Stopping Trump is not enough
How do we stop Donald Trump? This question has taken on an urgent tone as Trump piles up delegates.
Whereas just a few months ago Trump’s campaign was widely dismissed as laughable, many now fear he might actually become president. At the very least, he seems poised to win the Republican nomination.
Many Republicans are scrambling to prevent that from happening. Closed-door meetings have been held. There are calls for a unity ticket and plans for a contested convention.
These schemes might stop Trump, but this will be a shallow victory unless we also stop the movement behind him.
Mitt Romney has said that the GOP race is now a contest between Trumpism and Republicanism. He’s encouraged strategic voting to obstruct Trump’s path to the nomination.
But stopping Trump from winning the nomination won’t stop Trumpism. Trump is just one man. Trumpism is a movement. Stopping the man won’t stop the movement.
Trump’s retrogressive comments about women, Hispanics and Muslims have brought long-submerged currents of misogyny, racism and xenophobia to the surface. While candidates on both sides have criticized Trump’s rhetoric, they have largely ignored the deeper problem: the very large number of Americans that Trump’s bigoted comments appeal to.
Of course there is a reason for this: No candidate wants to alienate such a large group of voters. But pretending that the problem is just Trump, rather than the attitudes and beliefs of those who support him, is dangerous.
Keeping Trump off the ticket and out of the White House is important. But it won’t quell the upswell of bigotry, animosity and fear that Trump has deftly exploited and encouraged. If anything, denying Trump the Republican nomination will simply exacerbate the marginalization and mistrust that many of his supporters already feel.
The fight against Trumpism cannot be a battle against one man. It must be a movement to change the hearts and minds of those who support him and the socially destructive views he stands for. It must be a fight against the pernicious attitudes that have fueled Trump’s campaign.
Otherwise, the path will remain open for others to exploit and encourage those attitudes as Trump has. And especially in places where those attitudes are in the majority, the effect on state-level politics is likely to be disastrous.
Truly defeating Trumpism requires defeating the culture of animosity and fear Trump has thrived in. It requires us to work toward a culture where sexist attacks of the sort Trump directed at Megyn Kelly appeal to no one. A culture that recognizes that terrorism is not synonymous with Islam, and where exploiting bigotry and bullying opponents is never a viable political strategy. In short, a culture firmly in the opposite direction from that which Trump has tried to move us.
Stopping Trump is not enough. We need to reverse the movement behind him.
Aaron Ancell, from Vancouver, Canada, is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Duke.