Susan B. Glasser of The New Yorker was concerned that people in the media are tuning out Trump’s rhetoric and she has every right to be concerned. Even Fox News is starting to get bored of listening to him.
So what would happen if the President of the United States threw a rally and the cameras didn’t show up? Since Trump entered politics to round-the-clock cable coverage, this has been the demand of some of Trump’s biggest opponents, those who believe that real-time televising of what Trump says when he says it has both created and enabled this serial fabulist by giving him an unchallenged platform.
But I think it’s a mistake. The problem is that there are so many outrages, we are in danger of ignoring them, or dismissing them as mere spectacle.
The media has a notoriously short attention span unless they think they have a story they can use to destroy someone. That’s why they spent over a year flogging the Hillary email non-story and can’t seem to spend any real time on any of Trump’s ongoing scandals. Remember the old story about Trump becoming rich by hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS? Yeah, that was this month. No one talks about it anymore even though any other president would be halfway to impeachment and jail by now.
But Trump’s rallies are almost entirely ignored by the press because, as Glasser explains: “Much of the coverage of these events tends to be theatre criticism, or news stories about a single inflammatory line or two, rating Trump’s performance or puzzling over the appeal to his followers.”
Yet, Trump’s white Republican voters take his every word as gospel. He is their Great White Savior come to deliver them unto the Promised Land of a nation free from Those People. So when he goes out on stage and rants about the dark future waiting for them, we should be paying attention. These are not idle words. These are incitements to future violence.
But what the President of the United States is actually saying is extraordinary, regardless of whether the television cameras are carrying it live. It’s not just the whoppers or the particular outrage riffs that do get covered, either. It’s the hate, and the sense of actual menace that the President is trying to convey to his supporters. Democrats aren’t just wrong in the manner of traditional partisan differences; they are scary, bad, evil, radical, dangerous. Trump and Trump alone stands between his audiences and disaster.
Trump started his illegitimate presidency with a speech about “America carnage” that left the press gasping in disbelief. Since then, they’ve become inured to it. As far as they’re concerned, Trump is just the old man yelling at clouds. But he’s not. He’s the central figure in a dangerous mythology he’s created for his followers. When Trump is in danger, like, for instance, from a House investigation lead by a Democratic majority, his cult will respond…poorly.
I listen because I think we are making a mistake by dismissing him, by pretending the words of the most powerful man in the world are meaningless. They do have consequences. They are many, and they are worrisome. In what he says to the world, the President is, as Ed Luce wrote in the Financial Times this week, “creating the space to do things which were recently unthinkable.” It’s not a reality show; it’s real.
It’s very real and what are those unthinkable things? It starts with tearing children from their parents and putting them in cages. It starts with banning Muslims from entering the country. It starts with condoning Nazis marching it the streets. But it escalates quickly from there. The rage and fear need to be fed like any addiction and the more Trump tells them to fear and hate the rest of us, the more easily they’ll accept violence against us. We are not their fellow citizens or even fellow humans. We are the enemy.
In three weeks, a blue wave is going to wash Republicans out of power all across the country. They’re going to lose control of school boards, city councils, state houses, governor’s mansions, the House of Representatives, and possibly even the Senate. Trump’s advisors will beg him not to say the election was rigged but he will not be able to stop himself. He will, at some point, tell his base of enraged and terrified voters that their worst fears have come to pass; that Those People have stolen an election.
How do you suppose they will react? Will they be content to yell and scream at a rally? Don’t be ridiculous. Republicans, Fox News, Am Hate Radio, and right-wing hate sites have been telling them for decades that we are a danger to their lives and the lives of their families. Trump cranked that fear and hate up to 11 and has told them that it’s OK for them to be as horrible as they want.
These are people that have convinced themselves that they are the only “real” patriots. That only they love America even as they spit on every founding principal of it. A good number of them believe themselves to be warriors of God on a capital “C” Crusade with all of the inevitable bloodshed and atrocity that the Crusades led to. They have millions of guns. They belong to the NRA, who also tells them that we are the enemy. They belong to militias. They belong to white nationalist organizations that are growing increasingly violent. These are not people who will hear their White Savior tell them that the enemy stole an election and do nothing. These are people who will pick up their guns and seek to “liberate” America from the villains who dare to thwart their plans to “Make America White Again.”
And when Trump is voted out of office in 2020 (because impeachment would require Republican votes that will never come), his cult will not accept the results of the election under any circumstances. And that’s when the real bloodshed begins, especially as Trump continues to tell his followers he was forced from office by the Deep State/George Soros/Antifa/Hillary Clinton/Insert made up conspiracy here.
This doesn’t mean we should let the mindless hordes of paranoid lunatics win because we’re afraid of them. On the contrary, this is all the more reason they have to be kept as far away from the levers of power as possible. They are too mentally unstable to run a PTA much less a nation. But we have to be prepared for what’s coming and steel ourselves for the violence Trump is laying the groundwork for so we don’t succumb to panic and shock. And yes, it’s going to be that bad. Count on it.
I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.