For a while I flirted with the idea that Donald Trump is an entertaining candidate. I liked the fact that he was shaking up traditional politics and sneakily admired the way his sheer chutzpah seemed to be getting him through the primaries.
But Donald Trump is no joke, and it will arguably be his greatest achievement to keep us seeing him as a rough-edged diamond making headway against a wretchedly corrupt establishment, instead of the dangerous demagogue and bigot that he really is.
It seems absurd at the moment that it is the Democratic Party which is in disarray, and not the party which has just seen a debt-driven real-estate chancer and reality television star seize their nomination from under their noses. The Republican high command isn't just holding its nose to endorse Trump. It is leaping willingly into the position of co-conspirator. As House Speaker Paul Ryan becomes the latest leading Republican to endorse Donald Trump, let's remind ourselves of the person that all these top politicians now believe is absolutely the right person to lead their country for four years.
This is the man who has accused his now supporter, Ted Cruz, of "coming from Cuba" and suggesting he should have been disbarred from running for president. This is the man who wants to ban all Muslims from America and who has happily perpetuated the myth that Muslims were celebrating in the streets of New Jersey on 9/11. This is the man who wants to build a wall to stop any Mexicans from entering America, and who has described Mexican immigrants as "drug mules or rapists". This is the man who has used the sly rhetoric of religious bigotry when he had a go at then-rival Ben Carson's membership of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Slate writer William Saletan has done a great job in identifying the ten things any politician who endorses Trump needs to defend.
Trump's inherent racism and malevolence go deeper than this though. His Trump University is currently facing a class action which exposes it as a major scam, designed to rip off anyone who signed up to its courses, peddling false prospectuses of what it offered and preying on the weak and poor in order to make its money.
The judge who has been handed this case happens to be an Hispanic judge, whom Trump consistently tweets about as being biased against him, impugning his judicial integrity. He also refers to the East Chicago born judge as "Mexican" in his statements, and he made much of the judge's "Mexican" race when he spoke to a crowd at one of his rallies. Saletan again:
Trump’s attack on Friday continued in this vein. “I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump,” he told a crowd in San Diego. “His name is”— at this point, Trump, having raised his voice like a drum roll, held up a piece of paper and pronounced the name carefully, gesturing for effect—“Gonzalo Curiel.” The audience booed, and Trump let the moment soak in, shaking his head in solidarity. Trump told the audience two things about Curiel: that he “was appointed by Barack Obama” and that he “happens to be, we believe, Mexican.” After railing against Curiel and the lawsuit for more than 10 minutes, Trump concluded: “The judges in this court system, federal court—they ought to look into Judge Curiel.”
Donald Trump isn't a joke. He is the worst type of malevolent, minority-baiting demagogue whose relationship with the truth is so tendentious as to beg the question of whether he even understands the concept. He is a man who incites violence at his rallies and stoops to slews of personal insults against his opponents in the absence of any thought-through policies.
The British politician Edmund Burke famously noted, back in the late eighteenth century when all Europe was abuzz with the daily news of slaughter in the French Revolution, that "all that is required for evil men to triumph is that good men stay silent". I might demur about whether all of the Republicans who are rolling over in front of Trump are necessarily good men, but they are fantastically not just keeping silent, they have chosen to add their voices to the evil in their midst.
Donald Trump is riding high at the moment as his likely opponent in the autumn election is mired in her own primary battle. But if and when Hillary Clinton does win nomination as the Democratic candidate, then all those Bernie supporters, and Bernie himself, need to take a long hard look at her opponent. For all her flaws, Hillary is not a racist, and nor does she approach Trump's levels of deception and wanton bigotry. If Sanders supporters think that somehow it's ok to stay home when Hillary faces Donald, that their own purity shouldn't bring them to vote for a seasoned candidate because she has compromised too much, well then they too can count themselves in the legion of Burke's silent good men (and women), who wilfully allowed a man who will tarnish their democracy to be elected president. There are no innocent voters in this contest.