Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Trump's incitement of violence is a rehearsal for November

Paul Krugman, in the New York Times, observes with quite a bit of horror that Trump Takes Us to the Brink. Will weaponized racism destroy America?

In a call with governors on Monday, he showed no sign of recognizing either that there might be some justification for widespread protests or that he should play some role in unifying the nation. Instead, he told the governors that all the violence was coming from the “radical left,” and he insisted that governors must get tougher: “You have to dominate or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks; you have to arrest and try people.”

Trump — who retreated to an underground bunker when protesters began demonstrating in front of the White House — also told the governors that “most of you are weak.”

It was a terrifying performance.

Republicans have, as I said, spent decades exploiting racial hostility to win elections despite a policy agenda that hurts workers. But Trump is now pushing that cynical strategy toward a kind of apotheosis.

On one side, he’s effectively inciting violence by his supporters. On the other, he’s very close to calling for a military response to social protest. And at this point, nobody expects any significant pushback from other Republicans.

Now, I don’t think Trump will actually succeed in provoking a race war in the near future, even though he’s clearly itching for an excuse to use force. But the months ahead are still likely to be very, very ugly.

After all, if Trump is encouraging violence and talking about military solutions to overwhelmingly peaceful protests, what will he and his supporters do if he looks likely to lose November’s election?

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an America) Weighed in Tuesday on Trump’s photo op.

Last evening, the White House ordered Lafayette Square cleared of protesters so Trump could walk from the building to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church and back, to try to override images of him hiding in the White House bunker with pictures of him walking outside. To clear the square, National Guard units attacked the peaceful protesters there with teargas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang explosives. Once the protesters had fled, the president strode across the square to the church and back, accompanied by Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley in battle fatigues, and various advisors.

The stunt has drawn a significant backlash. Former CIA officials called out the behavior as that of a budding dictator. Gail Helt, a former CIA analyst who is now a professor of political science, told Washington Post reporter Greg Miller, “I’ve seen this kind of violence…. This is what autocrats do. This is what happens in countries before a collapse. It really does unnerve me.”

The day before Cox Richardson observed:

Tonight General Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, talked to reporters from the streets of Washington. National security specialist Tom Nichols noted: “There is absolutely no reason for the Chairman to be walking the streets right now. This is not even remotely in the tradition of U.S. civil-military relations.”

Hang onto that thought. Someone has to.

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