Donald Trump, the blustering billionaire who made a name for himself by proclaiming President Obama as a foreign born citizen, entered the Republican presidential nomination race with a thunder. He first lambasted illegal immigrants, particularly Mexicans, whom he called murderers and rapists, and went on to promise that when elected president, he would build a wall between the US and Mexico (that too at Mexico's cost) to stop illegal crossing. He further promised that he would deport all illegal immigrants (estimated at 11 million) back to Mexico or wherever they came from. Most people were taken aback at this preposterous suggestion, and all other Presidential candidates wondered about the sanity of his proposal. But not his diehard supporters, who created a coalition to push Donald Trump to the top of the Republican nomination race, a position he retains even after coming up with salvos targeting one community after another.
Before the dust could settle on the Mexican immigration controversy, Trump launched his next salvo, this time on the Muslims. The opportunity was given to him by the tragic incident in Paris in November, when militants claiming loyalty to the Islamic State of Syria (ISIS) killed 130 people. He first demanded that the US not allow immigrants from Syria for fear that some of them might be terrorists (calling them the Trojan Horse), but he later expanded it to say that Muslims in the US also needed to be kept under surveillance and mosques suspected of fomenting radicalism should be closed. Trump kept on his bluster against Muslims, even though the other Republican presidential candidates thoroughly disapproved of these suggestions, and the Muslims in US expressed their protests. He concocted a story of Muslims cheering the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, even though he never produced any evidence in support, and other politicians and journalists flatly denied such happenings. Donald Trump remained defiant and continued to stand by his outrageous comments that were denounced by the media as racist and bigoted. He was undaunted because his poll numbers derived from the frequently conducted surveys of the Republican leaning voters kept him at the top of the presidential nomination seekers. To boot, his supporters cheered and rallied behind him in gatherings of the diehard faithfuls every time he launched his choice invectives against the imagined enemy.
Emboldened by his false popularity in the sample polls (at 30 percent, these represent only one third of all Republican voters), Trump launched his most virulent attack on the Muslims this week. He not only suggested a ban on travels to the US by Muslims from abroad, he went on to suggest that the ban would apply also to travels by Muslims outside the US. This, he claimed, would be a way to prevent future terrorist attacks. When pressed about the legality and constitutionality of such a discriminatory act, Trump arrogantly stuck to his demand claiming that it would be a temporary measure until a more permanent fix to containing terrorism in the country can be devised.
Trump's latest onslaught on the Muslims in general and Muslims in America has not only shocked most Americans, but has also greatly annoyed the Republican establishment. His outlandish statements and outrageous rhetoric are not just fear- mongering but also illegal and unconstitutional. By relying on a segment of paranoid and politically disenchanted Republican voters who are driving his poll numbers, Trump appears to have lost touch with reality. He is riding on a wave of fear of immigration, terrorism, and more and more diverse United States than some of his supporters would like to see. In his blind faith in transient poll numbers and ignorance of history, he has disregarded the contributions that immigrants, including Muslims, made to make this country great. He has ignored, either deliberately or through lack of knowledge, that US became a great power not by exclusion but by inclusion, and that its future strength lies in combating terrorism by facing it with unity and not by division.
The rabble rousing and hate mongering rhetoric that Trump is using will not help him in his ultimate quest for US presidency. The United States of America and the majority of the people of this great country do not have a penchant for his narrow minded views of the US or of the world. He can trounce a community or some people because his supporters are giving him a platform, but he cannot trounce either the Constitution or the moral and political values of this country. Trump is surfing on a wave that will surely break soon against the vast shore of values of liberty, equality, and religious tolerance that this country stands for. This country will never be the America that Donald Trump wants to turn it into.
The writer is a political commentator and analyst.