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Trumpism Won’t Disappear When He Does

Campaign 2016 Elections Memo Pad Politics Top News

Trumpism Won’t Disappear When He Does

Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, June 18, 2016. REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

On Saturday, someone tried to kill Donald Trump.

You may not have heard about it. The story didn’t get much play, the attempt wasn’t well planned and the candidate was never in jeopardy.

Still the fact remains that authorities arrested one Michael Steven Sandford, 19, after he allegedly tried to grab a gun from the holster of a Las Vegas police officer with the idea of using it to kill Trump at a campaign rally. Authorities say Sandford, who carried a UK driver’s license but who had been living in New Jersey for about a year and a half, had visited a nearby gun range to learn how to handle a firearm. They say he has wanted to kill Trump for a year.

Let us be thankful he was not successful. The assassination of Donald Trump would have been a new low for a political season that is already the most dispiriting in memory. It would have deprived a family of its father and husband. It would have traumatized a nation where political murder has been a too-frequent tragedy.

And it would have imparted the moral authority of martyrdom to Trump’s ideas. That would be a disaster in its own right.

Like most would-be assassins, what Sandford apparently did not understand is that you cannot kill an idea with a bullet. Even bad ideas are impervious to gunfire.

Trump, of course, has been a veritable Vesuvius of bad ideas in the year since he took that escalator ride into the race for the presidency. From banning Muslim immigrants to building a wall on the southern border to punishing women who have abortions to advocating guns in nightclubs to judging judicial fitness based on heritage, to killing the wives and children of terror suspects, if there has been a hideous, unserious or flat-out stupid thought floated in this political season, odds are, it carried the Trump logo.

It is understandable, then, that even people who wish Trump no bodily harm might feel as Sandford presumably did: that if he were somehow just … gone, the stench of his ideas — of his anger, nativism, coarseness and proud ignorance — might somehow waft away like trash-fire smoke in a breeze.

But it doesn’t work that way. Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality did not die on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Nor did Adolf Hitler’s dream of racial extermination perish with him in that bunker beneath Berlin. Ideas, both transcendent and repugnant, are far harder than the fragile lives of the men and women who give them voice.

So, any hope that Trump’s disappearance would somehow fix America is naive. America’s problem has nothing to do with him, except to the degree he has made himself a focal point.

No, America’s problem is fear. Fear of economic stagnation, yes, and fear of terrorism. But those are proxies for the bigger and more fundamental fear: fear of demographic diminution, of losing the privileges and prerogatives that have always come with being straight, white, male and/or Christian in America. It was the holy quadfecta of entitlement, but that entitlement is under siege in a nation that grows more sexually, racially and religiously diverse with every sunrise.

Trumpism is only the loudest and most obvious response to that, and it will not disappear when he does. Indeed, there is no instant cure for what has America unsettled. There is only time and the hard work of change.

In a sense, we are bringing forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women really are created equal. If for some of us, that fires the imagination, it is hardly mysterious that for others, it kindles a sense of displacement and loss. The good news is that their Trumpism cannot survive in the new nation.

In the end, you see, only one thing can kill a bad idea.

And that’s a better one.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)


Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Eleanore Whitaker June 22, 2016

    Actually, The Donald wasn’t so swift about deciding to run for president. Every rotten, slimy, snaky, nasty thing he and his CEOs have ever done is now open to the court of public opinion.

    His own words of insanity are doing him in. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that because he outed his CEO kin, they will retaliate in kind. CEOs and men of great wealth loathe the idea of their acts and behaviors to be outed.

  2. Elliot J. Stamler June 22, 2016

    I emphatically disagree with Leonare Pitts as I often do. In an earlier essay Mr. Pitts declared that Trump does deserve to be compared to Hitler. If this is so can anyone say in light of history that it would have been a bad and immoral thing had Hitler been assassinated before he became Fuhrer or even more certainly, afterward?
    I can not and do not advocate criminal acts against Trump or anyone else and I most certainly as a respectable, law-abiding citizen do not incite or abet such acts.
    But I have no problem declaring that I would be overjoyed to read in the news of Donald Trump’s death. In the same way and for the reasons I would be delighted to read of the death of Ali Khameini, Bashir Assad, Abu al-Baghdadi, Kim Il Un, etc. I believe the world is better off when purely evil people are dead and I include Trump in that group. And I have a constitutional right to hold that opinion. I have no right and do not advocate or incite assassination; I have the right to declare that I do not think as a matter of opinion that it is always wrong.

    1. William Burke Jr June 22, 2016

      I would be overjoyed to hear of your death, Stamler, you filthy s.o.b.

      1. Elliot J. Stamler June 22, 2016

        Listen up you naz- creep, I’ve read all your comments. Go back to Stormfront and similar websites where you and your filthy bigoted moron friends are. I wouldn’t be surprised if your moniker is phony. Anyhow my final word to you is that I hope you wind up where your idol Hitler is.

        1. William Burke Jr June 22, 2016

          My moniker isn’t phony, Stamler. It’s people like you that give Jews trouble. I have a brother in law,
          the wife of my first cousin, and a niece and nephew who are Jews and very nice people. You go ahead and live in your world of hate. I suggest you get out of your West End apartment and go up
          to Fort Tryon Park and get some fresh air. I love the Cloisters and have been there dozens of times.

          1. Elliot J. Stamler June 23, 2016

            Go up to the Cloisters, walk up to the top floor on the open battlements….and jump off. And by the way, 70th St. & York Ave. is within 4 blocks of the Payne-Whitney Institute of NY-Cornell Presbyterian Hospital…you should have checked yourself in there. (FOR ALL YOU NON-NEW YORKERS GIGGLING AT THIS REPARTEE…THE PAYNE WHITNEY IS A LUNATIC ASYLUM, AKA PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL.)

          2. William Burke Jr June 23, 2016

            And it’s also within 4 blocks of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Memorial Hospital where I hope you’ll be checking in very soon.

          3. William Burke Jr June 25, 2016

            And it’s also 2 blocks from Sloan-Kettering Cancer Memorial Hospital where I hope you’ll be checking in very soon.

          4. William Burke Jr July 19, 2016

            I see you haven’t checked into the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Memorial Hospital on E. 68 st. yet,
            Stamler, what a shame. I was hoping you’d be dead of cancer of the a-hole by this time.

  3. Dominick Vila June 22, 2016

    The last thing we need is more assassinations, regardless of motive or who the target is.
    Trump’s popularity is, indeed, driven by fear of demographic, social, religious, economic, and foreign policy changes that are bound to end the privileged lives and opportunities enjoyed by white American males.
    The election of an African American to the presidency of the United States, the presence of dark skinned Mexicans and Central Americans, and acts of violence perpetrated by radical Muslims have provided those who have been displaced as a result of demand for higher skills levels to qualify for a good job, outsourcing, the impact of robotics in our job market, the emergence of on-line shopping, and the ability of many newcomers to prosper in the USA, when so many Americans struggle to make ends meet, all contribute to the hatred that is evident every single day in every city and town in America.


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