OPINION
10/28/2018 10:58 am ET

The True Toll Of Donald Trump's Words

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Saturday morning, President Donald Trump attacked a Democratic Senate candidate on Twitter, calling her a “Nancy Pelosi Wacko!”

Just a short while later, speaking about the horrific shooting massacre in Pittsburgh that killed at least 11 people, Trump lamented, “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country… It’s a violent world. You think when you’re over it, it just goes away but then it comes back in the form of a madman, a wacko.”

Within a few hours, the president of the United States applied the term “wacko” to one of the most accomplished public servants in our nation’s history and then used precisely the same term for a deranged murderer.

Earlier last week, on the same day that numerous pipe bombs targeted several prominent Democrats and Trump critics, the president declared that, “We have to unify. We have to come together and send the unmistakable message, that acts or threats and political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.”

In the very next breath, Trump returned to his divisive refrains attacking and blaming the media for the hate infecting our country. “The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories,” he said.

Trump is either completely ignorant of or indifferent to the culture of hate he and his Republican enablers are responsible for creating, and the only plausible explanation is that he just doesn’t care.

Words matter. Trump more than anybody understands this. From the first day of his campaign, his political strategy has relied on the use of insults like “crooked,” “crazy,” “weak,” “lyin’,” and “wacko” to smear his opponents and mobilize his supporters.

The events of the past week has revealed the true toll that Trump’s words are having on our society. And I am afraid it is only going to get worse.

The scariest thing isn’t that Trump says what he says, it’s that there are those who cheer him for it. Who believe it when he says the free press is “the enemy of the people.” Who laugh when he mocks a disabled reporter. Who chant “lock her up” after Hillary Clinton was mailed an explosive device. Who look the other way when reports surface revealing how foreign powers are eavesdropping on the president’s cell phone conversations because he refuses to use a secure line. Who applaud when he attacks victims of sexual assault. Who would rather militarize schools and churches than consider any reform to our nation’s gun laws.

The scariest thing isn’t that Trump says what he says, it’s that there are those who cheer him for it.

The most fundamental elements of our country are under assault from the president of the United States and his followers. Our country was born from a revolution fought over the idea of representation. And yet, even this most basic principle of liberty is no longer a common value in the United States. In a stunning act of blatant oppression, tens-of-thousands of minority voters have been purged from voter rolls in Georgia by the secretary of state, who is running for governor. This is the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a dictatorship. It’s happening right here in the United States of America and with Trump’s endorsement.

The worse things get, the more entrenched becomes a segment of Americans in their blind allegiance to Donald Trump. The unshakable reality is that the U.S. is breaking. The image of the American story is being shattered at the hands of those who claim to love the country the most. A 10-year span that began with the promising optimism of “hope and change” has been contaminated by fear and hate.

There is much more at stake in this election than Republican vs. Democrat. Our commitments to free speech, free press, free association, the right to vote, etc. are all in question. Trumpism will prove to either be a temporary fad or it will be a permanent stain that forever alters the American story.

Kurt Bardella is a HuffPost columnist and a former spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella.

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