Yesterday, in Reno, Nevada, Hillary Clinton gave one of the most straightforward critiques of Donald Trump’s rhetoric that we’ve seen from her campaign. In doing so, she connected Trump to a right-wing fringe that is poisoning our political discourse:
No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed… Racists now call themselves ‘racialists.’ White supremacists now call themselves ‘white nationalists.’ The paranoid fringe now calls itself ‘alt-right.’ But the hate burns just as bright.
Trump responded by calling her speech a “new low,” which is par for the course. However, Clinton’s speech outlines a very dangerous reality in American politics: candidates and elected officials stoking fear of others, especially emerging populations in this country, for political gain. This culture of fear is not about policy; it’s about power and control. But in Trump’s effort to gain power, his rhetoric has been so vitriolic that it is indefensible no matter your party affiliation.
The examples are too numerous to list them all:
Black Americans are an increasingly powerful political force in this country. Young blacks folks are politically conscious and organizing around our interests. But all Trump has to say about our experience is that “the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks.”
Latino Americans, especially young Latinos, are the fastest growing population in the American electorate. Trump called for mass deportation and an end to birthright citizenship and attacked a federal judge because of his Mexican heritage earlier this summer.
Women, who turn out in higher numbers than men, are the most potent force in our elections. We work in larger numbers than ever before and are increasingly independent. Yet Trump lambasted one of the most well-known female media voices, Megyn Kelly, for doing her job as a debate moderator. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes… blood coming out of her wherever,” he said after the debate.
Seventy percent of the youth vote, a third of the overall electorate, is composed of women and people of color. America is young and brown. Trump is pitting his supporters against the future of this country.
Living in a democracy, we always want to believe that our elections and political battles are a genuine war of ideas. We hope to spar over policies and practices—real issues that can direct the course of the country. Unfortunately, that is not the case in this election. One of our candidates for the most powerful position in the world has resorted to divisive language, fear-mongering, and bigotry over real policies. And while it’s an insult to all those who care about law and policy, it’s especially dangerous and hurtful to the communities who are the target of his hateful speech.
If we care about engaging and uplifting the populations who are the largest forces in our democracy by virtue of size and organization, we must hold candidates to the highest standard of accountability in their rhetoric and policies. Inclusion, not exclusion, should be the rule of political debate. We can debate policies and ideas, but we should not debate the legitimacy of our fellow Americans.