Did You Help Donald Trump's Candidacy? by Sally Kohn

While we typically look up to and respect our presidents, much has been said and written about how Donald Trump, if elected leader of the free world, would be a horrible role model for our children.

Hillary Clinton's campaign even runs a TV ad around this theme, showing young kids watching clips of Donald Trump delivering a selection of his most outrageously offensive and un-repeatable comments.

It's so jarring that I found myself actually hoping they didn't *really* show the kids those Trump videos because, well, I don't really want impressionable minds hearing a prominent political figure encourage violence against peaceful protesters. Catching myself thinking that, I realized how powerful the ad was — and how truly disturbing Donald Trump is as a public figure, let alone president.

But what I've been thinking about lately is not how we would have to explain to our children if Donald Trump is president but how either way, we have to explain to our children how we let him get this close in the first place.

How did we, as citizens of this imperfect yet wonderful nation, allow a fear-mongering and divisive demagogue to so severely and dearly threaten the very values of pluralism and inclusion that are at the heart of our nation's aspirational creed? As roughly half our nation has come to embrace a candidate who tears at the very fabric of our union, how do we explain why we didn't stop it — or perhaps worse, how our own behavior and beliefs helped contribute to his rise?

Most of the people I know and, I assume, most of you reading this — white liberal Democrats or even moderate Republicans who fear for a nation and a world under President Trump and are supporting Hillary Clinton out of enthusiasm or even desperation — are probably as horrified at the prospect of Trump in the White House as they are at the implication that they played any role in his ascent.

But Donald Trump is merely exploiting a strain of white racial resentment which while perhaps more visible and vitriolic among his supporters, nonetheless festers among liberals as well. The liberals who quietly blame affirmative action for the job they didn't get. The liberals who think conservatives have a point about taxes and "those" lazy people on welfare. The liberals who say they support public education but put their own kids in essentially segregated private schools. The liberals who think Trump has a point that "political correctness" has kind of gone overboard and is "infringing" on or even "oppressing" people like them.

You know who you are. I've talked to you, or versions of you, expressing these very same sentiments. Mostly in hushed voices, mostly to other elite liberals, and with a tone of "I know I shouldn't say this but…" But it's not the saying it that's the problem. It's the *thinking* it. That right wing anti-pluralism anti-equal opportunity ideology you're railing against in the avatar of Donald Trump? You actually believe it, or pieces of it, too. And it's the subtle versions of the ideology of white racial resentment that pave the way for the extremes.

Yes, we should all be fighting like hell to ensure that Donald Trump is not elected the next president of the United States of America, and to instead elect a competent, trustworthy, visionary leader in Hillary Clinton — a leader our children can and should admire.

And we should also fight against the specs and specters of Trump's ideology that dwell within our own hearts, the ideology that will unfortunately continue long after this election unless we defeat it. And that sort of personal reflection and accountability, willingness to be self-critical and to change, and ability to see how our destiny and dreams aren't in competition with "others" but all bound up together in this thing we call the American Dream — that is the kind of leadership each one of us can demonstrate for our children and our children's children to admire.


September 9, 2016

Addendum: the television ad of Trump's words really is so jarring. If you haven't seen it, here it is, but shield the children. Don't let them watch.

Show Comments ()


Follow Us On


On Social