According to scientific polling conducted by Gallup, President Obama is the most polarizing president since World War II. The Obama split has been across traditional dividing lines: Democrat vs. Republican, conservative vs. liberal, faithful vs. secular, and – far too often – black vs. white.
Now we have another extremely polarizing man running for the Oval Office. That is, of course, Donald Trump. But there is a massive difference in that Trump’s candidacy polarizes the right, pitting conservatives against other conservatives.
A few prominent right-wingers, Sarah Palin among them, have stepped forward to endorse the tycoon. He has also received the hearty support of many evangelical Christians. During an appearance on The Factor this week, Pastor Robert Jeffress stressed that evangelicals support Trump not because “he is the best candidate to lead Bible studies,” but because he has the best chance of winning.
There is, however, a wide chasm between Trump’s conservative supporters and those on the right who fear and loathe him. You’ve often seen Charles Krauthammer dismiss Trump’s temperament and policies, and he has plenty of company. The reliably conservative National Review created a stir when it commissioned 22 prominent conservatives to pen articles making the case against Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters – many of them white working class men and women – are not swayed by the protestations of so-called ‘elite and establishment’ conservatives. The more the chattering classes dismiss, disparage, and demonize Trump, the more his poll numbers rise. Yes, this is the strangest campaign season we have seen in our lifetimes, unless you are old enough to remember Andrew Jackson and the election of ’28. That would be 1828.
All this leads to the current feud between Donald Trump and Fox News. Trump entered the No Spin Zone Wednesday and explained why he plans to boycott the FNC debate. “I was not treated well by Fox News,” he declared, referring to the first Fox News debate in August. “I’m not walking away, I was pushed away.”
Trump theorized that his refusal to participate actually proves his fitness to be commander-in-chief. He opined that the USA should have walked away from the lousy Iran nuke deal, just like he is walking away from the FNC debate. “When I’m representing the country as president,” Trump insisted, “I won’t let our country be taken advantage of.” Many of his fans are with him on this – just scroll through a few Facebook pages to feel the heat of their passion.
But there is another and more substantive side to this dustup. After seven years of Barack Obama, this nation is starved for an effective leader, which is precisely why so many see Trump as a welcome change. But by skipping this debate, he deprives the American people of an opportunity to determine whether he is the right man to occupy an office once held by Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, and other giants.
Yes, he is peeved and aggrieved, feeling that Megyn Kelly asked a question that was out of line back in August. But Newt Gingrich provides a valuable lesson in handling that precise type of situation. Four years ago CNN’s John King started off a debate in South Carolina with a totally inappropriate question involving an accusation put forth by Gingrich’s former wife.
Newt didn’t sulk and walk off the stage. Instead, he let King and the media have it with both barrels. Gingrich earned the respect of millions of voters and won the South Carolina primary. The former Speaker of the House also visited the No Spin Zone Wednesday night and said Trump’s excuses “make no sense.” He concluded that all candidates owe it to the country to show up at every debate.
Which brings us to the Bible and the body parts mentioned in this column’s rather odd headline. Donald Trump is currently employing a strategy of vengeance put forth in the Old Testament. People who had been harmed were advised to take ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ In this campaign, Trump has gone way beyond that – take one of his eyes and you’ll soon be blind, chip one of his incisors and you will wind up toothless.
But suppose, just suppose, that Donald Trump were to skip ahead to the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Sermon on the Mount. That is where Jesus told his followers to forget about all that old school ‘eye for an eye’ stuff and instead offered another pithy piece of advice: “Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Again, Donald Trump did not make billions by being a “turn the other cheek” kind of guy, but this may be the perfect opportunity to display some magnanimity. Will Donald Trump forgive his perceived enemies, forget their alleged slights, and turn that other cheek? Will he heed the advice of Jesus? We will find out. Perhaps very soon.