Previously, as much as I loathed it, I gave Donald Trump the closest thing he will ever receive to an endorsement out of me. At the time, even with his complete and utter rejection of First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble in protest, I surmised that Trump would still be a better presidential candidate than Ted Cruz, if for no other reason the fact that Trump has never been in government to actually use the power of governance against American citizens. It turns out that I was not only wrong, but also that Trump may be doing something far worse.
It began this past Friday night at around 7:30 PM EDT in Chicago, where Donald Trump was supposed to have held yet another rally. I took my lunch break at work at about the time the situation started getting out of hand. I tuned in to the coverage on MSNBC and watched violent confrontations between protesters and Trump supporters as security tried to intervene. Primarily, I saw black attendees being assaulted. It seemed to be a complete rejection of not only Black Lives Matter, but of racial equality in general. It was a horrifying sight. And when the cameras turned to the huge mob of people outside the venue as it was being evacuated, the first thing that came to my mind was, "This reminds me of race riots."
Sadly, that wasn't even the only violence perpetrated against the black community by the Trump campaign and its supporters this past week. At a rally in North Carolina, 26-year-old Rakeem Jones was slugged in the face by 78-year-old John McGraw while being escorted out by security. McGraw was not even immediately arrested for his violent, unprovoked assault; that didn't happen until he later went to the police of his own volition for questioning. Supposedly, none of the officers actually saw the assault, because they were apparently looking down and not paying any attention.
Donald Trump now has a long and continuing history of fueling racial tensions in America, one which is only continuing to grow with each successive rally. I watched his Kansas City rally via live stream on Saturday night, and it seemed that he spent at least half an hour ejecting various protesters before he could even begin addressing his supporters! What I am now seeing out of Donald Trump's campaign is quite possibly the scariest thing I have ever witnessed as an American citizen. During his speech Saturday night, Trump not only continued to heckle protesters and have them forcibly evicted, he later stated that he would begin having them arrested going forward, saying several times that he hopes they will be arrested and that he is going to push this in an attempt to stop any more protesters from showing up at his rallies. He even made light of the fact that such arrests could potentially ruin lives by giving them criminal histories even while remaining adamant that this was the way to move forward.
This is something that we as a country really need to stop and think about. Our country was literally founded upon the fundamental right that we be allowed to speak up against things we know to be wrong; the Boston Tea Party was a way for our ancestors to protest unfair taxation and the lack of any type of representation on the part of the British government. And while costly in terms of the product destroyed in this event, it was a method of non-violent protest (which unfortunately did help bring about the Revolutionary War). The Boston Tea Party helped to establish such forms of non-violent speech as a way of taking a stand against oppression -- a tradition which was built into the Constitution in the form of the First Amendment and which remains vital to this day.
What we are witnessing, then, is the front-running candidate for America's highest office outwardly opposing one of the most vital of human rights. As pertains to protesters, Trump's new refrain is, "Get 'em out!" Donald Trump has no respect whatsoever for the right of the people he expects to lead to assemble in opposition to what are, at best, questionable responses to problems such as illegal immigration and terrorism. Donald Trump not only believes he is the only one who can "make America great again," he fervently opposes anyone who doesn't agree with him by having security evict them from his events! Yet he still believes he will be able to unite the country, even while telling his detractors that they have no right to question him. Perhaps he has forgotten that America is a democracy and not a monarchy; we are not his loyal subjects, and he is not the supreme ruler, though he seems to think that's what he will become if elected in November.
But while Trump likely does have the ability to stem some of the uproar, he actually chooses to encourage it. A few of the most egregious examples:
- Soon after Black Lives Matter protesters seized the stage at a Bernie Sanders rally, Trump stated that this would not happen at his events: "I don't know if I'll do the fighting myself or other people will." He further criticized Sanders for being "weak," suggesting that actively fighting those who wish to speak out at political rallies makes you a stronger a candidate.
- At a recent rally in Nevada, Trump said of a protester: "I'd like to punch him in the face." He further lamented that the law does not "[allow us] to punch back any more," also insinuating that the man should have been "carried out on a stretcher."
- Some handy soundbites courtesy of this video.
It would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.
Also recall Trump's support for waterboarding and potentially even deadlier forms of torture. Or that he would seek to kill the families of suspected terrorists -- something so concerning that General Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and CIA, actively declared that the military would refuse to obey Trump if he gave such an order. There is even concern that Trump's response when a supporter asked when we can get rid of Muslims was a veiled threat against that population after his previous assertions that all Muslims should be banned from entering the country. Oh, and there's a recent statement he made that Islam itself -- the actual religion, mind you -- hates us.
A Turning Point
But Friday night's events in Chicago, as well as Trump's promises on Saturday to have any future protesters arrested, mark a turning point both in the Trump campaign's rhetoric and the overall tone of his contempt for minority groups and constitutional rights. The fact that many of the assaulted have been black shows that neither he nor his supporters care for the issues facing their entire ethnicity. This already seemed to be the case when he previously said during a debate that the police are the most mistreated group in America; this point has now been made loud and clear.
In fact, both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have one very important and worrisome trait in common: They effectively spit upon the Constitution and its First Amendment protections. Ted Cruz would have America run under a theocracy; Trump would see locked up any individual who dared disagree with him or attempt to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, even while complaining about how his own First Amendment rights are being violated! In their eyes, the First Amendment and Constitution exist only for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, not for the rest of America. It's another way for them to twist existing policy to suit only their own political interests.
But we're also seeing an assault on race relations which threatens to take America back to the Civil Rights era. Whenever Trump is critical of Black Lives Matter, has protesters thrown out, or wishes to arrest or even attack said protesters, his audience roars in approval. Whenever he threatens to bring back waterboarding or "knock the hell out of ISIS" or restrict the rights of Muslims, his supporters light up like little Christmas trees. As I have said before, Donald Trump has managed to tap into a deeply-rooted anger within America, and as we now begin to see physical assaults increase at Trump's rallies, we threaten to unravel all of America's hard-won victories over civil rights. As Trump's campaign continues to soar, so too does the level of hate and bigotry surrounding it, which permeates throughout America. Should Trump actually win the nomination and come within striking distance of the presidency, we could see an escalation in racial tensions not seen since the Civil Rights era, and the potential for racial violence will only increase from there. What's worse: The implications for this will extend far beyond the 2016 election and will likely become a fixture in American politics and race relations for years to come.
Naturally, though, Trump himself disavows any responsibility for escalating tensions at his rallies:
"It is Clinton and Sanders people who disrupted my rally in Chicago -- and then they say I must talk to my people," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Phony politicians!"
Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have taken on Trump over his violent rhetoric, with Sanders calling him a "pathological liar" and "a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama." Clinton remarked that the "ugly, divisive rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is wrong, and it's dangerous." Even fellow Republican contenders John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio have weighed in, with Rubio perhaps best reflecting the potential racial implications:
"You saw those images last night of people getting in their face, often divided up [along] racial lines in many cases -- the police officers bleeding from the head, reminiscent of images from the '60s," he said. "I mean, we're going backwards here. This is a frightening, grotesque and disturbing development in American politics."
Perhaps the worst part of this scenario is that Trump likely does have at least some ability to control this; he simply chooses not to do so because it would potentially erode support from his most fanatical supporters. I feel like Trump could do one simple thing to contain at least a large part of the furor: Make available at each rally a small area for only protesters to gather and hold their protest signs. That's it; that's all Donald Trump needs to do. He could cordon off a section of his venues specifically for protesters, with conditions that if they get out of hand, they will be asked to leave, and similar conditions for his supporters that they not antagonize the protesters. That way, everyone gets their say, and the risk of violence is at least reduced.
But Trump, even though he touts himself as being a great deal-maker, doesn't want to make this deal. Because in doing so, he would be giving a voice to those who question his ability to lead, and potentially giving his die-hard supporters their own reasons to question it. And that type of deal -- one which does anything to delegitimize the god which is Donald Trump -- is one he will never be willing to negotiate. And as a result, America has the potential to erode the civil rights of a number of different ethnic groups within America, which would set our nation back decades. Donald Trump may not yet be the Number One threat to America and its values, but he is quickly closing in on Ted Cruz's position for that title. If either one of them wins in November -- especially if it's a Trump/Cruz presidential ticket -- then may heaven have mercy on this nation because it will be in grave peril.