FOR over a year, the Republican nominee Donald Trump has built his political rise on an unhinged rhetoric of fear, hate and slandering of Muslims, Latinos and anyone that comes in his way. While nothing seemed to stick, this week’s attacks on the Khan family and a fallen U.S. soldier, is exposing the hollowness and depravity of the real estate mogul.
The unlikely hero of the two conventions was not an eloquent Barack Obama or a glamorous Ivanka Trump, it was a Muslim immigrant who captured in seven minutes the story of America and what is at stake in this election. The words of Khizir and Ghazala Khan, immigrants from Pakistan who lost their son Captain Humayun in Iraq in 2004, has hit a nerve in the United States and is promising a turning point in this race.
Unlike sophisticated attack ads and focus-group lines, the Khans critique of Trump is unconventional. It comes from the heart, bridges partisan politics, speaks of the ultimate sacrifice to a nation and brings heavy contrast between an arrogant billionaire and a modest family.
Unlike Trump’s past subjects whom he slandered such as Judge Curiel, Ted Cruz’s father and a disabled journalist, Khizir and Ghazala Khan are not bound by legal (Judge Curiel) , political (Cruz’s father) or professional (journalist) and have been able to respond. Since their speech the Khans have been loud and clear in defending their patriotism, repudiating Trump’s attacks and highlighting his ego-driven agenda front and center to the national stage.
For 5 days now, Trump’s insecurities, angry and thin skinned character have determined his response. Instead of taking the high road, paying his respect to a fallen American soldier and reaching out to his grieving parents, Trump chose to go to the gutter (again), slander the mother and erratically attack the father.
While his campaign tried to correct the tone by changing the subject to “radical Islamic terror”, the Khan-Trump dispute was never about nitty gritty political talking points but rather about the Republican nominee’s own destructive approach to politics.
There is a sense of poetic justice if the Khan controversy ends up being the turning point of this election, where a Muslim immigrant family deals irreparable damage to the Republican nominee.
In the Khan family , America saw and embraced a modest and inclusive couple that upholds the constitution above all.
In contrast, Trump epitomizes an individualistic, ruthless and Machiavellian model for America in glorifying his own success and wealth while condescending everybody else’s. Trump speaks a whole lot about law and order, yet there is nothing legal and constitutional about the Muslim ban he proposed, or the torture tactics he wants to reinstate. There is nothing legal or constitutional either in inciting violence at his rallies or encouraging the Russian intelligence to launch cyber attacks on U.S. targets.
Trump’s ego driven and divisive agenda has come full circle with the Khans. For Trump, who was born with a silver spoon, to smear a mourning ailing mother for not speaking on stage illustrates how low he can dive in this election. From “little Bloomberg” to “lyin Ted” to “crooked Hillary”, name calling is all what the former TV star got in this race. Against a fallen soldier and a patriotic American family that idolizes the constitution, Trump’s smear tactics have backfired.
Republicans, veterans, Gold Star mothers have all condemned Trump, in a moment that put American values of inclusiveness and sacrifice above all.
With 98 days left until the US votes on November 8th, Trump is facing a complicated electoral map and record unfavorability numbers with 7 out of 10 Americans having a negative opinion on the candidate.
There is a sense of poetic justice if the Khan controversy ends up being the turning point of this election, where a Muslim immigrant family deals irreparable damage to the Republican nominee.Trump’s own rhetoric to ban Muslims and disparage the community, cannot be seen in isolation of rising hate crimes against Muslims in the United States. Incidents on Southwest Airlines and with the Emirati who got arrested in Ohio have followed Trump’s divisive campaign talk.
By alienating minorities, relying strictly on the white vote, Trump will have to create massive turnout and win at least 66% of that vote to prevail on November 8th. Electorally, and where the Khan controversy hurts Trump most is among military families who repudiated his attack. Even if the Hillary Clinton campaign does not win that vote, Trump’s inability to grab two thirds of the White majority could lead to his loss.
Win or lose on Election Day, the Khan feud has laid bare the true character of Trump as a devoid narcissist who stops at nothing to drive his own interest. This time, Trump has gone too far, and the Muslim immigrants will have the last word.
[Joyce Karam is the Washington Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Twitter: @Joyce_Karam].