There are several directions we could take when talking about the threat presented by Donald Trump. We could talk about the weak spot Trump has revealed in the democratic process. The weak spot would be the existence of a block of voters willing to follow such a man. Maybe in the process we’ll decide that Plato was right when he said the general population can’t be trusted to chart its own course. Or maybe these people are the result of Plato’s theories. But first we’d have to agree that Trump’s candidacy is a problem worthy of this mental effort. Believe it or not I think we’re getting there.
Or we could talk about how this voting block is aided and abetted by a pandering media that assumes all anger is equal. According to them, anger is a common denominator that makes violent people completely interchangeable with people who promote justice.
We could do like the liberal pundits and argue that the Republican platform is the Trump phenomenon in embryo. Unfortunately, I think it was bad timing to do so after Mitt Romney rebuked Donald Trump. Regardless of where Trump came from and at whose behest, he’s now the Republican Party’s responsibility and Romney was obligated to do something. This isn’t a partisan issue, and it’s certainly not a rights issue. Trump chose this course over the objections of his own party. We know how this ends—we’ve seen it before—and no one has a right to take us there.
Pope Francis was also fulfilling his responsibility when he said that a person who only wants to build walls, rather than bridges, is not Christian. Because the Catholic Church is an entity with a memory, it was his duty to address this. We know how important it is to distinguish a Christian from a pretender because almost a century ago members of the Nazi Party were not above claiming Christian allegiance when it suited them. Many of the other ideas of that era are still with us today, along with the pride of our political leaders. The question now is whether we’ll be able to overcome our pride and take advantage of Francis’s wisdom in these matters.
Bernie Sanders is another example of someone who is willing to say what needs to be said. I’ve lived in Arizona for more than thirty years and I’ve never heard anyone take Arpaio to task the way Sanders did recently.((Reuters, Bernie Sanders, In Arizona, Takes on Sheriff Joe Arpaio. New York Times, March 18, 2016. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/03/18/bernie-sanders-in-arizona-takes-on-sheriff-joe-arpaio/?_r=0))
So it seems the common denominator that really matters here is not anger at all—it’s spine. Mitt Romney, Pope Francis, and Bernie Sanders recognized the same problem and they have all had the courage to address it.
On second thought, Donald Trump may have done the conversation a favor by reminding us that we’re all in this together.
See also: Pope Francis and his predecessors by Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, March 18, 2016. Available: http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/pope-francis-his-predecessors