lead us? This is a great country, and I am not willing to risk its future by turning down a blind alley to some imaginary place in the warped mind of Donald Trump. He is the embodiment of a festering bigotry that must be rejected if we are to thrive together. That is why my vote goes to the one person, imperfect though she may be, who stands between him and the White House.
See how subtle I can be?