The Trump Army: Haters invited, incited and convinced to hate

April 15, 2016 Originally published on SFGate

A nation’s deep and angry political divide collided on a Chicago college campus Friday night, keeping Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump from taking the stage at a major rally just days before the Illinois primaryChicago Tribune

Everyone’s got their theories. Every pundit from here to MSNBC’s poor old Joe Scarborough is pondering the cruel meanings, the root causes, the potentially devastating ramifications of Trump’s nasty rise to political power, offering all manner of explanation, half-baked rationalization and pre-emptive autopsy on the shattered American experiment.

It was the racist backlash against Obama that gave us Trump, sayeth the terrific Jamelle Bouie over at Slate (which is ironic, given how it was the backlash against a devastatingly dumb n’ destructive GW Bush that gave us Obama). It was the GOP’s endless years of fearmongering and anti-everything odium that dumbed down their base to a Trump-ready degree, (sayeth, well, me, along with many others).

Or perhaps it was our nation’s vicious social inequity, the Great Socioeconomic Divide that allowed a monster like Trump to stagger in and take charge of a ragtag army of angry, righteous white minions – largely by telling them, over and over and over, that they’re an army of angry, righteous minions, and he is their rich, creepy king.

Or maybe this was the plan all along. Maybe it was Trump himself who’s been strategizing and plotting for years how best to stab the American political system in the eye, right after having his massive, trembling ego smashed to bits at a 2011 Correspondents’ Association dinner with Obama and Seth Myers. You think? The poor orange thug.

All true, yes? And yet still all sort of… incomplete.

Here’s one of the more popular wide angles: We – that is, Numbly Privileged America – had it coming. The lesser educated, the older, scared, insulated whites, the neglected working classes have been increasingly disenfranchised for decades now, left out of the larger conversation by both parties. And man, are they pissed.

You know the line between “inspired political rally” and “angry racist mob?” Trump eliminated it.

You know the line between “inspired political rally” and “angry racist mob?” Trump eliminated it.

Or rather, they’ve been told they are. Commanded to be so. By Trump. Over and over again.

And now, poisonous fates collide. In Trump, America’s great xenophobic militia has found its true general. Trump is just the right insipid, lowbrow, conspiracy-mad beauty pageant maniac to convince the white, racist masses that their pot of raging subjugation hath finally boiled over, and it’s all the (Muslims liberals immigrants women gays Mexicans Chinese Obamas politicians’) fault. Sound about right?

Well, sort of. There is absolutely a sense of karmic consequence afoot, a feeling of long-overdue backlash – though to my mind, “backlash” implies a level of intellectual or political cohesion, a kind of unification, whereas the Trump Army is merely a spastic cauldron of barely controlled chaos and itchy-trigger-finger violence, just looking for a reason.

Put another way: There is surely an entire portion of the American underclass for whom the American dream is more of a cruel, taunting hallucination. But then again, that’s always been the case. It’s essentially written in to capitalism’s mission statement.

This is where Trump comes in. As mentioned here and elsewhere, he’s a one-man troll machine. He’s mastered the art not of the deal, but of simplistic rhetorical savagery. In speech after raging, incoherent, blowhard speech, he says almost nothing, makes not a single articulate policy statement, merely hisses out all manner of empty phrase after empty, yelling, red-faced phrase, mostly about walls, Islam, and China. And the crowd loves it.

And therein lies the magic. See, this is how you incite mobs. This is how you inspire everyone in the village to grab a pitchfork and a flaming torch and burn down That Which You Do Not Understand. This is how you justify burning women at the stake at a “witch trial,” lynching slaves in a public square, punching a non-violent protester in the face and calling it “just what this country needs.” It’s all calculated, mindless repetition and looping rhetorical blather designed for a single purpose: to whip his angry, racist crowds into an even more angry, racist frenzy.

This is, after all, all Trump knows how to do. He cannot win any kind of intellectual argument. He cannot win a detailed policy debate, because he knows nothing about policy. He certainly cannot join in any sort of nuanced, thoughtful discussion about civil rights, or the function of religion in American society, or race, technology, income inequality, gender dynamics, or larger concepts of peace or progress in human society. To imagine him doing so is downright laughable. When he’s actually tried to do so, it’s downright disturbing.

All of which is to say: The above quote from the Trib is only partially right. Trump is as much a reflection of the “angry political divide” in America as one of its root causes. He is inducing it, defining it, perpetuating it, enflaming and inciting it, drinking it like demon’s blood and spitting it right back in the delighted faces of his followers. He’s creating the divide, exploiting it and making it far worse, all at once.

Maybe it’s just that simple. He’s the darkest, least humane, most ignoble corner of the human psyche, made fleshy and orange. Who invited him here, exactly? Republicans. The Bush era. Capitalism. Racism. Fear. America. Everyone, and no one. One thing’s for certain: He means the world ill.

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Mark Morford

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