Editorial: Trump: Playing with matches
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has cultivated a vigilante culture among his supporters. At his rallies he often praises the police and supports law and order, but his message to his followers is to embrace anarchy.
“Get ’em out,” he bellows at security of protesters at his rallies. “They don’t count for anything… these are bad people.” Beat them up, he has suggested to fans at rallies, in reference to protesters in the audience. “I’ll pay for your legal bills,” he has told them. “I will.”
From the start, he set the tone of disrespect of other candidates and of non-supporters. He disrespects people of color, women and immigrants. He is a chronic liar and con man. He values little more than his own narcissistic reflection.
The incident in Chicago this past Friday brings the consequences into sharp relief.
Several thousand Trump supporters and protesters gathered at a Trump rally in Chicago. Fearing unrest and perhaps an ugly spectacle right before Tuesday’s crucial primaries in Florida and Ohio, the Trump campaign decided to cancel the event. Seeking justification, Trump says he called it off after consulting with police. Only the police departments responsible for security of the event were never consulted.
The Chicago Police Department said it “had no role. We were not consulted or provided an opinion,” about whether or not to cancel the event, interim police superintendent John J. Escalante said at a news briefing Friday night. The University of Illinois police echoed the same point, stressing that they felt they had everything under control.
Yet, the Trump campaign released a statement Friday saying, “Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with law enforcement has determined that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight’s rally will be postponed to another date.”
It was another outright lie. Then, a day later, he used the cancellation to degrade the protesters, calling them “thugs,” and suggesting their actions would only bolster his supporters.
“The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.
What is so shocking is the realization that Trump thinks he has no boundaries. He can simply lie about the reasons he cancelled the rally and use the police as a foil. Then he uses the event to stoke more anger at his opponents.
At a recent rally, he looked at his fans from behind the podium as security was escorting another protester out of a rally, and said, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
Small wonder, then, that at a rally shortly thereafter a middle-age white, male Trump supporter with a ponytail and gruff beard and a cowboy hat, popped out of a crowd and sucker-punched a black man in the face as he was being led out of a rally.
Words matter. Leadership matters. Taking responsibility for our actions matters.
Only Trump doesn’t get it.
And neither do many Trump supporters. They think he’s right; that he has accurately defined the ills of the country and how to fix them. “Just leave it up to me,” he tells his supporters, “and I’ll make America great again!”
How? His supporters couldn’t tell you, but everything he says they agree with so he must have the right ideas of how to fix things — whatever that may be.
It’s a leadership style familiar to any dictatorship.
Anger begets anger. Violence begets violence, from which law and order is demanded of those in power.
Reporter David Remnick in a recent piece in the New Yorker amply noted Trump’s dangerous rise to power: “No American demagogue––not Huey Long, not Joseph McCarthy, not George Wallace––has ever achieved such proximity to national power… Pull the camera back, and Trump can be viewed as part of a deadly serious wave of authoritarians and xenophobes who have come to power in Russia, Poland and Hungary.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joined others in a chorus of attacks on Trump saying in St. Louis that “the ugly, divisive rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is wrong, and it’s dangerous. If you play with matches, you’re going to start a fire you can’t control.”
What’s apparent is that Trump’s campaign is fueled by anger, and he continues to tap into the dark side of America. That is not the way to make America great again. Hopefully, the Republican Party will repudiate the candidate in time to save itself.
Angelo S. Lynn
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