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Taking Responsibility for Donald Trump

In recent weeks, I’ve noticed an uptick in Republicans and conservatives casting blame away from their own party and directing it to the left: Democrats, liberals. Somehow, compared to the other GOP candidates, Donald Trump’s current fame and relative popularity are thanks to the left and even President Barack Obama himself.

Trump is being painted as an extremist of the Republican Party while the other candidates are being praised as reasonable moderates. This forced distancing and detachment from Trump via scapegoat is certainly something. To be sure, his proposals are extreme: banning Muslims from entering the United States and mandating the death penalty for those who kill police officers, just to name the latest.

Marco Rubio, who has been portrayed as a moderate candidate during this election cycle, has now said he wants to undo Obama’s LGBT protections and appoint judges to roll back same-sex marriage.

Ted Cruz takes a no-exception stance regarding abortion: it should not be allowed even in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is at risk (Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio all hold the same or identical positions).

Ted Cruz believes climate change is not supported by evidence. Ted Cruz said the “overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats” without giving a source. Chris Christie made the brave choice to declare that refugees under the age of 5 should not be allowed in the United States. Ben Carson said the Holocaust could have been prevented if only Jews had guns. Jeb Bush wants refugees to prove they’re Christian. When talking about gun violence, Jeb Bush brushed it off by saying “stuff happens.” Rick Santorum defended the NSA’s data-collection. Ted Cruz thinks states should ignore the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

The Islamophobia and bigotry isn’t new. It’s less about Trump and more about the overall extremist views and beliefs within right-wing politics. It’s been exacerbated and encouraged by conservative media pundits and talking heads for a long time. Ann Coulter is a prime example: one, two.

To cast the blame entirely on Democrats or liberals is to not take responsibility for the environment of fear and hatred fostered for many years. That environment has been normalized by these presidential hopefuls who are brought in to share what they think or believe on multiple media outlets. Republicans and conservatives should take some responsibility for their political problems instead of deflecting. The left doesn’t lack politics that are worth criticizing, but to suggest Trump (or what Trump represents) is somehow the responsibility of the left is quite the reach.

Edit [April 21, 2016]: As the election season continues, I’ve thought about this post on and off since originally publishing it, and I think its conclusion is somewhat wrong, or at least not articulated well. My point, I think, was this: Trump is an embodiment of a culture that has developed in right-wing politics. What I had noticed was an attempt by elites on the right to distance themselves from what Trump represents, to suggest that he was just some conspiratorial product of President Obama and the left. To a point, this is absurd and just an attempt by right-wing elites to ignore certain realities on their end of the political spectrum. But I think there is some truth in the assertion that the left has contributed to Trump’s rise–not by conspiracy, but by what could be summed up as smugness on the left. I choose that word because this article, “The smug style in American liberalism” by Emmett Rensin, seems to articulate what I’ve thought about for a few months now. The piece didn’t need to be ~8,000 words and there are legitimate critiques to be made of it, but the premise is solid. Worth the read.