The New York Times' Maddie McGarvey recently attributed Donald Trump's ability to electrify his rally attendees to, "Making the powerless feel powerful... For men and women who feel left behind by the economy, left behind by politicians, left behind by a changing country -- left behind, period -- Mr. Trump says that "we" can make everything great again. And the implications are clear: "We" will make others "pay" whatever price or burdens we dictate, be they Mexicans, illegal immigrants, Muslims, and countless others."
After exaggerating how well he is doing in numerous state polls, Trump said yesterday in Sarasota, "Lots of people surrounding Philadelphia are going to come out and they're voting because they want to vote," as if rabid, armed supporters are going to come demolish the fortress that is urban America. Trump continued with, "And do you know who's going to come out? The women are going to come out, you watch. The women, the women are going to come out big."
I love being referred to as "the women". Trump also often likes to says things like, "I have a great relationship with the blacks", despite polling in the low single digits with African-American voters. He seems to think his statements are true if he repeats them enough. He connects to the audience by pointing to a random person in it as if to say, "I see you, we're in on this together." Again, there is a hint of coercion, of "just watch, they're going to (we're going to make them) do it."
Consider what happened when Trump re-emerged from his penthouse after the Billy Bush tape was released, as reported by the New York Times' Maggie Habberman: "The crowd screamed and reached out to touch his suit jacket. He bathed in the rapturous admiration. He pumped his right fist in the air and smiled. He looked rejuvenated. He stayed for just five minutes, electrifying the scene. But before he departed, one reporter screamed a question at him, asking whether he would remain in the race. "Hundred percent," Mr. Trump replied. He turned and headed back to the tower, clapping his hands as if to applaud his supporters, and himself." Trump and his supporters were defiant, proud to be fighting for the right to brazenly objectify, degrade, even molest women. The candidate doing those things and getting away with it electrified them all. We'll show them!
Trump is a soulless ringmaster. He does not care that because of his rhetoric, blatant racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia are on the rise. He does not care what the consequences are as long as his obsessive, insatiable desire for adulation is fulfilled. After the debates, Trump's campaign manager commended him on remaining focused during the first "15-20 minutes". Doesn't the U.S. want a president who does not have an insatiable need for flattery and who is able to stay on track for more than 20 minutes or a few days before the next meltdown?
Last summer, two men attacked a homeless Latino man, broke his nose, and urinated on him, saying "Donald Trump was right" as they beat the man with a metal rod. Trump's reaction when asked about the incident? "I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country, they want this country to be great again." A truly inspiring vision. The men received meager 2.5 and 3 year jail sentences.
Trump doesn't care that an African-American protester at his Birmingham rally suffered from "lacerations to his face, head and neck, concussion, bruises to his back and torso areas"; he encouraged it. He offered to pay the legal fees for the man who sucker punched this protester. Afterwards the supporter said, "Next time we see him, we might have to kill him." Of course, Trump then retracted on paying the attacker's legal fees, claiming he had never offered to. Surprise. What about his Iowa supporter who was convinced to vote twice based on his "the system's rigged" mantra. Do they think he'll pay for her $5,000 bail when he routinely cons the people he contracts?
In addition to Melania Trump highlighting the evils of cyberbullying, she also unironically spoke in Philadelphia about her husband making the U.S. a fairer place for Americans who just want "a better paying job", despite his almost compulsive propensity for stiffing employees, including those at the bottom of the economic spectrum, like his dishwashers. And the Trump campaign wants to talk about a rigged system? Do his supporters really believe that a Republican, and moreover, a billionaire Republican who has spent his career ripping people off as much as he can, cares about their economic plight? This coming from a candidate who has used his campaign to promote his business interests, which he would surely do as president?
"Aren't we tired of this stuff?" the man who spent years insisting President Obama was born in Kenya recently said, after bizarrely asserting during the first debate, "When you talk about healing, I think that I've developed very, very good relationships over the last little while with the African-American community. I think you can see that" as a professed result of "getting him (President Obama) to produce his birth certificate." Trump also abhorrently lied about Obama's classy reaction to a protester. The Washington Post 's Ben Terris describes the campaign's strategy of, "Flat-out denial of something that undeniably happened" and describes him as "gaslighting" the entire country: Even though you just saw it, it didn't happen because Trump said it didn't.
Republican voters have long, frustratingly misdirected their anger. The GOP systematically defunds education and other attempts to make the U.S. economy more competitive, including by blocking funding for infrastructure upgrades. Stagnant wages are not caused by immigrant workers. Income inequality has risen drastically in recent decades, yet Republican politicians have repeatedly prevented attempts to raise the minimum wage. Then there is the economic violence Trump has perpetrated against the American people. He didn't pay income tax on billions of dollars for years but lived on a $450,000 monthly budget while the U.S. doesn't have enough money for our crumbling infrastructure, millions of Americans remain uninsured, and nearly 62,000 individuals and families are homeless in New York City alone.
Despite his innumerable problems, Trump's image as being tough on terrorism, and on Muslims, helped fuel his support in the Republican primary. Ninety-two per cent of Republicans rate terrorism and threats to national security as a topic of above average importance (82% of Democrats gave the same response). Yet white nationalist extremists--like the ones who overwhelmingly support Donald Trump--are a graver risk to American safety.
Guns also pose a far worse threat than terrorism to Americans, or even war. In the first debate, Trump bemoaned the gun violence that plagues Chicago's inner cities, which he attributed to President Obama. Despite Chicago's strict gun laws, most illegal guns there hail from Indiana--his running mate's state,--and Mike Pence supports making interstate gun sales even easier. Trump wants national Open Carry and to ban gun-free zones but stopped his speech before being rushed offstage when he suspected someone at a Reno rally to be armed. As he often does, once he re-emerged, Trump adopted a martyr tone, explaining "Nobody said it was going to be easy for us" about his noble cause.
His assertion that the election is rigged if he loses lies on the premise that only his (predominately white) supporters' votes are legitimate. This is reminiscent of Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin claiming the voices of "real" Americans weren't heard when President Obama was re-elected in 2012. According to Trump and many speakers at this year's Republican National Convention, "real" Americans are white. They're Christian. They're anti-P.C., so women, disabled people, even disabled children, Muslims, and African-Americans, none of whom are "real" Americans, are all considered fair game, unless they are one of the far and few members of those groups who support him. You are only real if you are a Trump supporter.
The GOP doesn't want the U.S. to be a democracy. North Carolina's Republican National Committee even bragged about out how effective they were in suppressing African-Americans' democratic right to early vote. The Trump campaign lamented high voter turnout among Latinos in Nevada. Voters who are thought to be the kind that would oppose Trump or the GOP for very good reason should be disenfranchised or intimidated at the polls as part of an ongoing Republican political strategy, even though only 31 instances of voter fraud have been found out of a billion votes cast. This is obviously not enough to remotely sway an outcome. Like many things in this election, that doesn't matter. Trump still said that Mexican immigrants were 'flooding the border to vote for Hillary' even though it should be obvious that non-citizens cannot vote.
Remember when the U.S. went to war with Iraq touting our great democracy? Two years ago, George W. Bush passively explained: "And I tell people all the time, off the record, by the way, that [former Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice's relatives were enslaved in the greatest democracy ever for 100 years, and democracy takes time to take hold. And yet there is an impatience with that process, and Americans have got to understand... that is the human condition elsewhere matters to our national security." Bush called our country "the greatest democracy ever" even when slavery was a major backbone of the U.S. economy. As if a white man dismissing the brutality of slavery and the immeasurable suffering of Iraqis since his. invasion weren't deeply offensive enough, the Republican Party has ensured that we are not even a great democracy.
When I first graduated from college, I worked on a African-American voter registration drive in Milwaukee, a town whose stark racial inequalities were highlighted as campaign fodder for Trump over the summer. On the voter registration campaign I co-directed, our employees were meant to register 10 new voters per day. We were supposed to let them go if they did not meet this requirement for two days. Extensive voter registration had taken place in Milwaukee, so it became increasingly difficult for our employees to find 10 unregistered voters each day who were willing to register. Thus, the temptation to register people who were already registered so they did not lose their jobs in a city where opportunities for African-Americans are far and few. In fact, Wisconsin was recently named the worst state to live in for African-Americans. A few of our employees filled out fake registration cards, which is considered a felony. Obviously, none of those fake voters went to the polls. But still, this won't stop the Republican Party from disenfranchising millions of voters to cling on to power.
I also found that actions taken to improve voter participation, and therefore our democracy, are oftentimes diminished by existing structures when I worked on the Wendy Davis gubernatorial campaign in San Antonio in 2014. An African-American woman I canvassed signed up to help us over Election Weekend. She hoped to make it but was not sure she would be able to because her niece was going to give birth any day. When I called her to follow-up, her voice was broken. Her niece had died of delivery complications. African-American women in Texas have exceedingly high maternal mortality rates. While this is a dramatic example of how power imbalances can prevent people from partaking in the political process, I have found these preventative structures to be all too commonplace. In Texas, the voters who would have benefited the most from Wendy Davis' commitment to raising the minimum wage were too busy working several shifts to volunteer on the campaign, or sometimes even to vote. Worse, the system had succeeded in convincing them they had little to gain by engaging in the political process. A Wal-Mart employee told me he didn't think voting mattered and a gas station worker said that although he was independent, he usually voted Republican because "Don't the rich deserve what they have?"