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Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has given disgruntled white Americans permission to behave badly. Some who have spoken out against Trump have been sucker punched into shutting up. Others have found it easier to get their messages of white supremacy on the national news.
Particularly devastating has been seeing Trump's effect on children. Recently, white high school students held up "Trump" signs and chanted missives about building walls against the predominately Latino basketball team against whom they were competing. A New York Times article following last week's debate, when Trump spoke of the perceived size of his penis, recounted a New Jersey couple's quick reaction to getting their sons away from the TV.
Anecdote after anecdote are coming from kids of color and Muslim children, whose white and Christian classmates have used Trumps words to make them feel vulnerable, insecure, less-than.
NPR commentator Cokie Roberts, who's covered elections for decades, asked Trump whether he was worried about the messages the bombastic businessman was sending to American kids. "But what about the children?" she asked, and not in the ironic way the media likes to wield that phrase when we think kids are too coddled, too considered, treated too gently. She asked whether he was proud children were using his words to harm each other.
Trump did as he usually does and first denied knowing anything about the downsides of what he's saying and then quickly shifted his response to the whole "make America great again" deflection. Roberts reminded him "some people think America is already great," and then came the litany of problems with the U.S. that a wall will fix and getting rid of health insurance for all while somehow raising test scores so we look better internationally.
Interestingly, he said, "I think we're being laughed at by the rest of the world"—without any sign that he understands he's presently the catalyst for much of that laughter. Roberts missed her chance to remind him of that. Maybe next time. Because according to the polls, there will definitely be a next time for Trump.
Meaning there will also be a next time for all the little kids getting taunted, thanks to Trump.