The image of an elephant was first used as a Republican symbol during the Civil War (when “seeing the elephant” was an expression used by soldiers to mean experiencing combat). It took hold as a GOP symbol when Thomas Nast, considered the father of the modern political cartoon, used it in an 1874 Harper’s Weekly cartoon. The image of an elephant has been embraced by Republicans ever since.
Today, in the wake of two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio (31 dead and 45 wounded) that same image — that idea and all it has come to represent as Trump continues blatant copyright infringement of its original values without judgement or damages — that IS the very elephant in the room which Republicans are now trying so hard not to see:
“They’re bringing drugs. ... They’re bringing crime. ... They’re rapists. They’re thugs.” “I think there’s blame on both sides.” “We’re not letting these people invade our country ... It is an invasion, you know that.” “But how do you stop these people?” (Someone in the crowd yells “shoot them” and Trump responds, “It’s only in the panhandle you can get away with that statement.” ... and the rally crowd errupts in cheers and laughter).
The list of insults Trump has directed toward minority groups and others is too large to catalog here. Those defamatory slurs have not gone unnoticed, but, it’s as if the public is “waiting to exhale” given the ratcheted-up turbulent news cycles.
Trump had a known reputation from the start for cheating in business, cheating in marriage and even cheating in golf. He was and still is a closet racist, and, he has always had a reputation for doing and saying stupid and cruel things, but somehow he is presiding over an inherited improving “good economy.” Until enough important people actually stand up to Trump, maybe blatant incompetence and transparent corruption is destined to become the “new normal” in our politics. After years of erosion in voter confidence, should we really be surprised?
It seems Republicans and even many Democrats are waiting for Godot to tell us that the emperor has no clothes! ... and what we should do about it!
Rather than challenging the president to abide by common rules of decency and prudent stewardship of their party and what it stands for, Republican leaders are looking frantically for rhetorical camouflage anywhere they can find it that will allow them to keep their heads in the sand until the primaries are over. They are content for the most part to be dependent on Fox News script creators, sycophant Trump speech writers and chaos-minded political advisers to provide the empty word-salads that Trump reads from teleprompters along with the globs of artificial dressing that passes as justifications for their inaction and distracts the public from elected officials’ responsibilities and culpabilities:
On racism the prompter reads: “The nation must condemn racism... I don’t have a racist bone in my body... He appointed a woman of Chinese descent in his cabinet — didn’t he ...?” Or, on violence the prompter suggests: “The proliferation of violent video games is the underlying cause of the surge in domestic violence ... It’s a mental health problem... Guns don’t kill people, people do ... It’s bad parenting”
This president has no regard for communities of color. Whether it’s the Puerto Rican community during and after the devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria, or the migrants and asylum seekers and their children from Central America, or the residents of “s**thole” countries like Haiti and African nations, or, even the many non-white communities and individual prominent achievers in America that he regularly dishonors in his vile tweets, there is no decent boundary, no established norm that Trump will not cross to achieve his misanthropic goals.
Philip Rucker, the White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post wrote: “After yet another mass slaying, the question surrounding the president is no longer whether he will respond as other presidents once did, but whether his words contributed to the carnage ... us against them language about immigrants has been a consistent and defining feature of his campaign — and now his presidency.”
His piece went on to quote from the El Paso shooter’s diatribe, portions of which, he notes, closely mirror Trump’s own rhetoric, including a warning about the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Rucker writes that “the author’s ideology is so aligned with the President’s that (the shooter) decided to conclude his screed by clarifying that his views predate Trump’s 2016 campaign.”
So, in his attempt to out-Trump Trump, the shooter not only admits his simpatico with Trump’s troubled id and his untempered instincts, he offers ample evidence — as if we needed it — that white supremacy ideology actually predates the Trump candidacy.
That part is not on Trump. It’s an indictment of those of us who refused either to acknowledge the cultural and institutional racism remaining in our country and in our hearts, or of those of us who knew and refused to look for ways to do something about it.
Look for questions. And don’t believe everything you think!
Dan Gomes is a resident of Schenevus. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star or CNHI.