At least four of The Federalist Papers are dedicated to the notion and dangers inherent in factions. Madison wrote perhaps the most influential one- #10- where he argued for a republican form of government. In this way, he hoped that the inevitable factions that would develop could be more easily checked. With increased democracy, there is the chance for an increase in the flow of political discourse and differing ideas may take popular root which may seem amenable in the short term, but disastrous in the long term.
Today, we talk about political factions and less so geographical factions although the latter certainly exist still. And political differences that manifested themselves through the formation of factions were to be expected since Madison and Hamilton believed it was part of human nature. But they also knew its potential destructiveness and Hamilton cataloged instances in history in the previous three papers.
Today, there are factions within each political party. Political parties tend to sow the seeds of factions and were frowned upon when mentioned. Within the GOP, we often hear of the neocons, the libertarian faction, the evangelical faction, the business faction and so on. And the Democratic Party is not immune to the formation of factions within their party as the Clinton-Sanders competition proves.
What has happened in the Republican Party is a microcosm of what Hamilton and Madison were warning about on a grander scale. Instead of uniting for the common good of the Party, the various factions were vying for position. Although there was some overlap, it is almost difficult to achieve the agreement of all factions in one person, especially when the Party has a choice of 17 candidates.
Political factions are one thing and obviously Trump took some advantage of this state of affairs. But he went even further and has delved into a more sinister aspect of factions- race, religion and gender.
It was the Republican Party that ended slavery and fought the Jim Crow laws in the South and elsewhere. It was a Republican Senator who broke the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, disrespect for certain groups has been a hallmark of the Trump campaign, including the biggest of them all- women. It has become so bad that his own attempts at making amends are now seen as racist.
But make no mistake: not since George Wallace has a viable Presidential candidate appealed more to white male identity than Donald Trump. It explains why readers of the neo-Nazi website Storm Front are encouraged to contribute to his campaign. His statements are not the nonsensical notions of “dog whistle statements” blacks tend to scream about. They are very audible whistles and nowhere are they louder than with women.
Donald Trump seems to believe that because he has an uncanny eye for beauty in women, that means he loves women and will be “the best President ever for women in this country.” And when called on it, he has a thin skin and characteristically punches back in the crudest terms possible. After Megyn Kelly took him to task for past statements (which he conveniently never remembered)- something that surely would have come up in a general election campaign- he responded as expected: by making a not-so-veiled reference to her menstrual period and then calling her a “bimbo.”
But it goes even deeper than that. In response to sexual assaults in the military, he Tweeted that it was to be expected. He has denigrated women on his own television reality show suggesting that their victories were attributable to their sex appeal, not business acumen and in another case making a crude remark about a woman kneeling before him. He actually floated an idea for another series called The Lady or a Tramp? where out-of-control “party girls” (you know- “tramps”) were sent to school to learn some manners. As head of the Miss USA Pageant, he had the women parade in front of him to separate those he found attractive from those he found not attractive.
These are not the statements and not the behavior of a person committed to women. In the coarsest sense, he views them as objects- pieces of meat. He has even referred to them as “pieces of ass.” When 67% of women dislike you, the problem is not women.
Thus far this campaign, Trump has the dubious honor of insulting blacks, Hispanics, women, Asians, Jews and even his own supporters. He is not the extinguisher of fires and tension, but fans the flames. While political correctness may actually be running amok in the country, Trump has somewhat made political correctness seem almost desired.
And Trump is an egregious flip-flopper on these issues regardless. In 2012, he heavily criticized Mitt Romney’s notion of self-deportation saying it cost him the Latino vote. Four years later, Trump wants to physically deport Hispanic illegal immigrants. In September 2015, he spoke glowingly of Muslims and even suggested he would appoint one to his cabinet. Today, he wants to cease giving Muslims visas to enter the country legally. When the Hispanic female Governor of New Mexico did not show up a Trump rally in Albuquerque, he attacked her. He has attacked a Hispanic judge who shot him down in a courtroom in the Trump University scam suggesting he should recuse himself for being Hispanic. With blacks, it all boils down to giving them a job and they’d have that job if those Mexicans would stop taking them.
Admittedly, some of Trump’s ascendancy is due to the state of affairs these days where everyone is some hyphenated American, or member of an ethnic or religious faction. In 2007, Robert Putnam at Harvard University showed that increases in ethnic diversity in the country often led to a collapse of civic health. As the nation became more ethnically diverse, neighbors ceased trusting other neighbors. Civic participation rates such as voting, volunteering and charitable contributions also decreased.
Community cohesion weakened and the moral norms changed. Trump’s behavior would never be tolerated in a homogenous society. The rhetoric becomes acceptable when the former group at the top sees themselves under attack. As for the white males who support him, he is less a candidate for President and more a leader of their tribe. To them, the message is not offensive, but yet another show of his support for their tribe. After all, “he says what people are thinking.”
In many respects, he is like any other average run-of-the-mill politician saying what he thinks people want to hear regardless of his beliefs. He is the worst kind of panderer- the openly aggressive, unapologetic type. Since he thinks the GOP electorate wants to hear xenophobic, racist or misogynist rhetoric, he delivers. He sees and hears only the cheering crowd in front of him.
Not only would our Founders cringe at the crassness and depravity of his statements, anyone who calls themselves a Republican should renounce him and everyone who cast a ballot for him should hang their heads in shame.
Conservatism has so much to offer our minority communities in the way of policy. Instead of articulating those ideas, especially in light of the failure of socialist, progressive ideas, we have a candidate who insults, denigrates and stereotypes. It is one thing when a candidate takes advantage of political factions; it is sometimes just part of the game. But, Trump takes advantage of racial, ethnic, gender and religious factions in the country. Instead of uniting the various factions under one heading of “Americans,” he has created enormous damage to the Republican Party. He is the caricature the Democrats put forth as “your typical Republican.” It is the danger that Hamilton and Madison warned about over 200 years ago…only 200 times worse.