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Fear? Anger? Hope?

What is America?


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a Rochester-area rally earlier this year. - FILE PHOTO
  • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a Rochester-area rally earlier this year.
We’re about to find out what kind of country we are.

Maybe as a whole, we’re smarter than we sometimes seem. Maybe, in our heart of hearts, we understand the complexity of our problems. Maybe, when we take a deep breath, we know that not all challenges require force and that force can be dangerous. Maybe, ultimately, we’re able to step back from our fear, override the urgings of our gut, and vote intelligently.

Maybe the delegates in Cleveland last week aren’t representative of the voters who will turn out in November. But the Republican convention and its angry, inflammatory speakers – and the delegates’ roars for their angry, demagogic nominee – were terrifying.

Well, maybe news from the Democratic convention will overshadow the Republicans’ dark vision. And maybe by the end of this week, we’ll see a Democratic Party pretty much united. I hope so. The complaints from Bernie Sanders’ supporters are legitimate, and they’re important, and not all of those supporters will move to Clinton’s side. But many of them need to, for the sake of the nation. Clinton will need every Democratic vote she can get to defeat Donald Trump.

Clinton’s shortcomings are large, but she is not dangerous. Donald Trump is. And at this point, everything’s breaking his way. It is already a tense summer, nationally and internationally, and it won’t be a surprise if there are more incidents like Dallas and Nice and Munich. And they will be tailor-made for Donald Trump’s Hitler-like message.

Trump’s angry face is now the face of the Republican Party – and that shouldn’t be a surprise. The party has been heading in this direction since Nixon and the Southern Strategy. The party chose this path. It chose it as it tarred Michael Dukakis with the Willie Horton ads, as it launched its attacks on voting rights.

It’s telling that the person who came closest to denying Trump the nomination was the equally angry, vindictive, know-nothing, anti-compromise Ted Cruz. This is now the Republican Party. (Curiously, after Cruz pointedly rejected Trump from the convention stage, several media commentators said that Cruz was brave, that he acted on principle. No, he wasn’t, and no, he didn’t. He didn’t turn his back on Trump over a concern for the principles of the country and his party. He did it because Trump had insulted his wife and his father.)

For the next three months, Donald Trump will travel across America, whipping up anger, stoking our fears, and telling us that he is the answer to our prayers – that he will be the voice of the frightened, disaffected masses.

The history of Nazi Germany should have taught us where that can lead.

Maybe the Republican convention simply lanced a boil. Maybe all that hot air and all that anger will dissipate. Maybe the folks howling out their hatred in the Cleveland arena will calm down now that they’re back home.

But I’m worried. It is hard to urge reason in the face of shouts and finger-jabs and appeals to the worst of our emotions and our nature. And what’s left of the Republican Party leadership will not object to Trump’s demagoguery during this campaign. We saw proof of that as Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and way too many others – who know exactly what Trump is – took the stage last week to urge a Trump victory.

I hope that Hillary Clinton can woo most of Bernie Sanders’ supporters. I hope she can survive the attacks Trump aims at her. I hope she’ll be able to pull the nation together. But at the moment, that seems a very difficult job.

Creating unity and restoring sanity may be up to all of us, one person, one interest group, one village, one city, one county at a time. But it won’t be easy. Because Donald Trump’s venomous spirit will be roaming the country, bent on frightening us and driving us apart.

Does the mob in the Cleveland convention center represent most of us? Is that now America?