Tag Archives: Muslims

Welcome to a World of Sociopaths

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I’m basically a Democrat. I have plenty of friends who are Republicans.  I often disagree with them, occasionally agree with them, and from time to time don’t want to even venture into a political discussion with them.  I’m not fan of our current president.  I have friends who love him. We will definitely disagree on how we feel about him, sometimes jokingly while sometimes with more intensity.  One thing we never do however, is physically hurt or attack each other.  Does that make us wonderful people? Absolutely not. It makes us normal people.  It makes us people who are not sociopaths. Unfortunately we live in a world crawling with sociopaths.  They can be Democrats, Republicans, black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, man, woman, citizen or immigrant. But make no mistake. Sociopaths are all over the globe, be it someone who drives a truck through crowds of people in Nice, blows himself up in a concert in Manchester, mows down women and babies on a Jerusalem street with a car, goes on a shooting rampage at a baseball practice for American Congressmen, or on a lesser but still significant level a comedian who holds up what looks like a severed head of the President of the United States.

I believe and understand that everyone wants to be part of something.  I realize that so many people in the world are in search of a movement.  That being said, even those who choose movements, even those movements I hate and find damaging or hateful, are not sociopaths for being what I perceive as stupid or misguided.  Do they give a platform or strength to the crazy person that feels it is OK to hurt or kill?  Frankly I say no, and here’s why.

I am a somewhat liberal Jewish Democrat who does not like Bernie Sanders at all.  It would not be totally abhorrent to me to blame him for what happened in Alexandria, Virginia since the shooter was a Sanders supporter. However, as much as I dislike Bernie, he is not the reason the shooter, James Hodgkinson, was crazy enough to go on a shooting rampage at a bi-partisan baseball practice with children present.  Somehow this man felt that he could do whatever he wanted to do no matter how vicious, hateful or violent it was. It’s one thing when dictators preach violence and murder against a segment of society, it’s something entirely different when a politician speaks angrily against policies. What happened was not Bernie Sanders fault.  But it is critically important to note that it also was not Donald Trump’s fault.  It’s society’s fault.

We are all very focused on the behavior of radical Islamic terrorists and for good reason. That being said, we need to make sure to pay close attention to our own house, because while we sit back and focus our concerns on other nations, we are a nation with it’s very own rising population of sociopaths, and until we find a way to stem this very dangerous tide, I fear more and more people will get hurt or killed.  My suggestion, and if President Trump follows through on this and has success this will be his legacy, is to appoint a Mental Health Czar. This would be a man or woman entrusted with understanding and dealing with the psychological issues facing so many people today.

Someone said to me earlier today that James Hodgkinson shot up the baseball field because he was mad that Trump won the election.  But that’s not the case. The reason he went on a shooting rampage against Republicans at a baseball practice is very simply because he was a sociopath.  He somehow felt his behavior was acceptable or justified. It’s very easy to blame the “other side” for all the bad that happens, and that is acceptable when it deals with policy, but when it deals with violence it’s time all of us normal people, the ones who don’t believe injuring or murdering people is acceptable behavior, remember this one very critical thing. We’re all on the same side.  When we start looking at it that way we may be on the way to saving the future of our very fragile society.

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Is ridiculing feelings like Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet? Not in my America

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We all know the saying, “As American as Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet”.  I always liked that saying, because although I’m not a car guy and Apple Pie isn’t my favorite thing in the world, at least those 3 things, I do like baseball a lot,  have the ability to contribute positively to people’s lives.  So if Apple Pie and Chevrolet are to be associated with things very American, that only stimulates and strengthens my patriotic impulse.  Unfortunately in the time passed since the election, it appears that a large segment of society thinks there is something else that is the American way, and that is the ridiculing of feelings.

I am white, I am Jewish, I am straight and I am male.  So in all fairness, as much as I genuinely am not pleased with the outcome of the election, the worst of Donald Trump’s campaign statements and his new administration’s potential upcoming policy agenda, at least on the surface won’t impact me directly.  So if I would speak constantly of ongoing sadness and despair, although I would have every right to feel it, I could see the rationale in calling me a cry baby.  But what about those, potentially at least, who feel they will be directly impacted?

The LGBT community has watched as the country has elected a ticket with a Vice President formerly in favor of using HIV funding for conversion therapy and once signed a bill to jail same sex couples in Indiana who applied for marriage licenses.  Are gay people whiners if they express concern and even fear?  Is the cast of Hamilton really harassing the Vice President elect as stated by the President-elect Donald Trump because they use their platform to first welcome him to their show and then call on him to be a public servant for all Americans? Are the feelings of people whose lives could get directly impacted by policy or attitude wrong for having feelings? Not in my America?

What about law-abiding, patriotic American Muslims.  And yes, for those of you on the right rolling your eyes and wondering how a proud Jewish man and proud Zionist could say such a thing, there are significantly more of those types of Muslims in the country than there are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.  Are they wrong for being scared?  Are they wrong for feeling fear of the backlash caused by comments by the President-elect  and his new National Security adviser during the campaign?  Are they wrong for feeling as though they are being made to feel less than welcome in what is also their America?  Is it OK to see them as a threat merely for being born into the religion they were born into?  Not in my America?

But no other group has been made to feel more deeply isolated and frightened by what has taken place during this election cycle than the Latino community.  Addressing those Mexicans who are murderers and rapists in a way that left it open to be interpreted as all Mexicans, rallying people behind the building of a wall between the US and Mexico, and most significantly garnishing support by proposing rounding up all undocumented aliens and deporting them, was all it took to create an atmosphere of fear and despair in much of Latino America.  This is about much more than Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.  This is also about how so much of the American public took to the rhetoric.  Blaming undocumented immigrants for your poor lot in life is at best a precursor to a dangerous racist society, at worst the creation of it.   So I ask you, were Latinos who were shaking and crying the day after the election crybabies and whiners?  Not in my America.

I have often said that you can dispute facts but you can not dispute feelings.  Someone is not wrong for how they feel.  Their feelings may be based in the perversion of fact, but questioning the legitimacy of feelings is as illogical as saying someone is wrong for liking Pizza or Star Trek.  People like what they like and feel what they feel.  Furthermore, when a large segment of society feels a certain way, especially when those feelings are based on things they have consistently heard for over a year and a half, who is anyone to ridicule those feelings?  Are people who have been the basis and so much of the foundation of Donald Trump’s success wrong for feeling targeted?  Not in my America.

Just as we should not ridicule the feelings of those decent people who chose Donald Trump because they found him to be the best choice moving forward, so too we should not tolerate the ridicule of the people who are not happy with the result.  Particularly those who feel their lives might very well be negatively impacted.  You might say that protesting will do nothing positive and may just make it harder to move forward.  I understand that viewpoint. Rioting and causing damage to property and loss of life should be met with harsh and immediate punishment.  Without question I get that.  But is ridiculing feelings as much a symbol of this great country as Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet? Not in my America.

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When Muslims save Jews

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An interesting thing happened today.  A predominantly Muslim country potentially saved the lives of many Jews.  Israelis no less.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Kosovo police thwarted an attack on Israel’s international soccer team reportedly planned by members of ISIS from Syria. This turn of events, one that causes a collective sigh of relief and for those who believe in a higher power a show of thanks to God up above, also has very relevant and majorly important significance in a country not directly involved.  That country being our very own United States of America.

Over the years I’ve been anything but moderate in my approach towards Islamic extremism.  I have no problem recognizing the danger of the aggressive and violent approach taken by too many elements in the Muslim world.  I have zero tolerance for those who are murderers in the name of a so-called cause and I recognize the vicious hatred and venom towards Israel from much of the leadership in the Muslim world. That being said, I also not only recognize, but believe wholeheartedly that the greatest majority of Muslims, regardless of how they actually feel toward Israel and the west, do not want any part in violence towards anyone and just want to live a peaceful and productive life.  In fact, I would go as far as saying that what took place in Kosovo is evidence to that fact.

Since the election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States, the status of Muslims in America has been very much in the forefront.  I get it. I honestly do.  I have often said that although most Muslims are not terrorists, the majority of terrorist attacks are conducted by Muslims.  The safety of innocent people is a major responsibility of any government and actions need to be taken to see to it that all that needs to get done does get done.  However, an attack on an entire people or religion is not only immoral and reminiscent of tyranny from the past, it’s a bad strategy.  The events in Kosovo bare this out.  In the name of fairness and objectivity, when you listen carefully to Donald Trump’s words and proposals, he never goes after all Muslims.  What he does however is target the problem as being a Muslim problem, which if done correctly and with a degree of tact would possibly have tremendously positive effects, but when done with mere soundbites causes a large percentage of people to see the entire Muslim world as a threat.

I don’t make a habit of defending Muslims.  As a Jew and a Zionist I’ve had plenty of justified anger towards many Muslims over my lifetime.  However, I also don’t believe in going after one group of people merely because of what they are, and if only from a pragmatic sense, it’s stupid.  Setting aside the fact that I personally base who I like and who I call a friend on how they are personally, if the entire Muslim world gets alienated, even if it’s a result of interpretation of Trump’s words as opposed to their actual meaning, the rest of us are indeed not better off or safer as a result.  My fellow Jews who think otherwise need look no further than Kosovo, where a police force of a population mostly consistent of Muslims did the right thing and stopped a potential massacre of Israeli soccer players.

There is a middle of the road, and throughout history that middle has always achieved the best results, not an extreme ideology in any one direction.  There is indeed safety in numbers, and if there are large numbers of Muslims who want to live in peace, a fact that any reasonable individual knows to be the case, then working with them will get us a lot further than alienating them.  The argument that “Trump didn’t say that”, isn’t enough anymore. As President-Elect he has a responsibility to how his followers interpret his words, and if he does not recognize that, even if his intentions are good, the damage caused will result in him failing tragically, for everyone, including those that support him.

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Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

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Dear Senator Sanders,

I write this letter to you as someone who is deeply disturbed by your stance on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  If I am to take you on your word, something I certainly hope is feasible due to the fact that you are a Jewish man with ties to Israel, your feelings about Israel’s right to exist are not at issue here.  What is at issue is your approach, an approach that not only feeds directly into those that wish to see Israel destroyed, but also puts not only Israel but the Jewish people worldwide in even greater danger than the one that exists today.

To be frank Senator Sanders, I find your words to be not only damaging but terribly irresponsible.  I have been following the election with great interest and have listened to as many of your speeches and soundbites as possible.  I understand that like Donald Trump, you are appealing to a populist movement of disenchanted, angry and concerned voters.  You are clearly a very intelligent and savvy politician.  I am certain that you understand that your words, even if only soundbites, influence a great number of people.  Therefore you must understand that more of your followers are likely to remember the 10,000 number you blurted out, the number of Palestinian deaths you said that Israel was responsible for in the last war in Gaza,  than they will your insistence that Israel has the right to exist in freedom and security. They will take your words and see Israel as the guilty party in the conflict, subsequently making the terrorist organization Hamas, a group very similar to ISIS in their violent and ambitious tactics, as the defenders of the freedoms and rights of the Palestinians. Just as Donald Trump’s comments on Muslims and Mexicans create a perception of all Muslims and Mexicans by many of his supporters, your comments will have the same impact on many of your supporters towards Israel and the Jewish people.  As a smart man I am sure you are aware of the fact that modern day anti-Israel sentiment has translated into a rise in worldwide anti-Semitism.

What I also believe is happening Senator Sanders is a continuing hijacking of liberalism by those who, to be quite honest, are nothing better than blatant anti-Semites.  Clearly, as an individual who speaks openly of your Jewish background I am not accusing you of hating your fellow Jews, but I am going to come right out and say that you are perpetuating the argument of those that do, and in the process putting us at greater risk.  I urge you to listen to the words of Alan Dershowitz, someone never accused of being too conservative, in his wise and educated understanding of the Arab-Israel conflict in which he says,

“whenever I speak to audiences about the Middle East, sometimes audiences very hostile to Israel, I issue one challenge.  Name a single country in the history of the world, faced with threats comparable to the threats faced by Israel, that has ever had a better record of human-rights, a better record of concern for civilians,  a better record towards the sensitivity of legal issues and the rule of law. In a 100 speeches in which I issued that challenge, no one has ever come up with a country that has a better record than Israel faced with comparable threats”.

Even if this is a miscalculation or ignorance on your part rather than a cynical attempt to pander to an audience you feel you need to win elections, your words are still damaging.  I watched the few minutes with Jake Tapper of CNN in which you discussed this issue and was quite honestly startled by how you shrugged off what you referred to as your question of whether or not it was 10,000 people killed in Gaza as not being a big deal.  Senator Sanders, it is a very big deal.   Hamas, the terrorist organization that espouses the very same stance you take of “disproportionate response” by Israel and uses it as justification to murder women and children in the streets of Israel without remorse, does so with a claim that Israel was responsible for the deaths of less than 2,000.  Well congratulations Senator, you just increased their justification more than five fold.   After all, if an American presidential candidate and a Jew from Brooklyn wonders if it was 10,000 people, Hamas might not only be correct, they might be understating the number.

What makes this worse is the fact that you would say that Israel is responsible for these deaths in the first place.  I am far more open minded than you might think.  I recognize the fact that Israel does things wrong and needs to work hard at changing the conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.  What I also recognize however is that the main obstacle in making these changes is not the Israeli government but the terrorist groups running the show in these territories.  Millions upon millions of dollars have been squandered and stolen from the Palestinian people, not by the Israeli government but by the very people who claim to want to lead them to a better life.  In truth, these people, the very same people you have empowered with your words, are cynical and devious criminals more concerned about Israel’s destruction and their personal lot than they are about the well-being of their population.

Someone recently made the argument to me that as a Jew you need to overcompensate in order to not seem too biased on the side of Israel.  Even if I do believe that is what you were doing, the question that needs to be asked is, at what cost?  Your words mean something.  If you want to be the leader of the free world, why would you take the side of an organization that not only wants to destroy the freedom of the people of your origin, but obstruct the freedom of their own?  If it is to increase support among your constituency, you are going against the very thing you base your entire campaign on, a different kind of politics.  If you want to be a true leader, a leader that guides the country and the youth of America to a better future, I urge you to first recognize the responsibility you have towards clearly distinguishing between right and wrong.  That Senator Sanders is indeed a very big deal.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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“Hitler” is not an adjective

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I’ve watched and listened in thorough dismay as people have thrown around the Hitler comparison. It started in earnest with people comparing current President Barack Obama to the Nazi leader and mass murderer, and has continued recently with numerous statements calling Donald Trump the next Hitler.  Fortunately, only for the sake of this discussion, the comparisons have been thrown around equally both in discussion about a current Democratic President, and now with the Republican front runner for president.  So it’s happened on both sides of the political aisle. Let me be very clear about my position.  Using this comparison is not besides being slanderous towards both, unintentionally diminishes the importance of remembering those murdered by Hitler’s Nazi Party.

It is believed that Adolph Hitler was responsible for the murder of close to 20 million innocent men, women and children.  6 million of these were Jewish victims of a Holocaust of devastating proportions.  The majority were murdered during World War II, but it’s extremely important to note that Hitler’s anti-Semitic intentions were made very clear long before the war started.  Yes Hitler looked to disarm the masses, but when people use this as a reason to draw a comparison to President Obama, all they are showing is a disingenuous use of a political platform.  I am not making any political statement regarding the gun control discussion, merely stating how disgusting it has been to use this issue as a justification to compare our current president to Hitler.  I hate the Iran deal.  I also believe there is plenty of reason to question whether or not this president is a friend of Israel’s.  However, unlike Hitler, there have been reasons to make the opposing argument, like a Chief of Staff with Israeli parents and funding for Iron Dome. Again, I am not making a case for President Obama being a friend of Israel’s or the Jewish people, but I am emphatically saying that he is not only not like Hitler, to say that he is like him is despicable.

Donald J. Trump is loud, abrasive, insulting, and maybe Marco Rubio is right that he is a con-artist.  It’s also possible that he is a straight-shooting successful businessman who loves America and is primarily well intentioned.  I’m not necessarily thrilled about the President Trump scenario.  But I will tell you what I do know.  Donald Trump has had too many positive interactions over the years with minorities to be classified as an outright bigot.  He even has a daughter who converted to Judaism. And yet people compare him to the most disgusting, most proud, most murderous anti-Semite that ever lived? I think a strong case can be made to not vote for Trump merely on his faltering when asked about the David Duke endorsement, but I don’t think he did it because he supports the KKK, I think he did it because all he heard was the word endorsement and it’s hard for Trump not to like anyone who likes him.  That in itself can be a dangerous thing, but it still doesn’t make you Hitler.

For those of you who have read this far, I am sure you are clear on the fact that I am not emphatically standing behind any one politician or viewpoint. I am merely stating something I wish I didn’t have to state.  If you are looking for a Hitler comparison you need to go no further than the leaders of ISIS or Hamas, people who have preached death to the Jews and persecuted and murdered groups that do not tow the line with their way of life.  It doesn’t have to be about murdering Jewish people to merit a Hitler comparison.  The ISIS leader Baghdadi’s sanctioning and ordering the murder and persecution of Christians is already enough to do so.  To compare Obama or Trump to Hitler is not only an insult to the Jewish people murdered by the Nazis, it’s a blatant insult and disregard for the treatment of the Yazidis by ISIS.

Now let me be clear about something. I am not saying I support Donald Trump.  In fact I will accept what former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman said, that Trump’s language regarding Muslims reminded her of “the kind of rhetoric that allowed Hitler to move forward.”  I take no offense to calling Trump a danger. That’s an opinion that may or may not prove valid.  But there is a big difference between calling someone evil, or saying someone’s words creates a fertile ground for evil.

Hitler was a man.  An evil man. He showed hatred to the Jewish people and other minorities from the very beginning.  He spoke early in his career about annihilating the Jewish people.  Sadly he came closer to achieving this than anyone in history.  Millions of innocent men, women and children were murdered by this man.  “Hitler” is not a word in the dictionary that means a politician with viewpoints, sometimes extreme, that represent an opposing and sometimes prejudicial viewpoint.  Hitler was a man who murdered millions of people.  Today we have people using that term to describe people of who there is no evidence they even murdered one.  There are not 2 types of people in the world.  Good and Hitler.  There are many in between.  These may be bad people who people sometimes call Hitler.  But to be a “Hitler” is something that needs to be earned by perpetrating savage, brutal, heartless  torture and murder.  Not by saying things we don’t like or even saying things deemed hateful.  Not even by merely being dangerous. If we minimize the significance of who Hitler was, we minimize the seriousness of what he did.  That may create a simpler path to another mass murdering tyrant than anything else taking place today.

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This is the Main Reason Trump still Leads in the Republican Polls

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Remarkably, despite his best efforts, Donald Trump still leads in the Republican polls.  Now obviously we haven’t had a chance to see what the backlash may be from his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, but there seems to be no indication that this will cause many of his supporters to jump ship.  Even more bizarre is the fact that when candidates criticize him for his comments, rather than gain in the polls, their support drops, sometimes dramatically.  The question is why?

In order to figure out the reason for this political phenomenon I decided to test my own reaction to criticism of Trump.  Even though I have never been a Trump supporter and he consistently says things I can’t get on board with, I still found myself having more than one reaction to the criticism of his comments.

The first reaction revolved around the issue of sincerity.  When politicians make comments that we expect them to make, comments very much in line with popular opinion, inevitably my ears perk up and I try to determine how genuine I feel that their reaction really is.  Case in point, when Jeb Bush jumped all over Trumps most recent comments, it felt more like a candidate hoping for an an opportunity to rise in the polls than genuine outrage.  When Lindsey Graham said that we should tell Trump to go to hell, he may have been totally sincere, but can anyone help but think that he also saw it as an opportunity to make some noise and save his presidential bid?

The second issue, and I believe this is a much more important one, is something we see often in many situations.  The best way to describe it is by calling it Disproportionate Outrage.  I have no problem with people calling Trump a buffoon.   Since his campaign began he has at the very least insulted women, Mexicans and pretty much every Muslim on the planet.  He’s also called for Israel to make sacrifices for peace, as though it hasn’t made every effort for decades, and threw out stereotypes about Jews that had to make even his Jewish daughter cringe.  That being said, one would hope that people with voices would not be more comfortable berating him than they would be berating our outspoken enemies and the terrorists that do their bidding.  If I look at a candidate or reporter chastising Trump, even if I may agree with their reasoning, I instinctively try to remember if I heard their voice just as loudly in defense of the safety of America, Israel, and the rest of the somewhat civilized countries around the globe.  Scream and shout at Trump all you want, I get it, but to get my vote you better have been even more angry at Hamas during the war in Gaza than you are at Trump today.

I am fairly certain that a significant percentage of Trump’s supporters would prefer a candidate that didn’t go around insulting half the world, but since they don’t necessarily feel the same outrage towards our enemies from other candidates that they feel from Trump, they are keeping their support behind him.  I am not saying others don’t feel it, but I will say that many of these people when thinking about what Trump is saying they hear the anger towards the terrorists, while thinking about what most of his rivals are saying today they sense more of an anger towards Trump.  Regardless of how justified anger towards Trump may be, that just won’t work with much of the electorate.

Naturally very few of us hear a politician speak and remember everything he or she said, but voting in America is based at least as much on feeling as it is on fact.  In today’s America people may very well consider Trump a clown, an idiot, or even a dangerous man, but when they look at a politician they won’t vote for him or her because they know how to attack Donald Trump, they will vote based on whether or not they feel they are voting for someone who makes them feel safe.  The rest is just a side show, something that plays right into Trump the entertainer’s hands.

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Talking about Trump Won’t solve the Bigger Problem

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I am not a Trump supporter.  I have never been a Trump supporter. That being said, this is the time for me to be honest, and in reading this I hope that you will be as well.

I have publicly stated, as recently as a few weeks ago, that although I don’t support Trump and won’t vote for him, worse things could happen.  Of course “The Donald” can say a lot in a few weeks, some of which might make one rethink that sentiment, but it doesn’t change one very important fact.  Many Americans, whether they’ve said it in public or not have at one time or another felt like they themselves would want the things Trump calls for.  People in America are already tired of the concern and fear caused by the actions and threats of Muslim terrorists.  I normally don’t put the word Muslim before the word terrorist, but we are being honest here, right?  I have said many times, that although I am well aware that most Muslims are not terrorists, we can’t deny the fact that most of the terrorists we fear today are Muslim.  So when Donald Trump says we need to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, most people may say that they are disgusted by his Xenophobia and that this shows how he is unfit to be the president, but deep down many of these same people have feelings not so different than what he is proposing.

I am not making a case for Donald Trump’s candidacy nor am I supporting his proposals.  What I am doing however is recognizing why he is getting so much attention and why he leads in the polls.  I can’t help but remember Jack Nicholson’s speech in a Few Good Men. The speech I am speaking of is of course the very same speech where he shouts at Tom Cruise these now famous words, “You can’t handle the truth!”. Earlier on in the speech he says words that are importantly poignant in today’s political climate.  In the movie, Nicholson’s character, Colonel Nathan R. Jessep says the following:

“And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.”

That my friends is why Trump is leading at the polls.  It may also be why  leading in the polls won’t translate into a victory at the polls later.  Only time will tell, but if my assessment is correct, the support for Trump, albeit significant, is more of a statement of protest than it is a vote of confidence.  There are many who support him outright and will vote for him, but it is my contention he is just that candidate who “while grotesque and incomprehensible to you” is saying those things you might be thinking “deep down in places you don’t talk  about at parties”.  Either that or the country is so fed up they will vote for a guy who says anything, as long as he talks tough when referencing our worst fears.

The important thing to learn from this is that many Americans are disillusioned, scared, and quite frankly distrustful of most politicians. That can, and often has been a formula in the past for a rise of extremism.  The support for Donald Trump is as much a statement of protest as anything else, a statement that if ignored could very well lead to his presidency.  The answer is to do a lot more than just talk about him, the answer is to provide an alternative.  The question then becomes, can either party’s candidates provide one.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

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