Donald Trump doesn’t act like a politician. That’s a great strength when it means highlighting corrupting politics, or challenging policies that have sent jobs abroad and left workers behind.
Straight talk and new solutions are in short supply among politicians, and it’s a void the New York billionaire fills dramatically. But it is disturbing when Trump’s rejection of politics as usual means denigrating our most important institutions, freedoms and traditions.
Trump is seeking to become president of this great nation by increasingly disrespecting and undermining the things that have made it great. His attacks dominate the news cycle, saving him millions in campaign advertising. In his playbook, even bad publicity is good publicity. But the points he makes and the manner in which he makes them paint a picture of a candidate unwilling to respect any process or power that doesn’t grant him fealty:
Elections: Trump’s assertion that the voting might be rigged against him is the most laughable yet most dangerous of his insinuations. Trump is implying that if he loses, violence against the government would be justified.
Presidency: Starting as a voice of the “birther” movement, Trump has tried to delegitimize President Barack Obama. Trump recently compounded that by implying Obama doesn’t want to protect Americans from terrorists because “there’s something else going on” with the president. And he called Obama “the founder of ISIS.” This insidious approach only legitimizes a virulent stream of nativism, further dividing the country.
Judiciary: Facing suits over claims that Trump University bilked thousands of people out of millions of dollars, Trump said federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, born in Indiana to parents who came from Mexico, had “an absolute conflict.” Trump favors building a wall on the border and said the judge couldn’t be impartial due to his heritage. Claiming judges can’t be fair because of their race, ethnicity or gender undermines the judicial process.
Debt: Trump has said he might use the threat of defaulting on the nation’s debt to negotiate payment reductions. A willingness to undermine the full faith and credit of the U.S. is terrifying and ignorant.
Religion: By stating he would ban immigrants who are Muslim, a faith followed by 3 million Americans, Trump undermines both a bedrock constitutional freedom and one of the reasons for our nation’s founding.
Media: Trump attacks reporters, bans news outlets, and has threatened to attack press protections if elected. He so angered a crowd in South Carolina against NBC reporter Katy Tur that the Secret Service had to protect her.
Trump doesn’t understand that the integrity of our institutions and our trust in them are more important than any one president. His behavior suggests that as president, he would ignore checks and balances that limit presidential power. And his influence can hurt the nation even if he goes down to defeat, if his loss leaves supporters believing our most noble institutions and traditions are trash.
It seems these missteps are costing Trump in the polls. That’s not surprising: most of us don’t want our institutions destroyed. Trump must recognize this if he wants to prevail.
Many are worried about what will happen if Trump wins, But even if he loses, his campaign tactics pose a risk to our democracy.