Donald Trump’s recent attack ad on Bernie Sanders has struck an emotional cord for me. There are so many things wrong with it that I need to deconstruct it piece by piece. I intend this post to be both cathartic for me and any potential readers.
Trump’s shtick is that he will not back down or capitulate to anyone. His supporters view him as refreshing in the era of “pussification.” Yes, conservatives have actually used that word. This term centralizes aggression and dominance within masculinity. Trump is cleverly using this implicit sexist bias in his attack ad. He is attacking Bernie’s lack of aggression and therefore, his masculinity. This appeals to his party base as Republicans in general tend to be less tolerant of compromise, see the world in us vs. them terms, and are more willing to use force to gain an advantage. In other words, Republicans look for the toxic masculine shtick in their leaders. Vile though his methods may be, Donald Trump sure knows how to play to his party base.
Trump has no problems alienating those who do not fall within his party base. His supporters are 91% White and support deportation of undocumented immigrants, feel that the confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride, and believe Blacks who struggle are responsible for their own condition. They are not exactly a group supportive of multiculturalism and diversity. Trump’s racist comments are not bold; they are exactly what his constituents want to hear.
Bernie Sanders is at least attempting to reach out to the Black community. He should be applauded for sharing the stage with the Black Lives Matter activists. His sharing of the mic is a show of solidarity towards Black America by a person in power – historically something almost all of our political leaders have avoided like the plague. Bernie Sanders showed that yes, he actually to some degree does care about Black lives. In the era of colorblind racism where racial differences and inequities are denied, this move by Bernie takes courage. As yesterday’s democratic debates aptly demonstrated, not all progressives are supportive of racial justice reform. Bernie is taking a risk; by taking a stand and supporting racial justice reform, he may actually alienate some of his White constituency.
Bernie Sanders does know how to defend himself. Unlike Trump, he defends his beliefs even if they are unpopular with his supporters. In sharing his mic with the Black Lives Matter activists, he demonstrated that he knows sometimes the most important voice is not his own. This to me is what takes courage and strength and is what I look for in a leader.
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the issues with Donald Trump’s attack ad are not limited to toxic masculinity. In the short clip he also manages to denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement as well. By juxtaposing BlackLivesMatter activists with ISIS, he not so subtly insinuates that BlackLivesMatter is a serious threat to this country and its values. This is downright offensive. One group, ISIS, has murdered innocent people. The other group, Black Lives Matter, is trying to prevent the murder innocents. How could groups with literally opposite goals be similar?
Trump ends the video with his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Someone needs to tell Donald that this so called American Greatness he keeps referring to would not have been possible without the literal blood, sweat, and tears of Black America. Millions of Black lives have been lost to create the America we know today. Despite this, we as a society remain inhumanely indifferent to the struggles of Black America, the struggles we create and perpetuate. No Donald, Black Lives Matter is not a threat to “America.” America is a threat to Black lives. Props to Bernie for recognizing this.
Last but not least, the 15 second or so clip also manages to promote Islamophobia. I’m not here to debate the potential danger ISIS poses to this country; I am here to critique the depiction of Muslim individuals in our country. Donald Trump likes to cherry pick the worst individuals of Islam and use them to represent the entire religion to his constituents. Unfortunately his supporters don’t know any better. Are some Muslims terrorists? Yes, a very small handful are. Are the vast majority? Overwhelmingly, no. In fact, in the last 14 years since 9/11, White Americans have killed more innocent people than Muslims or any other group. Of the 26 terrorist attacks on the US since 9/11, only 6 have been committed by Muslims.
Another issue Islamophobes like to bring up is Sharia law and the human rights atrocities permitted through it. Specifically, conservatives like to critique Islamic countries for oppressing their women. Typical platitudes include “Saudi Women aren’t even allowed to drive!” While this is a travesty, one Islamic country’s injustice is not representative of an entire religion. Finally, when your political party is hell-bent on defunding Planned Parenthood, you absolutely do not have the right to critique others for denying women’s rights.
Well, I think that’s about all I have to say on the matter. I do feel better getting all of that off my chest. I hope reading this post offered you some relief as well.
PS. I realize that the current post is very pro Bernie Sanders. In the next post, I will provide an anti-racist critique of him. Stay tuned.