I have an immense amount of respect for The Donald, and I could not be happier with how his campaign has unfolded. From his not-so-humble beginnings as just one hopeful drifting in a sea of infinitely more qualified candidates, Donald is the little, tiny-handed orange engine that could of American politics. Watching him rise to new levels of fame has truly been heartwarming, and has imparted some powerful lessons about what it truly means to be an American:
- In America, you can be anything you want to be. No experience necessary! If you are white, wealthy and male, that is qualification enough. (Unfortunately, if you do not meet these criteria, you will likely have to work much harder to accrue relevant experience and demonstrate your competency, which will still be questioned and undermined at every turn, especially due to your apparent lack of maleness/whiteness).
- Democracy works best when everybody speaks up. Even if you know absolutely nothing about a subject, feel free to speak to it as if you were an expert. ISIS? Listen, you know more than the generals do. Reproductive rights? You may not be a woman, but you can still tell them they should be punished for exercising their legal rights. The Constitution? You learned the preamble in 7th grade, what do those Supreme Court Justices know that you don’t? Quite frankly, anyone can be an upper-level government official; it doesn’t take years of education and a lifelong commitment to public service to understand the complex inner workings of our democracy.
- Nobody should pay taxes. It’s just anti-American. Remember the Boston Tea Party? Hating taxes is the premise of our national identity. Taxes suck. We should thank The Donald for demonstrating how to best take advantage of the loopholes in our convoluted tax code. He deserves to be applauded for managing to pay zero federal income tax. Immigrants, though, they don’t pay taxes either, which is why we have to keep them out. It’s okay when rich white guys avoid paying their fair share because they are making a statement, but if other people do it they are just abusing the system.
- America used to be great, and we can be great again. Ah, the good ol’ days. No pesky anti-discrimination laws. No legal access to either birth control or abortions. Immigration quotas made sure that white people could never become a minority. Interracial marriage and same sex marriage were illegal. Within sacred, white, heterosexual marriages, the law protected a husband’s autonomy over his wife by making sure she could not undermine his authority by doing silly things like applying for her own credit card or denying him sex. The Donald knows that this was when America was at its best, and he has a plan to restore these core American values.
In truth, Donald Trump is the dressing room mirror in a department store. Naked, you stand confronted with the horrifying, fluorescently-lit reality that is your own body. Every flaw and failure that you managed to avoid noticing until this moment is now illuminated, demanding your attention. Donald Trump is that one dress you try on that makes you realize you didn’t actually lose as much weight as you thought, or worse, that you gained even more. Yikes. Thanks to Donald Trump, America is finally forced to take a look at its own reflection, and we are realizing that it isn’t a pretty picture. All of the scars of a turbulent history of ascriptive hierarchy are on display, and Trump is ready to slice open these wounds in a vow to reconstruct our society, threatening to undo the years of struggle it has taken to work towards the denouement of strained racial, gender, and class relations.
Even if he doesn’t win the election, the divisive rhetoric of Trump’s campaign and its success in mobilizing so many Americans is a harrowing reminder that our past is not far behind us and complacency is not enough to defend the progress we have made. Defending the rights of every American requires the active participation of an informed electorate, and Donald Trump serves as a reminder that we are all complicit in the successes and failures of our democracy.