Donald Trump’s astonishing achievement in all but wresting the Republican nomination for U.S. president from the leadership of the party—while openly promoting hostility toward Muslims and immigrants, defying Republican orthodoxy, and violating most norms of modern political life—has left journalists and historians scrambling for explanations. The frontrunner of a major political party won’t renounce the endorsement of white nationalists but calls for banning Muslims from entering the country. He is legitimizing illiberal and vicious impulses, and tens of millions of voters lap it up.
The leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis denounced Trump for “sowing seeds of hatred and division in our body politic.” Noting that they do not endorse or oppose individual candidates, they added, “Jewish history is replete with times when political leaders, both at home and abroad, demonized the Jewish community much as Mr. Trump now demonizes Muslims, Hispanics, and African Americans. We . . . believe we must speak up against such hate speech.”
The bishops of the Episcopal Church issued a unanimous statement: “In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. . . . There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.” Trump even garnered a rebuke from the leaders of the Mormon Church—whose U.S. members are the most solidly Republican-aligned religious voting bloc—the day after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the country.
In recent years, Unitarian Universalists have reached out to Muslim communities, partnered with immigrant rights groups, vigorously opposed torture, and protested police brutality. We have an even longer history of opposing demagogues and tyrants, and affirming the inherent dignity of every person. Trump has marshaled a movement that isn’t going to evaporate. It threatens physical violence against already marginalized people. It openly embraces bigotry. It relishes the humiliation of its opponents. No matter who wins the presidential election, civil and religious groups that are committed to a free, just, and generous society have vital work to do planting seeds of unity and mutual respect.