Pete Seat: As Trump rises, we fall
Thursday, January 21, 2016 11:11 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – I’m a day late and a dollar short, but let me add to the chorus: Donald Trump cannot be the next president of the United States.
I write those words first and foremost as a concerned American. But I also write them as a Millennial who will, along with my generational cohorts, be forced to clean up a Trumpian mess if he is allowed to advance any further.
Call it whatever you want, but to me Trump’s rise is the last gasp of a generation trying hard to maintain an iron grip on the presidency through nativist exceptionalism that demeans and discriminates. It may help to drum up the populism to drive up the crowds, but the adverse effects are being felt around the world.
The British Parliament on Monday, despite having no authority to actually act on the matter, debated whether or not Trump should be banned from setting foot on their soil in response to an online petition demanding so.
That debate is proof, as Trump said standing center stage in North Charleston, S.C., flanked by six other candidates for the Republican nomination, that “we’re laughed at all over the world.” While the real estate mogul said those words in an attempt to make a point about the words, deeds and actions of others, in actuality, he was making a point about himself.
I was further east, in Delhi, India, also joined by six fellow Americans (none of whom is running for president), sitting in a floodlight-drenched open yard at dusk when a related comment was made weeks earlier. A speaker noted a statement uttered that day by Trump regarding his desire that Muslims be banned from entering the United States until further notice.
The speaker at the event, however, incorrectly attributed the comment to Secretary of State John Kerry. But unlike South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the recently departed candidate for president, who said, “[Trump] does not represent us,” the Indian speaker covered up his flub by taking the opportunity to paint with a broad brush saying, “It doesn’t matter who said it, it was said by an American.”
While I wish Sen. Graham were correct; he is not. America remains extremely influential in the world and the voices of its citizens, even one out of 320 million, carries weight. What might seem comical and entertaining at home has an impact in the backyards of our friends and allies.
That moment in India helped me recall another trip across the ocean, this one with then-President George W. Bush. I woke up on the morning of Jan. 9, 2008, in Jerusalem to find Hillary Clinton on television declaring victory in the New Hampshire primary. Walking around the Old City hours later, I overheard Israelis discussing the primary results and making predictions about who would win the next states on the voting calendar. I can’t help but think people overseas take our political process and our government more seriously than we do.
And Trump’s resilient popularity is the case in point. He’s making a mockery of our politics by appealing to our demons. And it’s clear that the way he conducts himself is of little concern as long as the polling continues in the right direction, regardless of what the British, the Indians, or even fellow Americans may say. Why?
Ask Trump and he will tell you. He is beholden to no one. No donor. No PAC. No special interest. No politician. No one. According to him, not a single person or entity can influence him. But, let’s be honest with ourselves, despite what Trump says he is beholden to someone he knows very, very well: Himself. Trump is beholden to his own ego and his presidential campaign is a direct reflection of a man whose love for himself comes first. He is only interested in the advancement of Donald Trump, not necessarily the advancement of the country he hopes to serve as president.
This is found in his inability to articulate coherent positions outside of his desire to charge Mexico to build a wall along our southern border or his wish to place a proverbial “America Is Closed” sign in front of Muslim visitors.
He’s been especially effective in the land of lowest common denominator politics, of which his Muslim comment is the purest example. In that land, Trump is crown prince. And with his demeaning and hateful rhetoric, he aims to be king. But the belligerent pronouncements of this egomaniac will weigh us down for generations to come.
The world will view us with an increasingly skeptical eye. Our allies will question our intentions and motives. Our enemies will likely be emboldened to act rashly, rather than warm up to diplomacy. We will find ourselves in a place where tensions that are simmering today are boiling tomorrow. All, I fear, as a result of a president who lacks a filter, lacks an understanding that his words reflect not only him and his beliefs, but those of an entire nation before the whole world.
As Mr. Spock so eloquently put it, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” But not for Donald Trump. As he rises, we fall.
Pete Seat is senior project manager at the Indianapolis-based Hathaway Strategies. He was previously a spokesman for President George W. Bush, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats and the Indiana Republican Party. He joins Howey Politics Indiana as a regular columnist.