Foreign policy experts say months ago they could simply tell diplomats and foreign policy advisers around the world that Trump was just a fluke, but now he is representing a major party and mainstreaming ideas that used to be on the fringe.
“It allows people in Congress to hold those views with a certain level of legitimacy that they wouldn’t have been able to have,” said Lohaus.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the ranking member on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, said as he has traveled abroad, foreign leaders tend to be “pretty diplomatic” at first when discussing Trump, but after a few drinks and in an informal setting, many of them are more candid about their concerns.
“Our allies are wondering what is going on in America,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), told TPM in an interview. “They wonder how a person can be nominated to be president with these kinds of statements.”
When it comes to damage already done, Trump is not only forcing allies to reconsider the U.S.’s place in the world, he’s redefining his party’s positions on foreign policy.
“He’s opened up a Pandora’s box that will be very hard to close,” Zakheim said.
I’ve already blogged way more about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign than I would have liked. Then again, his candidacy is the most consequential one so far in my lifetime. Not because of his pernicious, bigoted worldview per se, but because the very fact that he has come this far in the election cycle signifies the prevalence of that worldview among the American electorate. It may not be a majority (and, Lord, I hope it’s not), but there is a sizable portion of voting Americans that has propelled Trump to the position he currently occupies. When Trump says awful things, it is certainly necessary to note and denounce those things. What gets overlooked and under-emphasized is that Trump, as an individual, is not the problem. Yet.
The problem is the not-insignificant number of people that have put him within striking distance of becoming the single most powerful political actor in the world. At that point, Trump, as an individual, becomes the problem. But even that will not negate the problem that will have put the world in the precarious state of having Donald Trump in command of the United States military and our country’s domestic state apparatus. As I see it, the real problem is precisely the one highlighted in the quote above: the legitimation of dangerously radical (and radically dangerous) political positions and temperament in public discourse. People of the world, including and perhaps especially our allies, have good reason to fear Donald Trump as a potential president.
What they fear right now, though, if they are wise, is the fact that the American people have made him a serious contender for the presidency. Currently, they do not have to fear Trump’s judgment in starkly practical terms, because he is not (yet) president. They do, however, have to fear the American people’s judgment, because the American people have enabled him to come this far. Since we live in a constitutional republic that appoints our officials by popular vote, the prospect of an electorate willing to elect Donald J. Trump to the presidency is far, far more terrifying. Insofar as Trump is a symbol of the people’s judgment, the world is right to be terrified of us. Insofar as Trump is a symbol of movement conservatism’s judgment and/or the Republican machine backing him, Americans are right to be terrified of the Republican-right wing alliance.
Even if — and, I hope, when — Trump loses the election in November, Republicans won’t be able to wash the stink of their incurably bad judgment away. They’ll try. They’ll shove all the blame on Trump and his dangerously unstable temperament and his indiviudal bigotry, and they’ll vow that, next time, they’ll put forth a true conservative for president. They’ll pretend that their ranks aren’t rife with people whose judgment is informed by bigotry and a dangerously unstable temperament. They will, instead, court those people. They’ll continue to stoke their bigotry and their hatred of civic norms and institutions. And they’ll be duly shocked — shocked! — again, when Trump or someone like him rises from the trash heap, held aloft on the foul fumes nurtured in the American Right’s seething cauldron of resentment. Then again, perhaps they won’t need an individual catalyst for such noxious ideas next time around. After all, the cancer has already metastisized. As long as Republicans and conservatives get away with painting Donald J. Trump as the problem, rather than the glut of bigots and ignorant radicals amongst them, the mainstreaming of toxicity will continue apace.