One need not violate Godwin’s Law to recognize that there’s something deeply troubling about a leading presidential candidate having no objection to his supporters “roughing up” a vocal dissenter. But that was Donald Trump’s reaction after several attendees at a Saturday rally in Birmingham, Alabama “shoved, tackled, punched and kicked” a well-known local activist who began shouting “Black lives matter!” during the campaign event. As Trump put it on Fox & Friends the next morning, “Maybe he should have been roughed up” because Trump’s “fans” found the man “obnoxious.”
One need not support the Black Lives Matter movement — the word “movement” giving it credit for more importance than it actually deserves — to recognize the terrible irony of Trump’s outrageous comment supporting the assault of a black man, even a “troublemaker,” in a city (in)famous for civil rights struggles and the malign law enforcement reign of Bull Connor.
One need not shy away from objecting to thug-like tactics and hateful rhetoric of Black Lives Matter activists (not all of whom are black) such as those who recently invaded a Dartmouth College library yelling things like “filthy white bitch” and demonstrating that theirs is an ideology of hatred and exclusion, in order to recognize that there is a line between confronting political correctness and losing one’s soul.
And one need not suffer any illusions that Donald Trump’s supporters will hold these shameful remarks against him any more than they have held anything else against him, whether his populist economic ignorance, his long history of liberalism, his utterly disqualifying support for the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision, his assertion that John McCain is not a war hero, his repeated characterizations of Mexican illegal immigrants as rapists, his again threatening to run as a third-party candidate (which would certainly make Hillary Clinton our next president), or his inability to offer much more than talking points, insults, childish facial expressions and equally juvenile high-fives during presidential debates.
One has to go back a long way (if it’s possible at all) to find a major presidential candidate as unpresidential as Donald Trump. But his supporters, living in a cult-of-personality hear-no-evil swoon, care only — and I know this from hundreds of comments on these pages, and many e-mails and calls to my radio show — that (they believe) he will “do something,” unlike our current president who sees American weakness as a virtue even when it leads to mass murder in the civilized world and unlike so many spineless self-serving congress-creatures who have consistently failed to live up to their campaign promises.
Indeed, they have failed and angry voters have something to be angry about. Which is why so many react to Trump with comments (posted to the Washington Post’s coverage of the story) such as “Trump said he wouldn’t let Black Lives Matter push him around and he meant it. I don’t think Trump would let ISIS push us around either, which is another reason why I’m voting for him.” And “I’ll go with Trump, the man with a backbone, every time.”
Really? Every time?
When you hear Donald Trump bloviate, whether about policy or personality, it is as easy to believe that he made a bet with a fellow liberal billionaire that he could muster support as a Republican candidate for president by saying the most inane things that come to his mind, the things most likely to fit a Mad magazine or MSNBC caricature of a Republican, as it is to believe that he expects the public to slurp up the noxious blend of bile and tripe that emerges, as so much political vomitus, from his big and always-moving mouth and return, Oliver Twist-like, with “Please, sir, I want some more.”
So what is it that the man who aspires to lead the free world — emphasis on “free,” if you please — inspires in so many? Comments like “Wish I was there. These blm [sic] idiots deserve a good punch in the face.” And: “Maybe these people will learn again they are in the minority and they need to keep their mouths shut…”
Will Trump-leaning Republicans clear away the mind-numbing Soma of Trump Theater and their valid disappointment in the “political class” and ask themselves if they really want to be associated with such a man?
Donald Trump prides himself on aggressively “hitting back” against those who challenge him. It has made too many, including nearly all sharing the debate stage with him, afraid to call him out — another sad irony given their universal chastising of Democrats for refusing to call an enemy by its name. For the sake of our nation, it is time for Trump to be named for what he is.
So I repeat my question: As Mr. Trump completes his gleeful transformation into political schoolyard bully, will his current supporters really look in the mirror, ask themselves if they want to live in an America led by a president who has no qualms with a protester being “roughed up” for being “obnoxious” to his “fans” and conclude, “I’ll go with Trump, every time?”
For some, Mr. Trump’s bravado may send a “thrill up the leg.” If you have any sense of history, however, it should send a chill up your spine.