There is a concept regarding political discourse known as “Overton’s Window” that loosely defines the range of ideas the public will accept as reasonable. According to James P. Overton (1960-2003), an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within “the window” the public, and not politicians, considers is not too extreme. It is safe to say that after six years of flirting with blatant Republican hate-mongering and bigotry using “dog whistles” conservative voters understand, Overton’s window is much, much larger and toxic bigotry and hateful-rhetoric is the new normal.
For many Americans, the idea of a television reality-show and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) celebrity like Donald Trump as a viable Republican presidential candidate was beyond the absurd. However absurd Trump’s run for the GOP nomination may seem, the reality is that whether he ultimately succeeds in gaining the nomination or not, he has thrown open Overton’s window and made abject bigotry as political discourse very popular among conservatives and mainstream media and an actual threat to all Americans.
While the rest of the world, and a few Americans, are dumbfounded by Trump’s success and conclude that he is an “only in America caricature” kind a fool, it is time to stop being shocked, or amused, and start fighting back. If Trump et al are not shut down sooner than later, decent Americans will have to gird themselves for some seriously dangerous hate driven by Trump’s deliberately divisive politics that will not stop at any one demographic.
Regardless how extreme, how bigoted, and how racist Trump’s rhetoric, he is still the GOP frontrunner. If the Iowa caucus were held today, Trump would cruise to victory over less openly-bigoted Republicans by a whopping 13 points. Maybe now it is time for sane Americans to stop laughing or shaking their heads in disgust at Trump and follow President Obama and other Democrats in addressing Trump’s open hostility against any non-white and non-Christian for exactly what it is; patently un-American, hate-filled bigotry and genuinely inhumane.
Of course there has always been bigotry and hate speech in America; it is part and parcel of America’s world-renowned ignorance and arrogance problem. However, it has never been as widely-accepted as reasonable political discourse or moderate campaign rhetoric; that is the real, present, and future danger of Trump and the other Republicans seeking the White House making extreme bigotry an acceptable and popular position.
About the only thing George W. Bush can be praised for even though he created ISIS is thwarting blatant American displays of anti-Muslim prejudice. It was seemingly simple to be complacent about the occasional anti-Muslim sentiments before an African American man became President, but it is that complacency, or tolerance even, of GOP hate-mongering that has given Trump free rein to make open religious bigotry an acceptable Republican policy.
If being a decent American citizen is not reason enough to assail Trump, Fox News, and other conservatives’ blatant anti-Muslim bigotry, then self-preservation and national security should. It is true there were barbarian hate-mongers in America before Trump, but they never proposed registering people as undesirables according to their faith, imprisoning them, spying on their places of worship, or banning them from daring to enter white Christian America.
It is also frightening that a reality television star single-handedly made religious bigotry in a land with freedom of religion an acceptable, and madly popular, aspect of the nation’s political debate and discourse. Over the past six months, what was once considered beyond the pale, blatant anti-Muslim prejudice, not only suddenly seems “less” extreme to many Americans, it is actually regarded as palatable and prescient.
By proposing seriously foul anti-Muslim policies as the center-piece of his campaign, Trump is doing exactly what the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) predicted was crucial to their victory. Remember, just last February the official Islamic State magazine’s editorial was a clarion call to Republicans to “fuel a sense among Muslims that they are unwanted, rejected, and hated” to drive them into the open arms of ISIS’ “global jihad.” Donald Trump’s actions and speech are providing ISIS with proof that they control Republicans and are winning because Trump and company’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and fascist proposals are exactly what ISIS predicted “western nations” would do.
If it were just Trump and a few Republicans openly preaching hate against innocent American Muslims it would be horrific enough. But the real source of concern is that no matter how extreme and hateful Trump’s anti-Muslim, or anti-anyone, bigotry becomes it garners wild applause and cheering from his supporters who may be approaching numbers to give him the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump may be “a pitiful absurdity that can simply be laughed off” because he will never get near the White House. However, his hateful rhetoric is inciting more bigotry among an already hateful Republican base and doing the hard recruiting work for ISIS by creating home-grown terrorists who will strike in the homeland before Republicans finish chasing them out of America to join ISIS.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.