Even if he wins a second term, Donald Trump’s words this past week will be part of his legacy. Dripping with the verbal maturity of a second grade bully taunting those he deems weaker than himself, Trump stepped out this week as, if not an outright racist, than the shield of racist America.
Looking past the truly repugnant statements Trump has made, he is inviting a thought that seems to rarely enter the conservative mindset: America’s origin centers on racism. By questioning Jefferson and Washington’s worth since they were slave owners, Trump is knowingly or unknowingly tying them directly to a system of oppression that led to a war nearly a century after their deaths.
If in fact Mr. Trump is doing this knowingly, he is demonstrating a level of historical perspective that many would not grant him. By connecting the cause and effect dots of slavery through decades of American history, Mr. Trump is showing he understands how the impact of decisions made now echo through time.
Want proof? What happened to all the tough talk on North Korea? What about the total troop pullout in Afghanistan? What about the new friendship with Russia? All of these spectacles worthy of reality show prime time came and went in Mr. Trump’s mind. He has seemingly backed away from antagonizing North Korea for obvious reasons, has committed to more troops in Afghanistan to stave off total collapse, and imposed sanctions on Russia because of pressure at home. He can change his mind.
The caveat with that line of thinking is two-fold: first, Trump has been more wont to change his mind regarding international issues. It has only been when his hand has been forced that he has changed his approach domestically. The Muslim ban, healthcare, and White supremacy come to mind here. Secondly, these international issues had champions behind them. Mr. Trump’s generals most certainly influenced his thinking on both North Korea and Afghanistan, and key members of congress and his inner-circle likely influenced Russian sanctions.
Running on that line of thought, it seems Mr. Trump’s fixation on Muslims in America could be influenced by two things: 1) A tie to an international issue, more than likely something tied to security (“Terror groups are recruiting because of Trump’s vitriol on Muslims”), and 2) A champion Trump respects. This champion would not need to be a friend of Muslims per se (unlikely in this White House), but could be a champion of the first item (security). The security angle seems plausible, given Trump’s propensity for generals. If Trump can see through these champions that the United States is safer by NOT persecuting Muslim residents and citizens, he loses his primary argument for conducting such persecution. Without security to back up bigotry, Trump would be left with either staying the course- likely for political reasons- or dialing back his bitter words towards minorities.
Okay, so maybe he back tracks on being a total Muslim Mysophite, but how does that translate into not being an Islamophobe anymore? Simple: perspective. Speaking on how Washington has a connection to men who not only had slaves, but fought in an insurrection to keep them, is a great peep show into the historical perspective Trump dwells on. It shows he sees how legacies- even the brightest- can be tarnished. He also can see how something acceptable at the time is later seen as a black spot on a otherwise sparkling record. Obsessive with good media coverage and admiring views, black spots – even justifiable ones- are not something Trump is thrilled with.
Trump is not a stupid man, but he does seem to be a vain, opportunistic one. Often bending and bouncing with the times, Trump is not one to want to be spoken ill of. Without the guise of security, and the desire for a legacy not drowned in fear, Trump may one day be a non-Islamophobe.