Steinberg: Plan the peace before the war

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Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump | AP file photo

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This week the hollowness of the Donald Trump campaign came into focus. His effort lacks organization, staff and is wildly underfunded — $1.3 million, 1/30th of Hillary Clinton’s war chest — a result of traditional Republican donors shrinking away in revulsion.

The Cleveland convention remains a looming disaster, an epic train wreck unfolding in slow motion as Republican stalwarts flee for their political lives.

Trump’s promise to build a wall and make the Mexican government pay rings increasingly hollow. Maybe Trump can get Mexico to fund his campaign instead.

No glibness. Trump’s dismay is nothing to celebrate.

First, the prospect of a Trump presidency is so disastrous — think of him as climate change in a toupe — there can be no assumption of victory, no pulling up short of the finish line. The prospect is as serious as death, the death of America that patriots love, the land of freedom for everybody. If you still sigh for Bernie Sanders, get over it, support Hillary Clinton, and you can go back to dreaming of the New Eden come Thanksgiving.

Second, and I have no facile answers for this, is the need to appeal to Trump supporters afterward. I’m deadly earnest. You win the peace before the war. And while the campaign is in mid-battle it is not premature to wonder what to do with the 40 percent of Americans who want an unqualified racist demagogue with no experience in government to lead the greatest country in the world.

This must be figured out because Trump will not be the last demagogue. More, better demagogues will come. Be certain of that.


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What to do with Trump voters? Maybe nothing. President Barack Obama made a mistake by reaching out too long to Republicans who bitterly opposed everything he did.

So maybe the Trumpists need to be ignored, shut out. Sneer, “Isn’t your middle finger tired yet?” then go about running things without their input — or try to.

That would be terrible for the country. Not only do our problems not get addressed, but we have a hard time even continuing the mechanics of government (which, from the GOP perspective, is the whole point). The vanquished Trump army must be welcomed anyway.

Not only does time heal, but it’s the only thing that does. As the years go by, the country changes, day by day, and each citizen changes too, a little. Maybe a former Trump fan meets a gay person or works with a Hispanic colleague. A one-time Trump zealot catches the aroma of where the country is going and is distracted, a bit, from the enticing stench of where they’d like to drag it back.

Maybe not. Maybe the “Troublesome Third,” I’ll call them, batting away more piquant terms, has always been here. I’m thinking of the third of colonists who were royalists supporting the British, or Southerners who seceded and fought a bloody way in the name of slavery.

The only useful suggestion I have is to be aware. If Trump can be characterized with one word, it is “dismissive.” He waves off entire groups of people who are essential parts of our country, waves off inconvenient facts based on easy ridicule of who says them. It’s a bad habit and worse policy, so we have to squint hard at the Troublesome Third and try to find something to work with. The Right isn’t merely crazy. They have values that are worth considering: the importance of family, of faith, of community.

“Divisiveness” must be on our agenda as a major problem. Add it to the list. I have no idea how to fix it, how to reform a sector of the electorate lost to facts, to argument, to science, to reason. Fellow citizens who could mock Michelle Obama for trying to cope with the childhood obesity epidemic in our ballooning nation pour abuse on her for eight years, then welcome Donald Trump’s current wife as our would-be first lady. That hypocrisy is too bone deep to fix. Just keep our eyes on it, leave the door ajar, and make sure they lose. Because losing is the only thing they understand and, frankly, they don’t seem to understand that either.

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