I have purposely avoided listening, watching or clicking anything related to Donald Trump as he makes his ill-conceived bid for the White House. When he first rode down that golden escalator to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” he accused all Mexican immigrants of being rapists. That remark summed up Trump’s candidacy for me. But recently at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a Trump supporter asked a question that yielded a Trump response I could not ignore. This supporter claimed that America had a “Muslim problem” (a point Trump seemed to agree with) and asked, “When can we get rid of them?” Rather than distance himself from this extreme rhetoric, Trump responded with an open-ended vague response: “We’re going to look at a lot of things differently.” With one comment, Trump reintroduced the birth certificate conspiracy to the political conversation and implied that as president, he would “do something” about Muslims in this country.
The general bigotry and sexism that Trump spews has been pretty easy to ignore up to this point, but when Trump chose to encourage this inflammatory remark rather than rebuke it, this revealed the fundamental problem with Trump’s bid for the White House: Donald Trump is a fish head. In the 2011 documentary, “I am Fishead,” directors Misha Votruba and Valclav Dejcmar coined the term “fish head” to describe corporate psychopaths who lack empathy and will ruthlessly pursue a goal. Fish heads who sit at the top of the corporate pyramid make decisions that adversely affect everyone underneath them (remember the 2008 recession?). Trump is doing that to American political discourse in 2015.
Political commentators cannot have a substantive conversation about issues important to the American people due to Trump’s latest word-vomit that has greatly offended the sensibilities of anyone who is not a sexist bigot. These commentators could ignore Trump, but he is currently leading in the polls out of all of the republican candidates, which which might give the impression that he is the voice of republican voters. Even as a hard-left democrat, I would like to give republicans a little more credit and believe that they do not condone genocide.
In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain faced a similar situation with one of his supporters. When one woman told John McCain that Barack Obama was a Muslim, McCain shook his head rather than placate the extreme side of the Republican Party. Furthermore McCain corrected the supporter and discourage personal attacks on President Barack Obama. Even after being criticized for not challenging the anti-Muslim comment, Trump saw nothing wrong with his response or his supporter’s question. He even defended the comment, not because he believed it was right, but because others in the room agreed. Trump’s prerogative is not a constructive dialogue. Instead, he endorses any view that he believes will lead to his success in the 2016 presidential election, even if it is morally wrong.
Eventually, Trump will go away. During the 2012 election cycle there was a time when Herman Cain, the former executive of Godfather’s Pizza accused of sexually harassing his female employees, led in the polls. Rather than letting a fish head dictate our political discourse, we should control the conversation and ignore the extreme rhetoric that is getting in the way.