What a sad debate between those who contend that Donald Trump fires off his increasingly hateful comments because he’s cleverly trying to distract and those who insist it’s because he simply has no impulse control. Is his racism uncontrolled or is it calculated, the worst form of demagoguery?
In spite of his halfhearted claim — “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” — he really makes no bones about the fact that he’s an out-and-out bigot. And here’s the scary part: It works. Look no further than his massive rallies, where thousands of his fans rattle the rooftops with rabid hatred.
There he was recently in Greenville, North Carolina, where he thrilled his hordes by wrapping himself in jingoism and prejudice once again, this time by attacking “The Squad.” That’s the group of four hard-left congresswomen who are inexperienced but loud enough to have become cable news and social media (same thing) supercelebrities. President Trump, who never misses an opportunity to cause his rabid base to collectively foam at the mouth, stooped to new lows with his ugly dog whistles. But this time he did not even bother to waste time with subtlety. He started off by tweeting an old slur that critics of the U.S. face, particularly those of color: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came?”
Give him top marks for grammar. He didn’t end a sentence with a preposition. But his proposition is fatally flawed. First of all, three of the four were born in the United States, and the fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar, came over from Somalia as an 8-year-old. He focused his attention on Omar, revving up the anti-Muslim hatred of his followers. Thousands of voices responded loudly and frighteningly, chanting “Send her back!” Trump paused for 13 seconds, but by the next day, when there was an uproar, and when even Melania and Ivanka had conducted their intervention, he was backpedaling: “I was not happy when I heard that chant.”
Nevertheless, such mass zealotry has totally intimidated most every politician in the Republican Party. Only a few dare challenge him. The rest meekly acquiesce to the opportunistic extremist who has taken over the GOP. They always do, timid officeholders and candidates marching in lock step with him. Make that goose step.
Of course, the Democrats themselves were also screaming. They even considered impeachment, although their failed resolution was curiously timed. They might have been better able to gauge the national reaction after seeing how sensational Bob Mueller’s comments prove to be.
So far, Democrats have been shackled by their inability to really get down and dirty and play Trump’s game. Perhaps they are encumbered by a sense of shame. Donald Trump definitely is not. He has been able to convince his mobs that he’s fighting the good fight against the Washington Swamp from down in the gutter.
He’s wagering that if he offers them enough sewage, they will turn up on Election Day. He’s also betting that if the Democrats and whatever candidate they choose are bound by the rules of common decency, their voters will politely fail to show up. Then they can spend the next four years debating how they blew another chance. Politely, of course.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2019 Bob Franken. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.