Don’t Make Him a Martyr

Accusing Donald Trump of racism or sexism will only bolster his support. If he fails the Electoral College on these grounds, we might never hear the end of it.


Don’t fight the man, fight his politics. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Don’t fight the man, fight his politics. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

When compared to other modern presidents, Donald Trump is unprecedented in his racism and sexism. His moral fibres appear to be stuck in the 18th century, when his bigotry might have been just barely acceptable. In no way has any other president elect made such cotidian inappropriate statements about a variety of races and creeds; it is for this reason that the man is a horrifying figure for a variety of minority groups in America. While Trump was making his victory lap, many were afraid, from Hispanics to Muslims to the LGBT+ community.

It seemed only natural, then, for protesters to take to the streets to defend what they believed was the death of a free and tolerant society in the wake of President Trump. These protesters, whether on the streets of America or on social media across the world, see Trump’s history of bigotry and his problematic policy ideas as a serious threat to them, and they’d be right to feel that way. They hate his guts. The unfortunate problem is that this hatred will only fuel the fire, should his march to the White House be halted on 19 December. Here’s why.

If the Electoral College stifle Trump for the wrong reasons, trouble lies ahead. (Photo: Getty)

If the Electoral College stifle Trump for the wrong reasons, trouble lies ahead. (Photo: Getty)

The truth of the matter is that, while supporting the Republicans in this election carried with it an implicit racism, it did not make every Republican voter racist. Rather, Trump has a base of support that focuses on his proposal to “Make America Great Again”. People voted for him because he stood for change, for things that many (mostly white) Americans were thinking, but too afraid to say. Even the career politicians were too afraid to run a campaign with a border wall or Muslim deportation at the centrepiece. It is the fact that Donald Trump stands apart from bastions like the dynasties of Bush (see Jeb’s failure) or Clinton that made him viable. He has stood out as the anti-establishment candidate, and he continues to do so.

If Trump is at any point impeached by long-standing politicians, his supporters will cry foul play, claiming the establishment has stolen from them their messiah. In that single moment, he will become a martyr of every single connotation that “making America Great Again” has ever had, including the racism and the sexism: from its genuine, anti-bureaucratic message to the slimiest bigotry you could imagine. It will vindicate all of it. There is a continuous risk that the Electoral College could vote down Donald Trump. If they do, they give all his supporters, even those that stray awfully close to Nazism, a green flag to get very angry indeed. It will make “Trumpism” even more anti-establishment, and as such, even more powerful. Worryingly, voting down Trump might even make history of the fact that Hillary won more votes. That will no longer be the issue of the day if the “president-elect” is denied his right.

There will be a serious problem if Trump misses the presidency and it is attributed to anti-racist/sexist protest. Because decrying a candidate for being bigoted is something that can be easily dismissed (this is exactly what many Trump voters did when they voted for him), it will make Trump’s critics seem like flaccid complainers who didn’t want the populist, anti-establishment wing to succeed. It will make Trump’s objectors look like enemies of the people who complain because their candidate lost, rather than threatened minorities with genuine concerns.

Simply stating that the man is a racist does not dent his politics – or his followers. (Photo: Getty)

Simply stating that the man is a racist does not dent his politics – or his followers. (Photo: Getty)

Those who criticise Trump now should not be doing so from a perspective that has repeatedly failed to register. They should be looking at the politics that Donald Trump stands for as a politician, not as a man. Calling him out for racism or sexism, while necessary, comes dangerously close to an ad hominem attack. This should not be used on a movement that sees anything close to a social justice complaint as an insult. It simply isn’t effective, and this tact will only make things worse if Republican electors choose to deny him his electoral right.

The allegory with Brexit is a tired one, but here’s a new angle: those who are protesting against Trump’s problematic potential have a lot in common with those that a Leave voter would label a “Remoaner”: both have genuine concerns about the ongoing democratic process in their country. Many conscious remain voters have changed tact, and now focus on holding the government to account in the hopes of a softer Brexit or a sea change. Anti-Trump forces should go the same way.

Months were spent before the presidential election poring over Donald Trump’s personal flaws. Liberals saw this as a victory; it was clear that Trump was a problematic candidate with a fishy history. But this completely detracted from his actual plan, what he wanted to do as a president – which is why people voted his way. We said the wall was ridiculous, but we didn’t spend long enough explaining why it wouldn’t work.

There is a lot to criticise about Trump’s domestic politics without focusing on ethnic issues. He claimed he’d reduce taxes for the middle class, but Hillary’s tax plan was actually far superior in this regard. If Trump is really anti-establishment, his fiscal planning wouldn’t be predicting higher post-tax incomes for the richest Americans.

At the end of the day, the chances Trump will survive the electoral college are very high, but regardless – the man won the election last month. We knew he was a racist then, and he still is. The more the left kicks this dead horse, the more it has to lose.

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