“Donald Trump”, says Jeb Bush, “is unhinged.” He runs a campaign “fuelled by idiocy, chauvinism and bigotry,” says Owen Jones of The Guardian. The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, says “he stokes hatred and conflations.” He’s “Olympically stupid and ignorant in many ways and virtually thoughtless,” writes Peter Hitchens of The Mail on Sunday. Marine Le Pen prefers not to be compared to him. The Mayor of London thinks that Trump’s comments on the capital are “ill-informed […] complete and utter nonsense” while the PM is in “complete disagreement” with the businessman. The New Statesman Media Mole predicts the apocalypse after Trump’s favour toward the columnist Katie Hopkins. To Michael McGough of the Los Angeles Times, Trump’s words are “outlandish and offensive” and to Julian Zelizer of CNN, Trump is clearly using the politics of fear. At the time of writing, 560,223 people have signed a petition to ban Trump from entering the United Kingdom.
As you probably have gathered, Donald Trump is not a popular man at the moment.
After the businessman, running for the Republican presidential nomination, suggested that all Muslims immigrants be barred from stepping onto US shores “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” the floodgates really have opened. Everyone from prince to pauper is up in arms against it, with plenty of discussion on social media. Trump seems to have crossed the line once again, having crossed many other lines previously with comments towards Mexican immigrants.
Trump’s proposal implies that many Muslim immigrants could well be anti-Americans wishing the collapse of American government and society. With some dodgy poll evidence to show that 25% of Muslim Americans polled see some justification in violence against Americans as part of a global jihad, the proposition resembles a national quarantine. Even if the poll were thoroughly accurate, it doesn’t make much sense to make sweeping conclusions about the members of a world religion from one poll – it’s good scientific practice to run your test multiple times.
But thinking too hard about poll data is a distraction – think instead of the distress of thousands of Muslims, both immigrants and American citizens, as they see how many Republican voters think Trump is speaking good sense. The arson attack against a California mosque is one incident in a spate of anti-Muslim actions that has been reported across the United States.
Trump’s popularity is going up among Republican voters. More and more of the electorate are siding with his notions, with some citing Trump as the man who will voice the dirty truths that other people are too afraid to voice. But what has been noticed across the board, in the offices of The Guardian, The Independent, The New Statesman and elsewhere is that every spotlight seems to be shining on Donald Trump. None of the things coming out of the other candidates’ mouths are being covered in the mainstream media – it’s all Trump, Trump, Trump. Not only has Trump stolen the show, he’s also made other candidates seem mediocre, in both capability and political convictions, in comparison.
Yes, the man is a sort of political enigma. A household name across America as a successful entrepreneur, a few years ago Donald Trump would not describe himself as a Republican; yet it is for the Republicans that he is standing now. His campaign is funded by his own business empire rather than donations from supporters. The suit, the hair and the catty scowl are his trademarks. But Donald Trump is not unique – Ben Carson has just as a little political experience. Trump is an ageing businessman and Carson is a retired neurosurgeon. Carly Fiorina, another candidate, also has a business background.
Donald Trump is not the first Republican presidential candidate to utter some dubious comments about Islam or its followers. Marco Rubio, another candidate, said that religion shouldn’t stop someone taking office, though he expressed his doubts of any believer in Sharia law being “elected to anything”. Bobby Jindal, who left the race in November, had said he might vote for a Muslim Republican candidate who would accept America’s Christian foundations. Ben Carson, hot on Trump’s heels in the popularity race, suggested in September that a Muslim should not be in charge of the United States. Constitutionally, no religious convictions are needed to take office; Carson quickly clarified that political service should come before religious belief, but this was not enough to stop some activists calling for him to give up his quest to enter the White House, as they have done to Trump.
Looking back over the last few months of campaigning, this is hardly an isolated incident of insanity for a Republican presidential nomination candidate, let alone Donald Trump. Things have ranged from the delirious to the slanderous: think back to Ben Carson claiming that the Pyramids were built by Biblical figures to hold grain, or Trump holding Hillary Clinton responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands due to her alleged incompetence. The more distant past is blotchy too: Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and fellow presidential nomination candidate, has privatised water; according to Ted Cruz’s father, atheists are perverts and gay rights campaigners are more interested in the destruction of the nuclear family than achieving equal marriage (not to mention evolution being a great communist way to destroy religion); Jeb Bush has routinely denied the existence of climate change.
Some things that Trump has proposed aren’t as bizarre and uncommon as one might think. Most recently, Trump would like certain parts of the Internet deactivated to stop ISIS from manipulating it and prevent children from seeing it. The European Union has dropped a similar proposal that would prevent children below sixteen years of age from accessing the Internet.
The wash of criticisms against Donald Trump’s latest case of verbal and political diarrhoea are all well and good, but in light of the things that other prominent Republicans have said, Trump’s “complete and total ban” on foreign Muslims entering the country is just golden chalice of a treasure trove of goodies. Trump deserves the response but so do his fellow nominees. If Trump should be banned from coming to the United Kingdom, then so should some of the other Republican hopefuls.