Donald Trump has unleashed an erratic stream of comments on the campaign trail nearly a month after accepting the Republican nomination for president. Trump seems completely unable to stay on message in what has been an unpredictable campaign season due to his willingness to engage in antics like suggesting that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated and that Barack Obama is the “founder of ISIS.”
In a speech to supporters on Tuesday, after noting that Clinton wishes to “abolish the Second Amendment” (which is false), he said there was nothing that anyone could do about that if Hillary is elected, except for perhaps Second Amendment supporters (i.e. gun rights advocates).
On Wednesday, while dealing with media and blowback from Republican party elite over his Second Amendment allusions, Trump yelled to a crowd that Obama was the founder of ISIS. Now, a reasonable discussion could happen concerning the role President Obama’s foreign policy on Syria and Iraq has played in both strengthening and destroying ISIS, as well as Clinton’s role in Middle East policy-making as Secretary of State. But Trump’s outlandish claims that Obama had a founding role in creating ISIS shuts down all possibilities for fair critique.
It is important to remember however, that Trump’s words actually resonate with a swath of the nation, that some truly believe the problematic and inaccurate statements he makes. Trump’s overtures to Clinton’s assassination reflect rhetoric at the GOP Convention last month and at Trump’s rallies, where supporters chant “Lock Her Up!” among other nastier comments, concerning Clinton’s email scandal and the deaths of Benghazi soldiers in Libya, which both occurred when she was Secretary of State, although she has been cleared of wrongdoing in these instances multiple times.
Further, Republican media outlets have been floating racialized, “un-American,” pro-terrorism accusations at President Obama ever since he was a candidate for president. The “birther” campaign against Obama was, in fact, led by Trump himself, but conservative media outlets have run away with the suggestion that the President was not born in the United States and continually suggests that he sympathizes with terrorism.
What is truly disheartening about Trump’s inane commentary, however, is that by catering to the conspiracy wing of his party, he and the Republicans have greatly diminished the discourse of this election and distracted from the real issues, from a real discussion on police brutality, on helping the poor, on providing a living wage, affordable college and healthcare for all people in the United States.
When Clinton is able to be the overwhelming favorite simply because she does not outrightly disparage the undocumented, African Americans, women, or the disabled as Trump does, she is not challenged to be a better candidate, to truly earn our votes or to push against the status quo. Trump’s distracting comments only require a quick Google search to refute, but likely, Trump’s erraticism, instead of the hard issues, is what Clinton will target throughout the campaign and in debates.
While Clinton and the media engages with Trump’s meaningless and offensive commentary, the rest of us are wishing that real conversations concerning our health, our safety, and our future could have a place on a national stage.