Dismembering Lady Liberty

Dismembering Lady Liberty August 9, 2016

Head of Lady Liberty on display during the Paris World's Fair in 1878.
Head of Lady Liberty on display during the Paris World’s Fair in 1878.

My political mania begins like clockwork every four years, but this election is different. Oh, it’s normal for me to begin obsessing over polls after the party conventions are over. X is down two points! Y is up one–are the Democrats cratering? But I never realized that the stakes were actually relatively low until a truly dangerous candidate raised his ugly, racist, orange head.

Oh, the Republican Party as a whole has continued its doomed campaign against marriage and trans equality, abortion rights, and voting rights, even as they lose ever more ground in the culture war. In fact, the GOP is against just about any rights unless they involve guns. I expect any day now they’ll be passing laws to permit fetuses to carry AK-47s in the womb.

And the Supreme Court is a vital an issue as ever. It’s poised on the precipice of having the first liberal majority since the era of Roe Vs. Wade, assuming that Hillary Clinton continues to claim a commanding lead in the polls, thanks largely to Donald Trump’s itchy Twitter finger.

But when I watch the Republican nominee’s acceptance speech, my usual emotions are derision and incredulity, not revulsion and terror. My fear has generally been more directed at what would happen to the social and economic issues I care so deeply about if the Republicans controlled Congress and the Presidency. Yet the increasing right-wing zealotry of the GOP looks mild compared to the boiling caldron of hatred stirred by Donald Trump. The neocon foreign policy obsessions seem almost reasonable compared to Donald Trump’s cozying up to authoritarian despots and shooting the bird at our threatened allies and long-standing alliances.

It’s gotten so bad that the architect-of-the-sequester Paul Ryan has become the voice of reason. Even wingnut loon Ted Cruz seemed like a man of principle by standing up to Trump during the RNC.

Did Bizarro take over the world when I wasn’t watching?

As I’ve been writing about, the signs all point to Donald Trump losing decisively, perhaps dragging many down-ballot Republicans with him. But the stakes are so much higher than in the past if these trends–however unlikely–somehow turn around.

It’s not just a matter of losing an election, but the character of the country we love.

Okay, so if Hillary loses, Scalia would be replaced with another conservative. A historic opportunity would be lost. But more importantly, the non-sectarian principles established by the Founding Fathers would be flushed down the toilet, as well.

Trump has vowed to bar Muslims from immigrating to the US. What about no religious tests doesn’t Trump understand?* Oh…everything. Maybe he should take Khizr Khan up on his offer of borrowing his pocket Constitution. Perhaps he might even memorize the number of articles of the Constitution he hopes he’ll be swearing to protect.

Trump has also pledged to overturn the Johnson Amendment, which bans clergy from endorsing political candidates if they wish to keep their tax exemption. That should prick up the ears of atheists and all those dedicated to protecting the separation of Church and State. Trump has repeatedly shown that he’s ignorant of the bible. But he’s also evidenced an ability to pander to what he thinks they want to hear, with no moral guideposts. Prosecute women for having abortions? Um, we may want to do that, but we know that won’t fly…yet.

What’s more, Trump would virtually sandblast Emma Lazarus’ love poem to immigrants at the feet of the Statue of Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…and I’ll give them a giant kick in the ass. Trump has called illegal immigrants from Mexico rapists and murders and claimed an American-born judge of Mexican descent would be biased against him because he’s “of Mexican heritage.” Talk about bias.

Is this the America you want to live in?

It’s no surprise that alt-right goons have been jumping on the Trump train. His rallies are filled with violence and violently racist and misogynistic language, often egged on by the party standard bearer’s own pugilistic comments.

My worries extends far beyond the character of the Trump campaign, which is headed by one of the least temperamentally suited nominees in American history. A minority of Bernie Sanders’ supporters vowed to fight on even after he gave a full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Might the equivalent happen with Trump’s racist minions after he loses the election?

Could the angry hordes flocking to Trump be the seeds of a new movement among whites who have been economically dispossessed in recent decades? What if an outwardly more psychologically stable version of Trump rises forth in 2020…especially if another recession occurs, as many economists predict. Could Trump be the fatally flawed harbinger of a new racist and xenophobic political movement, as is happening around the globe?

In the end, Trump may be his own fiercest foe. But could a candidate who is capable of shooting targets other than his own feet someday take his place? I will be diving into these issues more deeply in my next post, but I will leave you with this nightmarish thought: Is it possible that our diverse, democratic system might be more fragile than we think?

*Yes, the section in the Constitution related to religious tests was about public service, but prohibiting immigration by practitioners of a specific religion violates the spirit behind it.

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