Saturday's newspaper column, today:
You shouldn’t need to be a historian or member of a minority group to observe Trump’s increasingly incoherent, malevolent rallies and fear for our country. In me, of Jewish heritage, they create a physical feeling of revulsion, literally a cold chill. Which is why I can’t write gently. Montana was the worst yet.
It should escape no one that those in attendance adored everything Trump said, no matter how hateful or false, about the opposition party, journalists, abused women, investigators, immigrants, and anyone who’s criticized him. The veneration presumably includes his endorsements and hiring of white supremacists. Their chants, shouts of approval, stomping the risers, are barely distinguishable from terrifying rallies known for generations, hosted by fledgling despots, continuing after the subjugation was complete.
These are frightening people, enthralled by a man who fans their grievances, promotes resentment of those unlike them, in the pursuit of unchecked power. To which, like Congressional Republicans, they appear happy to assent. Those rallies, the attendees’ faces, Trump’s self-satisfaction as he feeds their resentments, prove it CAN happen here. Lacking only in numbers, it already has.
It’s what Trump got right and President Obama got so wrong. The latter, long after it was clear he’d misjudged the distribution of good will among Americans, continued to appeal to generosity and compassion. Yes, he said some careless things, easily misinterpreted, understandably seen as condescending. Yes, he wrongly believed health insurers would act in good faith. But he kept speaking of shared values. Even as Republicans met on his inauguration day to plan unwavering, unanimous obstruction, regardless, as one of those present admitted, whether it hurt America, President Obama continued to seek a path.
Trump, on the other hand, saw the suppurating dark side, and reichly concluded it could be easily manipulated (he should know!). If both Trump and President Obama saw Americans struggling, only the former saw it as something to be cultivated and exploited. Yet unknown is whose vision will prevail, but for now Trump’s ugly rallies suggest his measure of the hate and fear and ignorance out there, primed for stoking, appears to be winning.
My drawing of distinctions between Trumpists and conservativism have fallen short. Better than I, true conservatives like George Will, Max Boot, and others, have made the case for voting against their party, for now, to save the Republic. The contemptuously mined hate, fear, and ignorance are most obvious at those ominously intensifying rallies. It’s hard to understand how anyone who claims to be unlike those people can stay on board.
To deny sharing Trumpic animus and bigotry while maintaining support is approval by default. It places particular priorities above decency and the survival of democracy.
That sort of rationalization extenuates Trump’s authoritarianism, condones looking away because of some singular issue considered overridingly important.
I’ve conversed with some for whom abortion is an example (how many of his multitudinous liaisons...?), outweighing the ascent of autocracy. Convinced Democrats want abortion on demand at all stages of pregnancy, they couldn’t be more misinformed. Weirdly, they’re also climate change doubters.
For others, it’s the hyperbolized scourge of illegal immigration. Believing Trump’s lie that Democrats want open borders and free-range criminals, they applaud separating children from parents, for its message to stay away, immorality notwithstanding. All have said they felt insulted by my characterizations of Trumpists.
It’s fair and honest criticism, but it begs amplification; so I ask if there’s no bridge too far. Do your personal concerns – or pocketbooks -- excuse ignoring Trump’s dictatorial attacks on his opponents, his threats and lies, his fomenting hatred for journalists (except Fox’s, most of whom are the opposite), his bullying mockery? Is there no point at which protecting the institutions of democracy supersedes your issues? Not the health of your children and theirs, as they face no-hoax climate change and deregulated pollution?
Not protecting voting rights, access to healthcare, public education? Not Trump calling Kim, who pantsed him in public, a “great guy;” not facilitating murderous Vladimir Putin’s dream of weakening NATO, calling him “just fine,” then meeting him in private? How about taking down the FBI agent in charge of countering all Russian espionage? Not a little curious?
Surely we share some values too indispensable to renounce. Aren’t truth, and democracy itself, among them? Borrowing from an apocryphal Churchill quote, now we’re just haggling over your price.[Image source]