Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
It’s a big, diverse country, so there’s no surprise it contains people who support Donald Trump’s ever more egregious demagoguery. Of course, it’s that very diversity which animates those non-diverse supporters who show up at his rallies. These are scary people; scary as a “president” who, in Arizona, read words claiming to love all Americans, after which he spewed venom at pretty much everybody. Especially reporters who, he says, don’t like America. Reporters, whose job it is to correct lies and uncover corruption. Who, coincidentally, will be reporting results of investigations.
Phoenix was the worst yet: meandering, wallowing in self-pity, blaming others for his failures, threats against enemies perceived and real. (No mention, though, of ten sailors who died the day before.) But they cheer him. Even when, after promising Mexico would pay for his wall, he threatened to shut down OUR government if WE won’t pay for it. And now, pardoning a racist, law-flouting (but birther!) sheriff whose malfeasance and crimes are manifold, “Law and Order” Trump has sent us a clear, specific message; and it’s grotesque.
On cue, they cheer and boo, making clear who really doesn’t like America. They’ll say otherwise, of course: they love it. Except its laws; except immigrants and minorities; except the mainstays of democracy: a free and adversarial press; voting by citizens they don’t like; and public education. What they don’t love is the foundation on which the republic stands. It follows, then, that they’re fine with a sociopathic leader who doesn’t love those same things.
Trumpists posted scenes of tens of thousands filling the streets of Phoenix for the rally. The pictures were actually of throngs in Cleveland for the NBA champ Cavaliers; that’s how much they prefer lies, the more the better. As usual, Trump lied about crowd size, too.
If it’s creepy having an insecure “president” who’s so needy he holds rallies to wallow in adulation, it’s beyond bizarre that he whines, rambles, fumes, can’t stay on message, contradicts what he said moments earlier. He invokes hatred (Lock her up, they chanted. McCain should die.) He misleads, he fails to understand those things of which he speaks (tinyurl.com/U-clean-it). And they cheer him. He offers up scapegoats, validates their prejudices. Are they brainwashed, or just willingly uninformed? Decide for yourselves.
That there’s an audience in America hungry for Trumpo-totalitarianism is obvious. We’ve seen the neo-Nazis and white supremacists up close now, the salutes and chants and flags (“We all salute the same flag,” said Trump) of the ideology hundreds of thousands of braver Americans died to defeat. The ideology that killed millions of innocents; whose fascistic descendants loved Trump’s Charlottesville response. The difference between Arizona attendees and marchers in Virginia is geography. Those who’ve seen Trump’s disjointed ravings and still applaud are marchers in their minds, and they won’t be back.
Trumpism was never about “economic insecurity” or “America first.” Only a day before the rally, Trump announced a “plan” for open-ended war in Afghanistan that was no plan at all. And now, after encouraging police violence, he’s re-arming them into a military force. Remember when Foxolimjonesians warned of Obama imposing martial law?
Rational people see what participants in Trumpic love/hate-fests never will. They’re raising alarms about his sanity, concerned he’s in over his head, worrying that a vengeful, confabulating man is in charge of our military. They see historic parallels in his gullible, enthusiastic followers. And these aren’t liberals whose safe spaces were invaded. They’re conservative foreign policy experts, CIA officials who’ve served presidents of both parties.
Not all Americans can resist the appeal of tyrants, especially people who believe they’ll never be targeted. Which is how it begins. If Trump’s inveighing words are reminiscent of dictators throughout history, we must consider whether he can accomplish on our soil what others have elsewhere. Not if enough decent people who voted for him are, finally, shocked enough by what they’re witnessing to join those who’ve seen it all along.
Getting through to those who attend or approve his rallies is impossible: he’s their demagogue, tells their lies. But it’s well past time for Republicans and conservatives who love actual America to put country above party and reject Trump’s dangerous demagoguery. He’s Hurricane Harvey. Houston is America.[Image source]