How the Khan Family Can Take Down Donald Trump

August 2nd 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The Khan family represents a particular kind of threat to Donald Trump months ahead of the presidential election. Having lost their son to war, the Khans are Gold Star parents. In that respect, they share a trait common among many of Trump's core supporters — white, working-class families — who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Having the parents of fallen Army captain Humayun Khan speak out against Trump, questioning his ability to understand and empathize with those who've made sacrifices, could hurt his standing among working-class Americans. Hillary Clinton's campaign evidently recognized that when they decided to give the Khans a prime slot at the Democratic National Convention.

Trump's subsequent character attack against the Khans has only served to amplify the family's message and potentially distance Trump from his supporters — conservatives who have served in the military, or military families. To what extent the Khans' speech will ultimately influence voters is yet to be determined, but we can draw some insights from recent survey data.

We know, for example, that Trump's base consists largely of white, working-class voters who aren't college educated. The majority of voters in this group believe that America has changed for the worse (62 percent), that America's way of life needs to be protected against foreign influences (68 percent), and that immigrants mainly hurt the economy (71 percent.)

The Khans force this demographic to confront the reality that immigrants also share their struggles and sacrifices. A Gold Star family — a family that Trump's supporters might know — is making the case that the candidate's policy proposals would do more harm than good. Has he even read the Constitution? Has he visited Arlington Cemetery to pay respect to our fallen soldiers like Khan?

"Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities," Khizr Khan said during his DNC speech last week, addressing Trump. "You have sacrificed nothing and no one."

The DNC helped to unify the party around its nominee, but it also bolstered Clinton's image in one key way. A new CNN/ORC poll found that more voters (50 percent) now feel she's "in touch with the problems of ordinary American." That's a big development for Clinton, who critics have routinely depicted as out of touch, and it's possible that Khan's speech drew a meaningful contrast between the candidates' ability to relate to working-class Americans and military families.

As it stands, members of the U.S. military favor Trump over Clinton by a margin of 2-1, according to a survey conducted by Military Times prior to the conventions. But the survey also revealed that "a strong majority of respondents say they are wholly unimpressed with both candidates."

Here are two important takeaways from the survey.

  1. "More than 61 percent indicated they are 'dissatisfied' or 'very dissatisfied' with Trump as the Republican nominee, including 28 percent of those who intend to vote for him. More than 82 percent said the same about Clinton, the Democratic nominee, with 30 percent of those pledging to vote for her voicing displeasure with the choice."
  2. "About 64 percent of troops surveyed by Military Times said they believe Trump has a poor temperament. Even among those likely to vote for him, 35 percent said they have concerns about whether his personality is too volatile for the job."

Although members of the military lean Trump, a sizeable faction of his supporters aren't even satisfied with him. This is true of his non-military supporters as well, but what this statistic demonstrates is a vulnerability for Trump that the Khans may have exposed. They offer an alternative military perspective that could jeopardize Trump's working-class appeal in key states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and especially Florida, which has one of the largest populations of "enlistment-aged civilians," The Independent Journal reports.

ATTN: asked Keavin Duffy, Jr., a Gold Star family member who lost his brother, an Army sergeant in Iraq in 2008, what he thought about Trump's comments and whether he felt military service members are less inclined to vote for the Republican presidential nominee.

"I would like to think that the nation would stand with Gold Star families, the [Veterans of Foreign Wars], and heroes like John McCain, and hold this candidate accountable," Duffy said.

"I also believe that Mr. Khan had the right to his freedom of speech. I think they both — two Gold Star family members — exercised their freedom of speech and that only one presidential candidate demeaned a Gold Star member by insulting him and accusing him of possibly being sympathetic to terrorism," Duffy added.

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