Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show,” a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Dean Obeidallah: Trump's avowals of un-American values show what's at stake in vote
Election will be a fight for the soul of America if Trump is GOP nominee, Obeidallah says
His intolerance of dissent, bigoted remarks sound dictatorial, not presidential, he says
There’s a good chance that Donald Trump will be the GOP’s presidential nominee, if dominance on Super Tuesday is any indication of what’s to come, and that means this November’s election will not just be a battle for the White House.
It will be a fight for the soul of America.
I’m far from alone in this view. We have even seen Republicans such as Sen. Ben Sasse from Nebraska and a number of other conservatives denouncing Trump and pledging that they will not vote for him if he’s the GOP nominee.
The many facial expressions of Donald Trump
They get it: Trump is the antithesis of “E pluribus unum,” which appears on the seal of our great nation This Latin expression, which America’s Founding Fathers coined, means, “out of many, one.”
In contrast to what the Founders intended with these words, Trump’s campaign has intentionally tried to divide us by playing on the fears of Americans, many of which attach to race, religion and ethnicity.
But beyond the nativist views he has espoused (let’s call them what they are: bigoted), his tolerance for hate speech and his emboldening of white supremacists, there are also his recent words that appear to support less freedom of expression for Americans. This should also alarm all people who truly love what makes America exceptional.
The most recent example came Sunday when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump if he would denounce the support of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other white supremacist groups. Incredibly Trump responded, “I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”
How can Trump think anyone could actually believe he doesn’t know who Duke or the Klan are? After all in 2000, Trump quit the Reform Party when Duke joined, declaring, “This is not company I wish to keep.” Even more baffling was that three days before the CNN interview, Trump tossed off a quick disavowal of Duke to the media.
Yet two days before the Super Tuesday primaries in the South, on national TV Trump tells us he’s unaware of his new supporter Duke and the man’s role in the Klan. Did Trump not offer a passionate condemnation of Duke and the Klan because, by his own calculation, that could potentially lose him votes in certain primary states? (After the media firestorm erupted, Trump’s amnesia cleared, and he tweeted his disavowal of Duke.)
Trump may have settled on distancing himself from Duke, but we now learn that the Trump campaign gave press credentials for an event Saturday to the white supremacist media outlet “The Political Cesspool Radio Program.” The program bills itself as “unapologetically pro-White.” To put this in perspective, consider that the Trump campaign refused to extend press credentials to BuzzFeed, The Des Moines (Iowa) Register and Fusion because it viewed their reporters’ coverage as too critical.
The man who wants to be our president shows an ever increasing lack of tolerance for the media and even individuals who dare protest or are critical of him. Just a week ago Trump made a comment that should raise the hair on the back of the neck of any American who believes in a free and vibrant press. Trump told his supporters, “One of the things I’m going to do if I win … I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”
Regardless of whether Trump could actually change the libel laws as he suggests, he is making it clear that he would pursue polices as president that would try to rein in criticism of him. This is a sentiment you would expect to hear in a Third World country ruled by a dictator, not the United States of America.
We have even seen a pattern by Trump of apparently trying to silence private citizens who disagree with him. I’m not talking about protesters simply being thrown out of events for interrupting him, which happens with just about all presidential candidates. I’m talking about Trump telling the crowd that the security officers were being too nice to the protester being thrown out, noting, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
Trump also publicly applauded supporters who physically ejected a woman from a rally two weeks ago in South Carolina. What was her “crime”? She simply stood in silence giving Trump the middle finger. Trump won’t even tolerate silent dissent. This is not how we do things in America.
Worse, Trump shockingly defended an assault by his supporters upon a Black Lives Matter protester at a rally in November, telling Fox News the next day, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” Again, this is from a man who aspires to be our president.
And on a person level, since I’m Muslim, one of the most chilling moments of the campaign came when Trump encouraged his supporters to cheer for his proposal to engage in warrantless, wholesale surveillance of American Muslims, saying, “I want surveillance of these people.”
The idea that Muslims are not fellow Americans but “these people” is truly frightening. History has taught us that when a leader dehumanizes a minority group, it can lead to horrific consequences for that group.
The stakes in the 2016 election are simply too high for voters to be bound by political affiliation or ideology. If you believe America is a nation where white supremacists should be loudly denounced, where ethnic and religious groups should not be demonized for political gain or have fewer rights, and where freedom of expression is valued, then you must take a stand in 2016.
Our nation’s soul depends on it.