A Warning Then, Reality Now: Trump’s Radical and Violent Supporters in 2016 and 2020

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I wrote this on October 12th 2016. I saw what was coming and it is now here. Back then even many Democrats did not believe that fellow Americans would continue to behave this way, even if Trump somehow won the election. Many thought is was a passing moment, an anomaly that would not be repeated.

I wish I was wrong but it is being repeated day after day during the 2020 campaign. Heavily armed White Supremacists attempt to intimidate voters at polls. Today a caravan of Trump supporters tried to drive a Biden-Harris campaign bus off the road between San Antonio and Austin, threatening the lives of the people on the bus with no law enforcement intervention, while police in North Carolina attacked a column of mostly Black men and women holding a peaceful protest while marching from a church to the polls to cast their ballots, arresting more than a dozen of them after attacking them with peeper spray and truncheons. There are so many of these incidents that they are almost overwhelming, but to see the President use his rallies and twitter to praise them is unheard of in American politics.

I knew better because I had been a Republican for 32 years. I campaigned for Gerald Ford before I could vote. Forty years ago I cast my first vote in a Presidential Election for Ronald Reagan. I finally left the GOP when I heard Republican politicians and the Right Wing radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh who I had listened to and even defended for years repeating Birther conspiracy theories, and using racist terminology and dog whistles constantly during the 2008 campaign. I had supported John McCain up until that point, but I realized that he and men like him were no longer in control of the Republican base which had been radicalized by men like Limbaugh for decades. The base was now made up by people who supported in increasing numbers openly racist politicians, like the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Master, David Duke, and radical Evangelical Christian extremists who preached a gospel of hate, including someone I knew well from church, anti-abortion leader Randall Terry. Terry once urged his followers:

“Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…. If a Christian voted for Clinton, he sinned against God. It’s that simple…. Our goal is a Christian Nation… we have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want Pluralism. We want theocracy. Theocracy means God rules. I’ve got a hot flash. God rules.”  [Randall Terry, Head of Operation Rescue, from The News Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Aug 15, 1993]

On the day I cracked I was driving between my military unit’s facilities on two different bases while listening to Limbaugh. I had to pull to the side of the road and cry. This was about three months after returning from a combat tour in Iraq and dealing with PTSD that had not yet been diagnosed. I cried because I realized how mistaken I had been about the GOP for all of those years. I felt deceived and lied to, and I began to see the race hatred in the words and on the faces of Republicans I had known for years. I saw what was underneath the veneer of respectability shown by Republican leaders and knew that if I did not leave at that moment that I would be responsible for what came after as the scales had been lifted from my eyes.

Tonight with the fate of our republic on the line, I repeat my original warning and unequivocally state that their violent revolution is happening before our eyes. Trump is no longer simply a candidate, but the President. He has destroyed the guardrails that prevented tyrants from seizing power, the kind of man envisioned by those who wrote the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. He is a tyrant and a would be dictator whose supporters are devoted to that end. He is using all the powers of government and the courts to ensure that he remains in power. Alexander Hamilton warned us of a leader like Trump in the Federalist Papers:

“the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty … that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the mask of zeal for rights of the people than under the appearance of zeal for firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying court to the people, commencing as demagogues and ending up tyrants.”

So anyway, most of last night and today I have been battling a severe toothache. I went to the Naval Medical Center only to be told that the on call dentists no longer came in for “routine” issues. I was given pain meds and antibiotics and told to go to dental sick call on Monday morning.

What follows is that post from October 12th 2016. The original post is titled:“Trump and His Supporters Real Threats of Revolution and Violence.”  It is posted in its original form and has not been edited.

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The great American philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote:

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents. It pulls and whirls the individual away from his own self, makes him oblivious of his weal and future, frees him of jealousies and self-seeking. He becomes an anonymous particle quivering with a craving to fuse and coalesce with his like into one flaming mass.” 

I have been seeing questions asked about why so many of Donald Trump’s supporters are doubling down on their support of him as he melts down and declares war on his own the Republican Party. I think that too many people simply ascribe this to frustration with the status quo but I think that there is more to it than that. Quite frankly Trump has appealed to the basest instincts of many of his supporters: he appeals to their fear, their racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-Gay feelings, their feelings of powerlessness against real and imagined elites, and the fantasy world of conspiracy theories that have been promoted by right wing talkers, preachers, and media outlets for over two decades. He promises to make them important again, to make their twisted version of the Christian faith the law of the land, to bring retribution to their “enemies” to deport those not like them, and to ban others from coming into the country. He appeals to their desire for an authoritarian leader who will solve their problems without the niceties of acting in accordance with the Constitution or law.

Donald Trump supporter Birgitt Peterson of Yorkville, Ill., argues with protesters outside the UIC Pavilion after the cancelled rally for the Republican presidential candidate in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

His message is quite simply, to use these factors to stoke anger, hatred and rage against real and imagined devils. Hoffer noted: “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.” For many Trump supporters that “devil” is Hillary Clinton, Trump actually called her that during debate on Sunday night and claimed that she had a “very dark heart.” For some of his other followers it is Barak Obama, and to a growing number of his followers, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders who have denounced Trump or who have failed to endorse him. Hoffer wrote:

“It seems that, like the ideal deity, the ideal devil is one. We have it from Hitler—the foremost authority on devils—that the genius of a great leader consists in concentrating all hatred on a single foe, making “even adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category.” When Hitler picked the Jew as his devil, he peopled practically the whole world outside Germany with Jews or those who worked for them. “Behind England stands Israel, and behind France, and behind the United States.”

In place of any detailed policy, instead of a message of hope to Trump threatens and cajoles and his supporters, of whom he said during the Iowa Caucus campaign “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Richard Evans in his book The Coming of the Third Reich discussed one of Hitler’s first speeches after coming to power.

“As so often in his career, Hitler, beginning slowly and quietly so as to secure the rapt attention of his enormous audience, went over the history of the Nazi Party and the alleged crimes of the Weimar Republic since 1919—the inflation, the impoverishment of the peasantry, the rise of unemployment, the ruin of the nation. What would his government do to change this parlous situation? His answer avoided any specific commitments at all. He said grandly that he was not going to make any ‘cheap promises’. Instead, he declared that his programme was to rebuild the German nation without foreign aid, ‘according to eternal laws valid for all time’, on the basis of the people and the soil, not according to ideas of class. Once more, he held up the intoxicating vision of a Germany united in a new society that would overcome the divisions of class and creed that had racked it over the past fourteen years. The workers, he declared, would be freed from the alien ideology of Marxism and led back to the national community of the entire German race. This was a ‘programme of national resurrection in all areas of life.’” 

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One thing you can say about Trump is that he understands his hard core supporters. Time and time again he has said and done things that would have left a normal candidate in a normal campaign sitting out the election at home, but instead his hardcore supporters, the people who now proudly call themselves “the Deplorables” respond to his threats to jail Hillary Clinton, to abandon and overthrow the GOP leadership, and his other invectives with an eagerness not seen in an electorate since Adolf Hitler’s mesmerized supporters screamed “Sieg Heil!” at Nazi Party rallies. The cult like devotion of his base is unlike anything ever seen in American politics. After two of his supporters beat a homeless man with a metal pole and urinated on him following a speech in which Trump called Mexicans “Rapists and drug dealers” Trump responded: “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country, they want this country to be great again.”  

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When his supporters roughed up opponents at Trump rallies he said: “Knock the crap out of them, would you?” and “In the good ol’ days, they’d have knocked him out of his seat so fast,” and offered to pay their legal fees. He encourages supporters to shout down the media at his events, calls out people who might be different than his supporters as he did when he asked non-Christians to identify themselves at a rally and asked his supporters if they should be allowed to stay in the room. This week he suggested that his followers go to heavily minority and Democratic precincts to “monitor” the vote. In open carry states that could well lead to his armed supporters loitering near polling places intimidating voters just as Hitler’s Brownshirts policed polling places in the elections leading to Hitler’s accession to power and the few votes held until he abolished opposition parties. Below is an image of armed S.A. Brownshirts outside a polling station on March 5th 1933, the final election for the Reichstag.

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This monster is something that will not go away even if Trump loses. Some of his supporters call for violent revolution if Clinton wins, but they wouldn’t be the first. Trump himself used twitter to call for revolution when President Obama defeated Mitt Romney on November 7th 2012. These calls for revolution and the blessing of extrajudicial violence against political enemies and minority groups have to be taken for real, especially with the rise of heavily armed so-called militia groups, as well as neo-Nazi, KKK, and other White Nationalist groups which live in a cloud-cuckoo land of conspiracy laden paranoia, and dualism.

This my friends is not normal or rational behavior for any Presidential candidate or campaign. I don’t think that I’m overly dramatic at this point. We have not seen the worst of this campaign.

Have a good night. Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

7 Comments

Filed under civil rights, civil war, crime, faith, History, holocaust, Immigration and immigrants, leadership, News and current events, Political Commentary, racism, terrorism, White nationalism

7 responses to “A Warning Then, Reality Now: Trump’s Radical and Violent Supporters in 2016 and 2020

  1. Excellent post. Thank you for sharing another well written perspective.

    • I know plenty of people who figured Clinton would win so they didn’t even bother going to vote, then they were shocked when things turned out the way they did. I live in Texas, so they were thinking “we’re gonna be red out here (in the sticks) anyway, even if we vote, and the whole state will go red because of it, so what’s the point?”

      I’m actively avoiding my neighbors right now. I have one who doesn’t believe in voting because she says she’s not informed enough. It takes a lot out of me not to say something, but I do know she’s had some learning disabilities and took 40 years to get her GED, and she works all the time and doesn’t watch the news. What little I’ve said about Dump has probably convinced her at least don’t vote for him. She is uber-Christian, but one of the few who’s a “oh, hell no” when it comes to Dump, so at least I know she won’t vote for him… but I doubt she’ll vote for Biden. I don’t typically ask my neighbors who they’re voting for because I don’t wanna hear it and don’t wanna argue. I can tell where some lean, but since this street doesn’t have a bunch of yard signs and the like going up to tell us who supports who, we’ve all been pretty civil to each other even if we know some lean liberal and some lean conservative.

      Amazingly, the past month I’ve seen a few more Biden signs or the “Nope” with Dump’s hair on it in yards on the main drag, which has perked me up. Some doubling-down on Dump flags around here, too, though. Ugh.

      • Pierre Lagacé

        I hope things will not get uglier, but a lot can happen until the Inauguration in January 2021.

        Whatever people say the virus has no political affiliation and it will hit the U.S. hard just like all the other countries who have to lock down again (Great Britain and France) because the second wave has now arrived. Here in Quebec we had been in lockdown since early October. This week the provincial government decided to lock down for another month. From well under 100 COVID-19 cases in August we have now jumped to over 1,000 per day.

        Most people are following safety measures but it does not seem enough to flatten the progression of the virus.

      • I’m just concerned because I went to a dollar store around the corner to pick a few things up the other day and only half the folks there were wearing masks (and one guy wasn’t while right behind me, practically in my space. I was still trying to maintain it between people. I guess because of “Covid fatigue” (thank you Great Pumpkin for that), people aren’t enforcing it as much, which makes no sense because I’m in a neighboring county to Harris (where Houston is) and they’ve had cases spike recently. I got plenty of stuff and don’t plan on leaving the house til Tuesday or for a doctor’s appointment later in the week. At least I’m assured the hospitals will still take it seriously.

  2. Dave M

    get the toll booths open. somebody go back and get a bag of dimes

  3. ajc

    Even if Trump doesn’t win. we will know that the crazies are still out there. I don’t see much future for our country. I really like Obama. I still do not understand how he got in though. Why did you not just call a civilian dentist who would come in for an emergency? They do that and you would probably get better care. Hope you get the tooth taken care of. ajc

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