Norman Lear on the Final Debate: "I, Donald Trump, vs. We, the People" (Guest Column)

Trump Rally New Hampshire - H 2016

The TV legend has been increasingly perturbed by Trump's "ignorance of, if not utter contempt for, the Constitution."

Well, it’s as clear as the pomp in his pompadour:

Take his demeaning of immigrants and rank misogyny; the ways his campaign has inflamed religious bigotry, energized white nationalists and promoted violence; his seemingly pathological lying—and what has been bugging me increasingly over the months has been Donald Trump’s ignorance of, if not utter contempt for, the Constitution.

We Americans are a diverse lot. To paraphrase a great poet, we contain multitudes. We live in cities, small towns and rural expanses. We encompass many of the world’s ethnicities and religions. What unites us is a commitment to the principles in our Constitution, which we have amended and defended over more than two centuries to extend its promises of freedom, justice and equality to all Americans.

Of course, we still have disagreements over the meaning and application of our Constitution, and we sort those out in legislatures, courts and at the ballot box. But being able to engage with each other over our disagreements requires a measure of respect for the other guy and for the document itself. Donald Trump has shown neither.

- He has proposed targeting, registering and banning people from entering the country based on their religion.

- He has threatened to rewrite laws so that he can destroy media outlets that displease him.

- He has openly admired Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose “strong” leadership has included the violent suppression of independent media and dissent.

- He has encouraged people at his rallies to beat up protesters — and so savagely attacks the media covering his campaign that reporters have had to be protected from his angry mob by Secret Service officers.

- He has deemed a federal judge untrustworthy because, even though he was born in the U.S., his ancestors came from Mexico.

- Campaigning against immigrants in a country of immigrants, he says that Congress has the power to do away with the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to people born in the United States.

- He attacks Hillary Clinton for doing her job as a lawyer when assigned by a judge to represent a man charged with rape, and says if he were in charge, Hillary Clinton would be in jail — and her lawyers, too.

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Bless the comedians who make a joke of The Donald and earn our laughter, but Trump’s lack of respect for the Constitution is no joke. Threatening to jail his political opponent is no joke. And potentially inciting post-election violence by insisting he can’t lose unless the election is stolen from his followers, is no joke.

These are the sounds and behavior of a dictator, folks, not the president of a free society. That is why it’s not enough to think about denying Trump 270 votes in the electoral college. It is why we need to defeat him, to beat his ass so soundly that his dangerous message is thoroughly discredited and for all time.

Norman Lear is a legendary television and film producer and the founder of People for the American Way.