Saturday, March 12, 2016

Trumpocalypse Now (Updated)

Sunday Updates: Chas Danner updates what Trump and Sanders said on Sunday talk shows, in the context of the weekend's events.  Trump accused the Sanders campaign of organizing disruptive protests at the Chicago rally, Sanders denied it.  Trump referred to Sanders as "our communist friend," and threatened to send his followers to disrupt Sanders events.  He offered to pay the legal expenses of the man who sucker punched a black protester as he was being removed by police from a Trump event, and was subsequently charged with assault.  (The man also threatened to kill the protester.)

Also on a Sunday show, Trump was asked about his accusation that the protester who rushed the stage in Ohio had allegiance to ISIS.  He based this accusation on a video posted to YouTube (since taken down) that was doctored to make the protester appear to be an ISIS sympathizer.  Told of this, Trump refused to recant his charge.  "All I know is what's on the internet," he said.

The ABC story about this also quotes a former CIA analyst pointing out the obvious: "It's disturbing to me that Donald Trump will take things at face value," she said. "If he's [president and] reading intelligence that comes to his desk ... that's imperfect information. How is he going to discern what's true and what's not?"

Jonathan Chiat posted an essay entitled Donald Trump Poses an Unprecedented Threat to American Democracy.  Early in it he mentions something I hadn't been aware of--Trump in a 1990 interview praising the Chinese government for its bloody massacre of democracy advocates in Tiananmen Square, a day that lives in infamy.

But Chiat's essay is less about Trump's outrages than some responses to them: "His campaign has dominated the national discourse. Millions of Americans who have never heard of [declared white supremacist]Steve Scalise are seized with mortal terror of Trump, whose ubiquity in campaign coverage makes him seem larger and more unstoppable than he is. And terror is corrosive."

Chiat is especially worried about a phenomenon he has criticized before: the penchant for some on the left, particularly in universities, to attempt to silence those they disagree with, or who make them feel 'uncomfortable.'  He cites a petition to silence Trump at the University of Illinois as well as the actual protests.

He concludes that "there is simply no evidence that the country that elected Barack Obama twice, and which is growing steadily more diverse, stands any likelihood of electing Trump. He can and must be defeated through democratic means. He is spreading poisons throughout the system that could linger beyond his defeat. Anybody who cares about the health of American democracy should hope for its end as swiftly as possible." 

On Sunday evening CNN reported: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both accused Donald Trump of inciting violence, with the former secretary of state calling him "bigoted" and alleging he had perpetrated "political arson," while the Vermont senator labeled him a "pathological liar" at a town hall on Sunday night.
[end of updates]

A crescendo of sorts hit Saturday in the matter of violence at Trump events.  After police arrested a Trumpmaniac last week for assaulting a protester at a rally, protests themselves got larger for subsequent events.  There were so many protesters at a Chicago rally than Trump cancelled it, but fighting broke out anyway.  In Ohio Saturday, Secret Service agents removed a man rushing the stage where Trump was speaking.  Meanwhile protesters were gathering outside a Trump venue in Kansas City.

Update: Police used pepper spray to disperse Kansas City protesters. Trump called for protesters to be arrested.

While Trump blamed the Sanders and Clinton campaigns, several of his Republican rivals blamed him. (Trump reportedly said the Ohio man was "probably an ISIS supporter.")  Meanwhile the chorus from major media really became loud.  A report by several Washington Post top political reporters began "An already ugly presidential campaign has descended to a new level — one where the question is no longer whether Donald Trump can be stopped on his march to the GOP presidential nomination, but whether it is possible to contain what he has unleashed across the country."

Similarly, another long-time political reporter, Dan Balz, wrote in the Post: "Friday was an ugly day on the campaign trail, perhaps the worst of the year. What erupted in St. Louis and fully boiled over later in Chicago, however, was no aberration. Donald Trump has built his candidacy on long-festering resentment and grievance. It is a poisonous combination, for the Republican Party and for the country.

Trump’s slogan is Make America Great Again, but his campaign for president continues to call out dark forces that divide a polarized America. Fueled by acrimonious rhetoric, he has sparked an angry movement that has now created an angry backlash. Campaign 2016 is on a downward and dangerous descent."

(Points for alliteration, Dan, but downward is the only direction a descent can go.)

A CBS report acknowledges that crowds for Trump are more hostile. A personal report by a New York Times reporter graphically tells of the sense of danger and violence that disturbs even some Trump supporters.  It's clear that Trump's bullying words and exhortations against peaceful protesters began this cycle, but now the protests have become more militant and confrontational:

"To witness the crowd turn on the protesters in its midst is to watch a feverish body, bucking and writhing as it tries to eject an invading virus. I have talked to protesters who still don’t quite have the words to describe what they felt when they were singled out and turned upon, often by their communities. Mr. Trump says he condemns violence. But he also shouts at his crowds to “Get ’em out!” And even when he urges them not to hurt the protesters, a hard edge of menace bullets his words.

Yet the protesters, too, have sometimes instigated the clashes. They fling themselves to the ground, forcing law enforcement officers — often outmanned and overwhelmed — to drag them away. They also shout and curse, making obscene gestures as they are led from events. And Friday night in Chicago, in perhaps the best-organized effort so far, they came not to simply stand quietly but to utterly halt Mr. Trump’s ability to deliver his speech."

The LA Times reports that the Chicago protest was organized by black, Latino and Muslim students.

It appears as if a cycle of escalation has begun, both of potential violence at these events and among Trump supporters and detractors.  Trumpies are doubling down on their support, while opponents get angrier (New York Daily News calls Trump "the hooligan in chief ") and more or less neutral observers are aghast.

And all this is happening while the witnessed assault by Trump's chief aide on a reporter continues to roil, particularly as it was a reporter for a very right wing website that supports Trump and now appears to be backing off defending its own reporter from the Trump campaign's denials and insinuations.  Update early Mon.: the reporter and her editor at this site--Breitbart News--have resigned over the site's handling of this situation. 

All of this the weekend before the GOPer big states primaries (including several winner take all) on Tuesday.  Trump's opponents have exercised a containment strategy, dividing the states where they will make their stands--Kasich gets his Ohio, Rubio his Florida, and Cruz gets three states where he might have the best chance.  Yet if feelings running high cancel each other out, Trump could sweep and pretty much assure himself of the GOPer nomination.

 Hillary Clinton, who also could go a long way in Tuesday's Dem elections towards securing her nomination, spoke about the Trump trouble:

“The ugly, divisive rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is wrong, and it’s dangerous,” Mrs. Clinton told supporters Saturday morning at the O’Fallon Park recreation complex here. “If you play with matches, you’re going to start a fire you can’t control. That’s not leadership. That’s political arson.”

“The test of leadership and citizenship is the opposite,” Mrs. Clinton said. “If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. And if you see a bully, stand up to him.”

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