Columns, Opinion

KEULER: A conservative’s rebuttal to Trump

Donald Trump arrived at the U.S. Open to a chorus of boos Tuesday, a marked contrast to the raucous cheers that have been his soundtrack as he has skyrocketed up the Republican presidential polls in the past few months. It suffices to say that Donald Trump engenders strong opinions, both for and against him. This only makes sense given the inflammatory rhetoric Trump has employed since his presidential campaign announcement on June 16. Although I have avoided using similar language in my disapproval of Trump, expressly to avoid being like him, let’s just say I too give him a metaphorical round of boos.

Trump has set his tone from the very beginning. In his campaign announcement, when speaking of migrants crossing the southern border with Mexico, Trump said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” In response, various organizations and companies cut their ties with him. Trump’s assumption that only some, rather than almost all, migrants are simply individuals seeking to better their lives by coming to the United States is grossly off-base.

In addition, Trump has been the target of criticism for his comments on former Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Rather than offer respect for McCain, who survived five years of captivity as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war and has served as a respected Republican leader in the Senate for decades, Trump spoke of him with disrespectful flippancy. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” said Trump, who has been labeled by some as a draft dodger for the multiple deferments from service in Vietnam he received.

Throughout it all, Trump and his campaign have emphasized his ability and willingness to “tell it like it is,” to refrain from veiling his thoughts or words in politically correct or euphemizing language, as he implicitly or explicitly accuses other politicians of doing. His supporters applaud this “honesty,” but there is a fine line between avoiding the political doublespeak that many politicians do practice and needlessly employing rhetoric unbefitting of a presidential candidate.

To understand the damage that Trump’s rhetoric causes, I think the analogy of a relationship is appropriate. After all, our American political system and our American society is in a sense a relationship, hopefully governed by civil discourse. Although a healthy relationship or friendship requires openness and honesty, too much “honesty” — a complete and utter lack of a filter — is detrimental to forming the requisite bonds of intimacy. If you think absolute and brutal honesty is an effective relationship strategy — well, why don’t you get back to me on that one?

Likewise, absolute and brutal honesty does not contribute to the civil discourse our society needs to heal its many rifts. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric only fans the flames of discontent, by making the so-called silent majority — conservative white males — feel victimized and unwilling to compromise. Given especially the deep divisions that still plague the United States, from income inequality to gender disparity to racial tensions, issues that have been more than evident in the past months, Trump’s language really has no place in today’s civil discourse.

In a sense, Trump is the perfect exemplification of the breakdown in civil discourse plaguing our society. Nowadays, it is only too easy to shut down a conversation by deeming a policy as socialist or a person as racist. Compromise seems an absurdity from a bygone era, and mentalities like Trump’s are partially to blame.

It is hard to even call Trump’s particular brand of rhetoric “honesty.” It’s one thing to break a hard truth to someone, but it’s another thing entirely to break hard-to-swallow – and in Trump’s case, offensive – opinions or outright falsehoods. In addition, he paid people to act as his supporters at his campaign announcement, so he doesn’t exactly live up to his mantra of truth. Furthermore, his doublespeak regarding his personal finances and past history with bankruptcy is exactly what he has railed against.

Republicans ought to consider the damage Trump is causing to their own party. Yes, polls may suggest he is currently the only Republican who could win the presidential election, but are Republicans willing to disavow their principles to elect a nominal Republican? Do Republicans want to be associated with Trump’s brand of rhetoric? How would Trump fare in foreign policy and diplomacy, which require the tact and sensitivity he seems to be sorely lacking?

Although booing only stoops to Trump’s level, both sides of the aisle have strong reasons to disavow Trump, his policies and his rhetoric. While Trump is wrong about a lot, he is right about one thing: we need to make America great again. Electing him is just not the way to do it.

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  1. Go Trump! 2016!

  2. I suspect Trump would do well in diplomacy. Do you think the international agreements he reaches with foreign governments are easy because they are financial in nature?

    And as for Trump’s rhetoric, I have no problem being associated with it. I’m glad someone is willing to publicly show Democrats calling us racist, sexist, homophobic, and evil every time we disagree with liberal dogma has absolutely no impact on who we actually are, or how much we love our country. Sometimes you need to be a little over the top to drive the point home. And who cares anyways? People throwing hissy fits over insensitive words need to learn how to respect freedom of speech, even speech with which they disagree.

    And talk about nominal Republicans?!?! After Romney and McCain and Bush? Yea, Bush doubling our national debt with massive increases in government spending didn’t scream nominal Republican. Or how about all those guys in Congress who are always “forced to compromise” and increase the size of government, who have accomplished exactly nothing in the way of their supposed beliefs. I’ll take a chance on Trump any day of the week knowing what most politicians deliver.