Thousands of writers pen letter denouncing Trump: Will it matter?

Authors added their name to a petition denouncing Donald Trump's campaign in the final days before he secured the delegate votes to clinch the Republican nomination.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in Bismarck, N.D., on Thursday.

Thousands of writers in the literary community have banded together to protest the potential presidency of Donald Trump, who officially clinched the Republican nomination on Thursday.

Authors Andrew Altschul and Mark Slouka penned the letter on the literary website Lit Hub on Tuesday, quickly picking up signatures after the endorsement of famous authors like Stephen King, Cheryl Strayed, Dave Eggars, Junot Díaz, Amy Tan, Jennifer Egan, and Tobias Wolff. After reaching 100 signatures on Tuesday, momentum snowballed, and within 48 hours more than 10,000 people had signed, reaching 17,232 by mid-afternoon Thursday.

The petition lists eight reasons that "we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States," including that "as writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power," and because the candidate "deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, [and] encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities." 

The corresponding Twitter account @WritersOnTrump has tracked the campaign's progress:

Authors have also taken to their own Twitter accounts to tweet their support for #WritersOnTrump, including Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller "Wild":

However, some have expressed skepticism that the letter will actually have any impact on political discourse, even though they may agree with the sentiments expressed.

Alyssa Rosenberg from The Washington Post compares the Lit Hub letter to the larger competition in entertainment between reality TV and classic literature. And just like literature's "long, losing war against TV," the writers' letter against Donald Trump will likely fail, she says.

"I hope that voters will decide this fall that there is a difference between being entertained and being governed, but I don't count on it," Ms. Rosenberg wrote on Wednesday. "It's fashionable, and a bit shallow, to decry the rise of television in general and reality television in particular relative to literature as a sign of some sort of moral and intellectual downfall. But the challenges literature faces in trying to compete with popular entertainment have rarely felt so consequential."

But Mr. Altschul tells CNN Wednesday that he felt like he had to do something.

"There is a real sense of helplessness in watching what is happening in our country and watching the rise of a figure in our politics who really is like nobody we have ever seen before as the nominee of a major political party," said Altschul, "and we both felt – Mark and I – that even if we couldn’t do anything at the political level, we couldn’t sit back and not try to make our opinion known and have some effect if that were possible."

The online petition's popularity parallels a victory for Mr. Trump's campaign Thursday, when the real estate mogul officially became the Republican presidential nominee with 1,238 pledged delegates.

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