Donald Trump has done it again. In his most recent speech he made two suggestions that won’t go over well with what, at this point, should be called the “rational demographic”:
1. Shut out all Muslims trying to enter the US.
2. Shut down the Internet with the help of “Bill Gates and a lot of different people”.
Trump has by now clearly made the transition from entertainer to dangerous agitator. Not only are his suggestions completely unworkable, they also fit well into the standard definition of demagoguery.
According to Merriam-Webster’s standard dictionary, a demagogue is
“a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power”.
Let’s take a quick look at his idea of shutting out all Muslims and see how well it fits within the definition:
“a leader” – Check. OK. He might not meet your definition of a leader. But lead in the polls he does.
“who makes use of popular prejudices”- Check. Trump plays to the fears of Americans regarding Muslims and frequently make the claim that they are dangerous. Since 9/11 Islamist extremists killed 45 people in the US. In the same time period 48 people were killed by right wing domestic terrorists.
“and false claims” – Check.
Trump says that “large segments” of the “Muslim population” hate the United States according to a Pew poll. This statement ommits the fsact that the same poll found that Muslims across the globe are overwhelmingly opposed to the Islamic State. A second poll Trump cites and that alleges that 25% of the Muslim population agree that violence should be used against Americans was conducted by the Centre for Security Policy. The Centre is run by Frank Gaffney, who is identified as an anti-Muslim extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Washington Post calls the survey “a very shoddy poll”, that breaks several rules of polling.
“and promises:”- Check. According to experts Trump’s Muslim entry ban is ‘ridiculous,’ ‘impossible,’ and ‘blatantly unconstitutional’
“in order to gain power: “Well, the guy is running for the nomination…
We’re not going to get into the whole idea of shutting down the Internet with the help of Bill Gates, that one is too ridiculous even for us.
— NotBuffytheVMPslayer (@NotBUFFY_VS) December 8, 2015
And here is how the other contenders for the US presidency reacted to Trump’s plan:
Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and Democratic candidate for president:
“This is reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive. @realDonaldTrump, you don’t get it. This makes us less safe.”
Marco Rubio: Florida senator and Republican candidate for president:
“I disagree with Donald Trump's latest proposal. His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.”
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and Republican candidate for president:
“Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”
Ted Cruz, Texas senator and Republican candidate for president:
“Well, that is not my policy. I’ve introduced legislation in the Senate that would put in place a three-year moratorium on refugees coming from countries where ISIS or al-Qaida control a substantial amount of territory. And the reason is that’s where the threat is coming from.”
Chris Christie, New Jersey governor and Republican candidate for president:
“There are folks in this race who don’t care about what the law says because they’re used to being able to just fire people indiscriminately on television. So, they don’t have to worry about what laws say or not say.”
Ben Carson, Republican candidate for president:
“Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries. I do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”
Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator and Democratic candidate for president:
“Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin. Now, Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.”
Carly Fiorina, former HP executive and Republican candidate for president:
“Trump’s overreaction is as dangerous as President Obama’s under-reaction.”
GOP establishment figures also weighed in:
Dick Cheney, former vice president:
I think this whole notion that we can just say no more Muslims, and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in. Religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from. … It’s a mistaken notion.
Sen. John McCain (Republican):
“I thought long ago that things he said would hurt his prospects, and he continues to go up.”