Donald Trump, the Great Divider

Armed white supremacist in Charlottesville, VA

Successful presidents of both political parties are usually the ones who, in times of crisis or difficulty, rise above partisanship and unite America. There are many examples of this, from Abraham Lincoln literally keeping the Union together, to Franklin Roosevelt leading us against Germany and Japan in World War 2, to Ronald Reagan eulogizing the Challenger Space Shuttle astronauts or calling upon Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall, Bill Clinton soothing a shocked America after the Oklahoma City bombing, George W. Bush standing with firefighters at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks, and Barack Obama successfully hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden. We may not agree with the policies these presidents pursue after such crises (for example, Bush’s Iraq War), but at least for a time, these leaders make us feel like we’re part of one big, strong nation.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with Donald Trump. Rather than being a Great Uniter, he has repeatedly proven himself to be the Great Divider, usually along racial and ethnic lines. Indeed, Trump essentially begun his presidential run during Barack Obama’s presidency by being one of the head cheerleaders in the “birther” movement, which questioned Obama’s Americanism and his birth certificate. Trump then ran his own presidential campaign in a divisive manner from the get-go, saying in his presidential announcement speech about Mexican immigrants:

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

From there, Trump has pitted one group (often his base of white males) against another, including the following partial list:

–Beginning his presidency with a Muslim travel ban.

–Hiring divisive bigots in his White House, including Stephen Miller, Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.

–Failing to condemn the pro-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, VA, instead saying some of them were “very fine people.”

Pardoning Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio after Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt after years of accusations of racial profiling and civil rights violations against minorities.

Saying of NFL players (the majority of whom are black) who silently protest police violence against blacks by dropping to one knee during the National Anthem in the manner of Colin Kapernick, “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”

–Ignoring the post-Hurricane Maria plight of Puerto Rico for days, then finally writing that this island full of 3.5 million Americans who have no electricity has “massive debt.”

Ultimately, such a divisive presidency tends to be a failed presidency. Indeed, Trump’s approval ratings are shockingly low at this point. Not coincidentally, in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 66 percent of respondents said Trump is doing more to divide the country than unite it. Likewise, several days ago on CNN, a panel of five Trump voters complained about Trump’s obsession, in tweets and remarks, with NFL players who follow Colin Kaepernick’s protest example. Meanwhile, Trump has yet to sign a single significant piece of legislation from the Republican-run, but equally divided, U.S. Congress. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, you can divide America and some of the people will like it some of the time, but never enough to be a successful president.

Photo by Evan Nesterak, used under Creative Commons license.

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