Donald Trump wants you to be afraid
of Mexican immigrants who want to take your job, or worse, rape you. Indeed, at his big rally Friday night in Alabama, he warned us again
that "illegal aliens" have tortured, raped or killed Americans.
Ben Carson, who is now running second to Trump in a poll released days ago
, has offered us some more extremism, warning
the Obama administration has been "using instruments of government, like the IRS, to punish its opponents" just like the Nazis.
(As if that wasn't extreme enough, Carson has also said
that Obamacare is the "worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.")
Then we have Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal reportedly suggesting
that Muslim immigrants want to invade America and impose "no-go zones" controlled by Islamic law.
Even on foreign policy issues like the Iran deal, the rhetoric by some in the GOP has been off the charts. Mike Huckabee recently invoked
the Holocaust with his hysterical claim that the proposed agreement will lead Israelis "to the door of the oven." Senator Cruz also chimed in on the issue, arguing that the deal will make the Obama administration "the world's leading state sponsor and financier of radical Islamic terrorism."
And we even heard some extremist rhetoric
from the typically more measured Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. They both told us in the recent GOP debate that women who are raped should be required to carry a rapists' child to term.
Now to be fair, not all of the 17 GOP presidential candidates have engaged in this type of extremism -- Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina have been more measured. But in only the first few months of this race, we have heard some of the leading Republicans invoke slavery, the Holocaust, rapists, gays waging some kind of holy war and Muslims trying to take over America.
Of course it is to be expected that some of the candidates will make extreme statements in an effort to get media coverage, such as Carson's likening Obamacare to slavery. But the truly alarming comments are the ones designed to fan the flames of hate against minorities, such as Trump's on Mexicans, Cruz on the gay community and Jindal on Muslims. These candidates are clearly playing to the primal fears that some conservatives have over changing demographics, gay marriage, immigrants and the like.
This strategy is not only wrongheaded from an electoral point of view -- it is dangerously un-American. When leading politicians demonize minority groups, it may embolden others to join the hateful chorus and even advocate for discrimination. This truly tears at the very core of the fabric of our nation and undermines the concept imprinted on our nation's seal, "E pluribus Unum," which means, "From many, one."
Plus, the words of political leaders can do more than just inspire hate. They can inspire violence. As the media reported Thursday, two brothers in Boston were charged with assaulting a Latino homeless man. After the attack, the suspects allegedly told the police
, "Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported."
Following news of the Boston attack, Donald Trump admittedly described the Boston incident as "terrible."
Clearly, though, words have real-world consequences. And even if GOP candidates could not care less about the potential horrific nature of these consequences, then from a selfish point of view they should at least care about alienating minority groups, because they will lose the 2016 presidential election without them.
And those aren't just my words. After the GOP lost the 2012 election, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus commissioned an autopsy
into what went wrong to help Republicans win the presidential race in 2016. The main recommendations of the report included embracing immigration reform, ending the demonization of minorities and putting a stop to fear mongering over gay marriage.
Even conservative Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned
shortly after Mitt Romney lost in 2012, saying the GOP needed to broaden its appeal because, as he bluntly put it: "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." But so far, the 2016 race has been a replay of the strategy that led them to defeat in 2012.
If the Republican Party wants to recapture the White House in 2016, perhaps they should look to the words
of the first Republican who achieved that feat: Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln was sworn in as president in March 1861, he was faced with the specter of a civil war. In his inaugural address, however, Lincoln didn't stoke the divisions in our nation. Instead he tried to bridge the divide by famously appealing to "the better angels of our nature."
Those words, uttered 155 years ago, need to be heeded today more than ever by the GOP candidates now running for president. Instead of demonizing and fear-mongering, why not appeal to American's "better angels." That's not only a good move politically, it's good for our nation as a whole.