A handful of Donald Trump’s supporters played right into the hands of Black Lives Matter when they roughed up one of their members who was heckling Trump at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama over the weekend. From the podium, Trump shouted to the heckler “get the hell out of here” and told security to “throw him out.”
While the Trump campaign initially said they did not condone the behavior, Trump added fuel to the fire during an appearance on FOX News when he said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” Trump also claimed the heckler, who has been identified as Mercutio Southall, was “looking for trouble.” Southall also alleges that racial epithets were hurled at him. However, the video evidence does not support that allegation to this point. But even if there were no racial epithets hurled at Southall, the fact that a few Trump supporters initiated violence has the effect of tarnishing the majority of his supporters. While I might not agree with their choice of candidate, I believe that most of Donald Trump’s supporters would not have acted in this way.
Three months ago, I wrote about what GOP presidential candidates should do and not do when confronted by Black Lives Matter during their campaign. Here are three things GOP candidates should not do when confronted by Black Lives Matter:
a) Do not cut short your speech or walk off the stage and let BLM activists to take over.
b) Do not apologize for saying that “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.”
c) Do not forcibly remove BLM from the area (unless its members engage in violence). By doing so the mainstream media will turn activists into martyrs.
In retrospect, I should have written these don’ts for the supporters of GOP presidential candidates as well. Unfortunately for Trump and for those supporters who engaged in violence they broke rule c) and now Mercutio Southall has been turned into a martyr. At this point, there is no indication that Southall initiated any violence. Southall’s words might have been disruptive and inflammatory, but none of that justifies physical violence against him. Period.
So what should Trump have done instead? He ought to have taken a page from Ted Cruz’s book. Consider what he did with Code Pink when they interrupted a speech he was making against the Iran nuclear deal back in July:
Cruz began addressing them by saying, “It is very interesting to see those who profess to believe in free speech be afraid of speech.” He then challenged them to defend their views and had an impromptu 24-minute debate with Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin. Needless to say, she was no match for Cruz. If the same were done with BLM then they would be put into the awkward position of actually having to defend their position and to display their shortcomings.
So what if Southall had turned up at a Cruz rally and began heckling? I can’t see Cruz telling security to throw him out. Instead, Cruz would have invited Southall on stage and challenged him to a debate right then and there. Cruz would give Southall an opportunity to speak his peace and then Cruz would take his arguments apart. He would have taken a piece out of Black Lives Matter without so much as an angry word.
The bottom line is that Cruz would have taken the high road. Of course, such a thing would never happen with Trump. He knows no high roads, only the gutter. Since he cannot debate ideas, he insults people. Trump is the Don Rickles of American politics only without the humor.
Of course, Trump’s supporters will defend him to the bitter end. But if one has to write about Republican presidential candidates and Black Lives Matter, I sure as hell would rather write about how Ted Cruz debated a member of Black Lives Matter than write about how a few of Donald Trump’s supporters beat up a member of Black Lives Matter with Trump egging them on.