This battle for power looks like an episode of Game of Thrones or House of Cards. The GOP presumptive nominee and the Speaker of the House, members of the same political party, are at odds. Like the storylines on these shows, the competition is about power and control.
Fingers are pointing everywhere about the cause of the division. But who’s to blame? Is it Congress, Trump or the media? Let’s take a look.
Congress? Well, that’s easy. They’ve been divided forever. The optics are bad, because people from the bottom up are engaged. Change happened in 2008. Thanks Obama!
Trump? He seized on the division Congressional politics created. I don’t for a minute believe he entered the race, thinking he could win. He entered doing what the Donald does. Brand the Trump name for a new hotel. Along the way, he stumbled onto something while relishing the roar of the crowd. He found a secret well of frustration and hate festering. He didn’t believe what he was saying, but the praise his fans lavished on him made Donald the man to beat. Like an evangelical minister, his fans or flock hanging on to his every word, the Donald became “the bully in the pulpit.”
“I’m going to “Make America Great Again!” I know how to do it. My steaks are great you know. My university makes people rich. My wines are the best in the world. And you know that my hotels are grand and beautiful. They’re great!” But he didn’t stop there. When terrorists attacked here and in Europe, he tapped into the fears of his flock, with a message to demonstrate his strength.
“The terrorists’ families need to be killed to teach them a lesson. And “let’s protect the border and stop the Mexicans from coming here. As President, I am going to build a wall and keep them out.” Playing on his strength as a businessman, he talked about dealing with China. “I know China. They love me. I know how to deal with them. They love and respect me. If I’m elected, I will change things. I can do it and you know I can, because I’m great.”
At every campaign stop, his audience grew. “He tells it like it is,” one Trump supporter told me. “He loves America!”
But what about his audience and the racism and xenophobia? Or the insults he’s hurled at women and our partners abroad?
Perhaps, that’s why Trump looked surprised last week after winning the Indiana primary. On the stage after Ted Cruz dropped out, realizing he was the presumptive nominee, he looked as surprised as a Miss Universe finalist who learned she won. Now on to the general election, his focus is on Hillary. How will this go?
To attack him, you are either stupid or ignoring the Beware of Dog signs. Ask the GOP candidates he battled for months. When attacked, he pounces like a viscous dog biting an intruder. And then he gets opportunities to bite some more. Which brings me to the elephant in the equation.
The Media? They love him!
Think I’m wrong? What about the $2 billion gift of free air time they have given him? He hasn’t had to spend money on his own ads. Talk about in-kind support!
Ross Perot the last well known corporate presidential candidate in 1992 and 96 built a self-funded grassroots movement. Spent millions of his own money for thirty minute time slots. What would he have done if he had been given free air time? I want to know, in fact, I’m all ears! Because of the media’s free air time, he hasn’t had to tell us where he stands.
The press doesn’t well press him on issues because they don’t want to lose him. So they don’t dig deeper for answers. They let him call into morning television shows, instead of requiring him as has long been the policy, to appear live in their studio. Fearful that if they hold him to the rules, he will bolt for another network waiting to scoop him up. A network’s gift to Trump is rewarded by a boost in ratings. There is money made selling ad time to companies during those time slots. Hosts instead of being journalists, give him a pass. The press now, like a cable network producing a reality television program can compete with this model with Game of Thrones and House of Cards. Their star? Donald Trump.
What’s sad is, he isn’t great. Mediocre at best. Crazy toupee, orange skin and small hands. But it’s hard not to watch. Because, we never know what outlandish or surprising thing he may say. The truth is, he does well on his own. Fired from his own show, The Apprentice, for insensitive remarks about Mexicans, you would think he would lose, not gain followers.
But this past week, social media was ablaze with a post that read, “Happy Cinco de Mayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” Which begs me to want to ask Trump, “How Low Can You Go?”
That’s a question journalists should be asking! How are your posts, rants and tone presidential? He riles up communities, the candidates and GOP establishment. His rallies further divide our country. It brings to mind, Abraham Lincoln’s 1958 quote about slavery.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”
Lincoln was speaking about freedom for the slave, as the country was split, just like it is today. The issues a president faces, like Lincoln did during the Civil War, are huge. Today, it’s Women and equal pay, Hispanics and immigration, Muslims and citizenship, Blacks and so many things. Then like now, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But America is about freedom and that comes with great responsibility.
Freedom of speech, fuels division. Freedom of the press fuels Congressional division, so they all make more money. Who suffers? The people! Division was planted centuries ago in an ongoing debate about slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights and the list goes on. It requires hard debates to bridge the divide and shock the human consciousness.
We the People” are as entitled as Trump to lead these conversations. More than he, we want to tackle the ugly divisions. But here’s the brutal truth.
The slavery debate never ended. Just took on a different language. Don’t believe me? What do you think “Make America Great Again” or remember “Take America Back” means?
But before defining that, let’s look at how Blacks too are partly to blame. Go into a Black neighborhood and ask a child, who built the US Capitol, or the White House? Ask who significantly contributed to America’s economy through free labor?
How many would answer, slaves? I’m guessing, not many if any at all. Because the slave’s story has been replaced with sixties civil rights’ victories. During President Obama’s presidency, commemorative fifty year anniversary ceremonies have highlighted the March on Washington and the Selma March. Where were the 150th anniversary commemorations of the end of slavery!
For arguments sake, if there was no meaning in commemorating slavery, then why did so many Whites and Blacks rejoice that Harriett Tubman’s image will soon appear on the $20 bill? Because she embodies the story of triumph over slavery. She represents the strength, courage and conviction of women in America.
A former slave, she made nineteen dangerous trips from the North to the South freeing hundreds of slaves including her parents. Blacks and Whites provided safe haven to her passengers on what was called the Underground Railroad. Those assisting her, knew if they were caught, it would mean certain death. Her triumphant story and theirs will be told as the days go forward.
But while this is a great achievement, there are stories of tragedy that also deserve to be told. Slaves murdered, beaten, whipped and raped. Families ripped apart as mothers, fathers and their children were separated and sold to other plantations some near, others far away. In some cases, never to see one another again. Can you imagine what that was like? Men treated like stallions, bred to breed, and work the fields. Some slaves, both men and women escaped and bought their freedom. Then spent a lifetime trying to find their loved ones. Others born free were kidnapped and sold into slavery. I’ve heard stories in my family that would make you cry.
We cannot change the past, but the history of slavery is in front of us every day. It’s taken on a different form. Mass incarceration and free labor in the prison system. Police officers killing unarmed citizens who don’t obey them is like the overseer and master killing or maiming the slave. Single parent homes with children, who have different fathers, are like the woman who was used to produce slave after slave. Sometimes bearing a light skinned child everyone knew was the master’s child. The stories told in rap music has replaced the Negro spirituals, both telling the story of oppression. And, men and women working for a wage so low it strips one of their dignity.
Slave history provides valuable lessons to create a roadmap forward. We can no longer afford to sweep it under a rug. It must be prominently displayed and discussed like the wealthy do with a valuable piece of art. Show it to people in a room for everyone to see, study and understand. It is valuable and there to educate and motivate us. If we don’t, we are doomed to repeat the problems of our past.
Our Jewish sisters and brothers teach us to never forget the Holocaust. It is part of a horrible piece of human history. By teaching us, they ensure that it never happens again! We must do the same with the stories of slavery. Even with the struggle for women’s rights, immigration, minimum wage, the right to vote, marriage equality and other American injustices.
That brings me to Trump’s mostly White audiences. At his campaign rallies, they appear eager to board the over-ground express train called “Make America Great Again.” They beat up people who protest Trump. That train looks bumpy. I have news! America is great, because we have overcome slavery, voting injustices, the right to marry whoever you want and health care for all.
But, we haven’t ensured that poor White, Black, Latino and other communities move out of the “abyss of poverty” into the middle class. And the middle class into the upper middle class, and so on. The global and domestic issues confronting us aren’t racial, they are economic! We shouldn’t be against each other! We should be working together like Harriet Tubman and the conductors of the Underground Railroad. Not like those, who fought to keep Blacks in slavery and sought out to murder anyone who was a part of the Underground Railroad!
I will shout, yell and scream as loud as I can to Trump supporters calling themselves the “silent majority.” America was not great for your ancestors. They lived in fear. That’s why they created legislation to protect themselves and used the Bible to allay their concerns for slavery and segregation. America was not great then. It is great now, because we overcame those oppressive laws and appealed to the conscious of America. After overcoming decades and centuries of backward thinking, you think we want to go back to that? The only thing that is silent in your majority is your lack of courage to tell us, that’s what you want to go back to. I dare you!
Because you are not the majority. You are in the minority. Today, millions of Blacks, Latinos, Whites and other communities know one another better. We are the fabric of America! Slavery still exists, unfortunately for poor Whites, Blacks and Latinos. We don’t call it that. But working for and below the minimum wage is like working for nothing. That is slavery. Some of you embrace Trump who has made money on the backs of many like them, here and abroad!
Now you rejoice when he says build a wall. Then he posts a photo eating a taco salad for Cinco de Mayo! That’s an insult to our Mexican brothers and sisters. It is an insult to our Mexican neighbors and their rich history. We damaged their economy and continue to with unfair trade agreements. That’s why they risk their lives to come to America. There is no economy for them to make money. It’s why they send money home to their families. They don’t cross the border, America crossed them!
That term “Make America Great Again” is offensive to all of us! The more I study American history, my understanding of a better way forward is strengthened when I see how backward the past was.
The living history I received from my parents and grandparents who lived through segregation is vivid and graphic. COLORED and WHITES ONLY signs! My Uncle Lawry and my grandmother’s sister Aunt Emma’s house burned more than once in segregated Richmond, Virginia by the KKK. I could go on, but this blog is long enough. My living connection to slavery is alive as I still have conversations with my 97 year old aunt whose grandparents were slaves.
I have my story and you have yours. Our freedom comes with a responsibility to have difficult conversations. That requires talking to not at each other.
That’s why I applaud Speaker Ryan, and challenge the media to dig deeper. Get into what Trump means when he says “Make America Great Again. Stop giving him a free ride! Be responsible stewards of the press. Stop changing the rules for him. If you are going to interview him, make him come to your studios. Let us see his face. And make sure someone isn’t handing him notes and coaching him on what to say.
Hold him to the highest standard. He is running for President of the United States and leader of the free world! If he wants to do the morning news shows, make him get up early, brush the hair, fix the toupee, lotion the hands and spray on the tan.
Midday, he can tape his campaign ads, pay you and we will watch. And please, make him tell us how he is going to “Make America Great Again!” Challenge him to make his ads and pitch convince a wide demographic to vote for him. Will he talk about China, making America great again and building a wall in those ads, or will he delve into policy?
When you have him on, ask him tough questions on his marriages. How he treats women and how his Presidency will be good for women. Make him explain foreign policy. And please, get him to talk about how a Trump presidency will help poor Whites, Blacks and Latinos find clearer pathways to economic opportunity that leads to prosperity.
If he wants to lead this country, he must answer how he will unite us. How will he make education a priority for communities?
The future of America is inextricably linked to one another’s success. History shows, we are better working together. Trump, where is your plan to address this? The one offering how a Trump presidency will invest in our best commodity, human capital. Our sorted past, just like the political parties internal division keep us from progress. God made us in nations and tribes to get to know one another. Conflict arises, when we don’t know one another. How will your presidency help us get to know one another better? Because, we need a President that helps us get there.
Speaker Ryan, Presidents Bush 41 and 43, Senator Lindsey Graham and many others, thank you for refusing to endorse the party’s presumptive nominee. At least for now.
Trump like Jon Snow keeps focusing on a wall. That is a wall of division. Let us not forget, Trump like Snow jumped a wall. Snow the bastard son, jumped the wall and found a place of acceptance. Trump jumped from the Democratic Party to the Republican. Why? Like Snow, Trump has found acceptance at least from his flock that have him as the presumptive nominee. But he is still not has not found that acceptance from the leaders of the party.
As a Republican, if the election were today, I could not vote for Trump. The truth is, our nation is better when we have two strong political parties that put the best candidates forward. Right now, we don’t have that.
Mr. Speaker, your decision inspired this writing. I didn’t expect it to go this long. But like a season of House of Cards, it finds me following you like watching Frank Underwood, wondering, what’s your next move?
Now, is not the time to build bridges with Trump! It is time to voice our concern and opposition to his impeding nomination. Time to raise the volume on the party, and make some noise. Here’s to hoping it gets darker. Because, it’s always darkest before the dawn.
Paul Ryan Say He Is ‘Not Ready’ to Endorse Donald Trump https://www.google.com/amp/mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/06/us/politics/paul-ryan-donald-trump.amp.html?client=safari#
About the author:
Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR), founder of Party Politics US and Associate Producer on The Framing of OJ Simpson. Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Atiba Madyun on Facebook.