A few months ago, I had a conspiracy theory about Donald Trump. I thought the only reason Trump was on the Republican ticket was to pave the way for Jeb Bush. Give this Trump bloke a platform, let him demonise anyone who isn't white, rich, straight, or male and, lo and behold, little Jeb Bush is running for President. I thought Trump volunteered his ignorance, at the behest of a shadowy cabal of Slytherinesque Republicans, so Bush could fight the good ol' fight against those 'American-hating' Democrats. My conspiracy theory was wrong. Trump isn't running simply to make Bush seem palatable. Trump is serious. He wants to win.
The Don started his campaign in typical fashion: he blamed Mexicans for everything that's wrong with everything. And, of course, he employed a little self-promotion, suggesting: 'I will build a great wall - and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.' I didn't believe him - barely anyone did - but it was all pretty hilarious. Trump's mental, we thought. Trump won't get anywhere near power, we thought. It was all ostensibly harmless and we had a little giggle.
Then it became less funny. Trump said Mexicans are 'bringing in drugs, they're bringing in crime, they're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people'. It was getting weird. Trump was like a drunk Uncle who says something radically offensive at a reunion. The family awkwardly laugh because the Uncle is just silly and old-fashioned. It's all okay because the Uncle is harmless.
There was, however, a problem. Trump continued to gain popularity. A drunk, offensive Uncle is easy to ignore until someone offers a large platform and folks start cheering. And when that platform is the American public and those folks cheering represent one of the two largest political parties in America, it becomes a problem.
Trump assumedly realised it wasn't his in-depth analysis of geopolitical affairs or his intellectual criticisms of macroeconomic theory that were responsible for his popularity. It was rather his so-called 'straight-talking' - a synonym for casually causing offence. Trump was galvanised. His rants increased and, strangely, so did his popularity.
Trump's latest proposal calls for a complete ban on Muslims entering the US. The Uncle has had too much to drink and people are offended. Trump has tactlessly decided to exploit a very real fear of extremism to spread Islamophobia. At a moment when folks are genuinely fearful, Trump is using that fear to demonise Muslims and gain popularity. It is hateful and divisive. It is completely devoid of any basic semblance of reality. Somehow, folks are still listening to Trump's nonsense. More and more right-wingers are seemingly cheering. Trump is currently the favourite to win the Republican candidacy. There is a very real chance he will run for President.
All of a sudden, the once-harmless drunk Uncle is causing harm to honest people. He continues to fan the flames of xenophobia. He is exploiting real fears to demonise an entire religion. The Uncle has a marching band, and banners, and coverage on major television programmes. World leaders are talking about the drunk, offensive Uncle. The Uncle is in a position of power. No one at the reunion is laughing.
Trump's rhetoric is increasingly dangerous and divisive. Trump might claim he is simply 'telling it how it is.' That's not true. He is telling it how he sees it, and how he sees it, is not how it is. Trump is harming decent people through some warped sense of reality. And his platform keeps growing. We can't continue to laugh awkwardly. It is time to take the drunk, offensive Uncle to bed.