Donald Trump: The Great Unifier?

February 24th, 2016

The Book of Revelation is shrouded in apocalyptic language that’s often difficult to understand, yet ripe for the cinematic picking should anyone — say Nicolas Cage — desperately need to make a movie — any movie — in order to pay off a steep tax bill.

For the modern reader, all the talk about seven horned lambs with bowls full of wrath makes Revelation seem like a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma only Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye are capable deciphering. But as colorful as their imagination might be, the "Left Behind" writers would have a hard time conjuring up an apocalyptic scenario as terrifying as a Donald Trump presidency. Even a mere nomination would almost certainly usher in at least one Horseman of the Apocalypse, to say nothing of being a complete catastrophe for the Republican Party. And a Trump presidency? It would be an unmitigated disaster not only for the nation, but the entire world, what with the sun becoming black as sackcloth and the moon turning to blood.

Ok, so maybe there’s just a smidge of hyperbole in my prognostication. But to date, The Donald has done little to convince anyone other than his followers that a Trump presidency would be anything other than a total train wreck.

However (and I say this with great hesitancy because even with just three primary victories to his name so far, the support for Trump has revealed the dark underbelly of our citizenry), there is at least one good thing that could maybe, possibly come from Donald Trump’s run for president.

I know, I know. It sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.

I realize this is anecdotal, but I’ve never met nor do I personally know of anyone who actually supports Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. I mean, I know his supporters obviously exist. He wouldn’t have won a primary without them. And though I don’t know any of them personally, I have seen them on TV and have had a smattering of encounters with them online. But in spite of what seems like a mountain of support, polls show that while he unquestionably leads the pack, there are many, many more Republicans who have no interest in supporting Donald Trump for president.

Obviously, it’s not news that a political party is split on who its constituents want as the nominee of their party. This sort of thing happens every year and will continue to happen as long as democracy exists. But Donald Trump has divided his party like few in American political history. It’s not just that some Republicans would prefer a different candidate. No, there’s a visceral disdain for the ideology and policies Trump espouses — to say nothing of the man himself. In years past and regardless of party, constituents have ultimately rallied around the party nominee even if their favored candidate didn’t win the nomination. But this year, there has already been an avalanche of think pieces from proud and committed conservatives explaining why they can’t bring themselves to ever support Trump and why their fellow conservatives — particularly their fellow Christian conservatives — shouldn't either.

But for all the chaos of the past few months, there is at least the potential for a silver lining — a profoundly ironic silver lining — to emerge from the unfolding Trumpocalypse.

Look at the way we talk past and caricature one another today: conservatives are all dumb, racist bigots and liberals are all godless abortion fanatics who hate America. Partisan political websites are the worst about this sort of thing, but the truth is most of us lump the other side together as if they were nothing more than a mindless horde of evil zombies incapable of a diversity of opinion, complex thought, or even basic human decency. Of course there are some conservatives and some liberals for whom such sweeping condemnations are accurate, but the truth is the vast majority of people on the other side of the aisle — and pew — are nothing like their caricature and are, in fact, good and decent people with ideas we may actually agree with if we just took the time to hear them out.

What the Trumpocalypse has revealed is not only deep division in the Republican Party, but an ever-present reality too many of us refuse to acknowledge; namely that the opposition, whoever they may be, is not a monolithic and altogether evil group.

Perhaps in years past we could get away with ignoring dissent in the opposing side by writing off those who contradict the caricature as nothing more than a small minority, an exception that proves the rule. But the radical internal opposition to Trump cannot be ignored. It is (or at least should be if you’re paying any attention) abundantly clear that many conservatives want nothing to do with Trump even if he does end up being his party’s nominee. As such, it simply won’t do to lob criticism of Trump on every single conservative in America as if they are all on board with every hateful and vulgar thing he says. The Republican Party may indeed bear some of the blame for Trump’s rise to prominence, but the vehemence of his conservative detractors should stand as a stark reminder to liberals that “they’re not all like that.” There is diversity and even decency on the other side of the aisle even if our dogmatism makes it painful for us to admit such a thing.

And, of course, conservatives face the same challenge as well. Their desire to avoid being lumped together with the Trump army should compel conservatives to extend the same “they’re not all like that” benefit of the doubt to their liberal opponents that they demand for themselves.

I realize this may be asking a lot from both sides, but if it did happen, it is there that we would find the one good thing that could maybe, possibly come from Donald Trump running for president: the addition of much-needed nuance, charity and grace to our political (and religious) dialogue.

I admit it’s not much, but in a land as deeply divided as ours, it could be an important baby step toward healthy dialogue if we could simply get to know each other and stop talking past the other side in broad sweeping categories that reduce our opponents to nothing more than immoral dullards.

Who knows? If we can open up our hearts and minds to the possibility that there really are good and decent people on the other side of the aisle — and pew — we might even find some common ground to build upon for a better future…together.

All thanks to Donald Trump.

More or less.

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