Jennifer Granholm: Donald Trump's rhetoric is causing irreparable damage to United States
Democracy doesn't need candidate who intentionally stokes jingoism, she says
Editor’s Note: Jennifer Granholm is the former governor and former attorney general of Michigan. She’s currently a senior research fellow at UC Berkeley. She also serves as senior advisor to Correct The Record, a super-PAC supporting Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
If last night was any indication, the Democratic nominee may not have anything to worry about.
Even though some say Hillary Clinton would benefit if you were to be the GOP nominee, for the good of the country I want you to get out of the race. Your lies and vitriolic rhetoric are causing irreparable damage to the nation.
In “The Leadership Challenge,” a best-selling tome on leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, 89% of people across the globe identify honesty as the most important characteristic of a leader. It seems counterintuitive, then, that despite spewing lies every week and managing to offend people of every race, creed and color, you have still managed to sit atop the Republican presidential candidate polls for five months. In Trump World, you can fabricate historical events to falsely embellish your golf course, or worse, spread lies about a nonexistent video that you claim showed thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey after the twin towers fell.
It would be one thing if your lies were careless or unintentional missteps, mistakes that you would admit when presented with facts and then move forward. Instead, you refuse to acknowledge reality and choose to double and triple down on your lies. It is as if you believe you are above the truth, that whatever you believe is fact, and whoever confronts you is unfairly attacking you. Your lies have led the media to declare you “in a league of [your] own” when it comes to making claims that repeatedly fail “to mesh with reality.”
Why don’t your lies seem to matter?
Perhaps it’s because your lies prey on the fears of your supporters, many of whom have nascent fears that they are losing “their country” and must do whatever they can to “take it back.” Each day brings a new Trumpian lie involving racist and derogatory smears against whole groups of people, lies that may energize your followers – but which rot our democracy.
This tactic is not new for you; we all recall the ease with which you spread lies about President Obama’s birth certificate in 2012. And while the targets were different then, your lies now have the same intended result: to demonize certain communities by manipulating facts and capitalizing on fear.
For many of your followers, perhaps attacking the perceived cause of their fears is more important than you telling the truth. After all, your statements have been labeled “pants on fire” lying 11 times since the beginning of your campaign, yet you still outpace the rest of the Republican field by double digits in many polls. You probably recognize this cognitive dissonance and don’t care because it aids you and your ambition. But my deep fear is that if you win the GOP nomination, the general election will divide the nation more than by Democrats and Republicans: It will end up pitting entire segments of our population against one another based on race, religion, gender and more.
The last thing democracy needs is a candidate who intentionally stokes jingoism and makes racial animus mainstream.
Before you do further damage to the country, Donald, the best way to “Make America Great Again” is for you to drop out of the race.
*Editor’s note: A previous version of this article had an outdated version of the author’s bio, which has now been updated.