Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lessons from Trump's rallies: ungentleness at best, bloodlust at worst

George Saunders explores Trump's supporters - who they are, what they believe, and what they do. He makes his observations by attending Trump rallies.

An ungentleness gets into the air when Trump speaks, prompting the abandonment of certain social norms (e.g., an old man should show forbearance and physical respect for a young woman, even—especially—an angry young woman, and might even think to wonder what is making her so angry), norms that, to fired-up Trump supporters, must feel antiquated in this brave new moment of ideological foment. They have thought and thought, in projective terms, about theoretical protesters, and now here are some real ones.

This ungentleness ripples out through the crowd and into the area beyond the fence where the protesters have set up shop. One of them, Sandra Borchers, tells me that out there all was calm (she was “actually having dialogues” with Trump supporters, “back-and-forth conversations, at about this talking level”) until Trump started speaking. Then things got “violent and aggressive.” Someone threw a rock at her head. A female Trump supporter “in a pink-peachy-color T-shirt” attacked a protester, kicking and punching him. Rebecca LaStrap, an African-American woman, twenty years old, wearing a “fuck trump” T-shirt, was grabbed by the breast, thrown to the ground, slapped in the face. (She was also told to “go back on the boat,” a perplexing instruction, given that she was born and raised in Mesa.) Later that day, in Tucson, two young Hispanic women, quietly watching the rally there, are thrown out of the venue, and one (as a member of Trump’s security staff bellows, “Out! Out! Out!”) is roughly shoved through a revolving door by a Trump supporter who looks to be in his seventies and who then performs a strange little quasi-karate move, as if he expects her to fly back in and counterattack. A pro-immigration protester named George Clifton, who is wearing a sign that says “veteran: u.s.m.c. and c.i.a.,” tells me that two Trump supporters came up to him separately after the Fountain Hills rally and whispered “almost verbatim the same thing, not quite, but in a nutshell”: that they’d like to shoot him in the back of the head.

All that hate, all that rage, is not just directed at protesters. It is also directed at Hillary Clinton, reports Jared Yates Sexton in his New Republic article "There Will Be Blood".

The opening photo of a group of Trump supporters is captioned "At a Donald Trump rally, supporters call for the death of Hillary Clinton."

They’ve got murder on their minds now.

At the previous Donald Trump rally I’d attended, in Greensboro, North Carolina, Hillary Clinton was called a “bitch” more times that I could count. “Trump That Bitch” was the most common refrain. They shouted it from the rafters, wore T-shirts emblazoned with it. But at a rally in Raleigh on Tuesday night, a new cry rang out:

“Hang that bitch!”

The anger among Trump supporters toward the presumptive Democratic nominee apparently had escalated in the past month, perhaps especially so after FBI Director James Comey announced on Tuesday morning that he would not seek criminal charges against Clinton over her email scandal. This was a travesty against justice, obvious proof of corruption. As Trump said on stage, “Today is the best evidence ever, that we’ve seen, that our system is absolutely, totally rigged.”

Clinton might have escaped criminal justice, but this mob had a different kind of justice in mind. Trumping that bitch was no longer good enough. Now they wanted her dead.

The first time I heard someone yell “Hang that bitch!” was during a speech by Trump policy advisor Stephen Miller. I heard “hang that bitch” at least twice more during Trump’s speech, remarks that led to the crowd’s calls for Comey to be fired.

And how did Trump respond?

Trump alleged that former President Bill Clinton had tampered with the FBI’s investigation, and that Hillary had used her position as secretary of state to line her pockets and singlehandedly destabilize the Middle East.

While Trump made the latter case, a man stood up and yelled, “Hang Hillary!”

“Yeah!” another shouted.

A smattering of applause.

[After the rally] a man with a copy of The Art of the Deal in his back pocket was ranting to a local TV reporter about Clinton’s private email server. He said Clinton should be “shot, executed” for “high treason.”

Later that night, in a frenzy himself, the architect of this bloodlust would tweet that “Crooked Hillary” got away with “murder.”

And that's how they got murder on their minds. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the office of President of the United States of America, put it there. Donald Trump, bordering on inciting riots, priming his followers with the thought of murdering a political rival. Donald Trump, supported and/or endorsed by John McCain, Sarah Palin, Tom Cotton, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell. Yeah, that Donald Trump - the "architect of this bloodlust."

If there will be blood, it will be on the heads and hands of those Republican politicians who support Trump and his implicit, sometimes explicit, incitement of violence.

However flawed you find Democratic processes, however wounded you see the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, however much you believe that there is more for Bernie to accomplish, you must not sit this out. And giving your vote to a third party candidate is the same as sitting it out. If you use your vote as an instrument of protest, you get the architect of bloodlust, Donald Trump.

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