This is the second of two guest posts in advance of Louisiana’s presidential primary election day this Saturday. Click here for the first one focused on Bernie Sanders. Thanks for reading!
A few years ago, North Korea’s leadership took to name calling when they weren’t getting their way. They attacked Hillary Clinton as “by no means intelligent” and a “funny lady.” They mocked that “Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl, and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.” In that bygone era, it was considered rude for a leader to resort to this type of schoolyard bullying (even the volatile dictator of North Korea). How quickly things have changed.
A few weeks ago, Donald Trump praised the dictator of North Korea, saying, “You got to give him credit. How many young guys – he was like 26 or 25 when his father died – take over these tough generals and it’s pretty amazing when you think of it … he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle; he wiped out this one, that one. This guy doesn’t play games.” Kim Jong-un, a dictator after Donald Trump’s own heart.
A few hours ago, Donald Trump essentially became the Republican nominee with seven victories on Super Tuesday. Thus far, fourteen of the fifteen states have had record turnout by Republican primary voters. Now this is not just possibility, but our reality: in 250 days, the bully billionaire who venerates foreign dictators from Putin to Mussolini could be elected President of the United States, and the nastiness of schoolyard torments would replace the dignity of presidential leadership.
Let’s take a moment and really comprehend what has just transpired.
He has ridiculed Mexicans (saying, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”) and called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims visiting the United States – all 1.6 billion people, investors, scientists, and students included.
He has refused to condemn the KKK, claiming, “I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”
He declared last July that he has never asked for forgiveness from God (explaining, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there … I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”) and then proclaimed his righteousness again last month (saying, “I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad.”)
Christian leaders from around the world have denounced this rhetoric. Pope Francis said, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.” Evangelical pastor Max Lucado wrote, “If a public personality calls on Christ one day and calls someone a ‘bimbo’ the next, is something not awry? And to do so, not once, but repeatedly, unrepentantly and unapologetically? We stand against bullying in schools. Shouldn’t we do the same in presidential politics?” And the world’s largest Christian news outlet, which had never before taken a position on a political candidate, made an exception: “Trump is a misogynist and philanderer. He demeans women and minorities. His preferred forms of communication are insults, obscenities and untruths.”
Those who never could have imagined this victory – and that includes political pundits of all stripes and most leaders in Trump’s own political party – have failed to realize his keen understanding of the electorate. People feel disempowered, disenfranchised, and derided. They agree with Trump when he says, “Sadly, the American dream is dead,” and they believe him when he says, “But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.” They’re prioritizing might before morals. They’re looking up to the bully, because in him, they see strength.
But there is one leader who is even stronger, and that is Hillary Clinton.
She will counter Trump’s angry flare-ups with love, kindness, and the other fruits of the spirit – just as she did from the pulpits of churches in Memphis last weekend. His endless us-versus-them attacks will be met with the wisdom that it takes us all – because, indeed, it takes a village. She’ll be a mighty contrast to his unrepentant wayswith her daily grace notes – as she has done throughout her life.
She will stand up for the less fortunate, as she has done since the start of her career. She didn’t choose to make money in some high-powered Manhattan law firm; instead, she worked in legal clinics representing disenfranchised people and started one of Arkansas’s first child advocacy groups.
She will speak up for those who cannot, and she’ll do so boldly, even when it’s uncomfortable. There are many examples of this, including her historic visit to Beijing as First Lady when she confronted Chinese policies, saying, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
And she will speak out against not only Donald Trump, but to all of the power-hungry dictators he admires around the world, just as she did when she was Secretary of State. As she said emphatically last night, “America never stopped being great. We have to make America whole. We have to fill in what has been hollowed out. We have to make strong the broken places, restitch the bonds of trust and respect across our country.”
From the primary here in Louisiana this Saturday, to Election Day eight months from now, our choice could not be more clear. Hillary Clinton has dared to stand up for the less fortunate, speak up for what she believes in, and stand up for the common good. She has faced down bullies like Donald Trump time and again, she won then, and she will once more.
Rob Lalka served in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Office of Global Partnerships and was on her policy planning staff. He lives in New Orleans. Follow him @RobLalka.