While the hazmat crews continue to clean up the raw sewage that flowed from the podium at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland last week, I hope Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Bernie Sanders, Vice President Biden and President Obama can make some last-minute adjustments that will strengthen the speeches they plan to deliver in Philadelphia this week.
Clinton, Kaine, Sanders, Biden and Obama have a moral obligation to lay out, clearly and comprehensively, the true threat Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump poses to the legal, financial and ethical infrastructure of this country. There are still far too many Americans who fail to recognize the magnitude of this menace, who think Trump is just bluffing about his bond to bigotry, who don’t understand that even if Trump doesn’t build a physical wall sealing off the Mexican border, his words and actions as President would build psychological walls preventing Americans from connecting across the lines of race, religion, gender, class and sexual orientation.
You know how right-wingers have been going on and on for years about how English needs to be the official language? In a Trump administration, hate will become our official language. There’s no slur that Trump’s supporters won’t hesitate to blurt out in public once he takes the oath (some of them are already doing so now).
Clinton, Kaine, Sanders, Biden and Obama should take their cues from a Democratic icon who, were he alive today, would be denouncing the Donald with every draw of breath: Senator Edward Kennedy. Recall Kennedy’s immortal words about far-right Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork:
Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution. Writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy. America is a better and freer nation than Robert Bork thinks.
Clinton, Kaine, Sanders, Biden and Obama can note with absolute accuracy and absolute moral authority that the words Kennedy spoke about Bork also apply to Trump. They can add that in Donald Trump’s America, black and brown lives would not matter, as President Trump would reflexively take the side of even the most abusive and violent of law enforcement officials, and would ensure that his Justice Department was anything but for communities of color confronting brutality with a badge.
Kennedy famously declared that “the dream shall never die” at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. 36 years later, Clinton, Kaine, Sanders, Biden and Obama must declare that Kennedy’s dream will indeed die if Trump becomes President–and it will be replaced by a nightmare of neglect for our most vulnerable citizens. What if another Katrina hits during a Trump administration? If President Trump exhibits the same race-based reckless disregard Dubya demonstrated a decade ago, he could make America drown again.
A Trump administration would be a daily hell for working- and middle-class Americans. That’s the message Clinton, Kaine, Sanders, Biden and Obama must communicate. This message will be criticized in some quarters as a fear-based message. So be it. Fear is better than complacency–and considering how many Americans would be harmed in a Trump administration, fear is better than catastrophe.
Donald Trump is simultaneously the least qualified and most dangerous major-party nominee in recent United States history. This week in Philadelphia, Clinton, Kaine, Sanders, Biden and Obama should teach Americans a precautionary lesson about what would happen if an ideologue known for incompetence, intolerance and irrationality takes the oath at the next inauguration.
UPDATE: The New York Times on Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of Clinton.