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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 13, 2016

 

Unleashing the Furies

by Tom Sullivan


Orestes Pursued by the Furies by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A quick summary of pre-bobblehead reaction to this weekend's developments.

If after the protests and violence at Donald Trump rallies over the weekend you wonder where this presidential campaign is heading, you are not alone. Dan Balz at the Washington Post wonders if Campaign 2016 isn't on "a downward and dangerous descent." Trump's rivals are wondering the same thing. Asked whether he would support the eventual Republican nominee for president, Sen. Marco Rubio said "it's getting harder every day." Politico reports:

Both the Florida senator and Ohio governor, fighting to avoid campaign-ending losses to Trump in their home states on Tuesday, blamed him for fostering a climate at his campaign events that enables violence. That climate, Rubio said, has the country “careening toward chaos and anarchy.” “We settle our differences in this country at the ballot box, not with guns or bayonets or violence,” Rubio told reporters.

“You wonder if we’re headed in a different direction today where we’re no longer capable of having differences of opinion but in fact now protests become a license to take up violence and take on your opponents physically,” he said. “This is what happens when a leading presidential candidate goes around feeding into a narrative of bitterness and anger and frustration.”
Trump clearly enjoys feeding the animus among his supporters. But those on the left determined to earn their merit badges in protest at Trump rallies simply make themselves live targets. Seriously, protest Trump events outside if you must. Attempt to disrupt the events themselves and you invite escalation and give Trumpists license to retaliate by disrupting yours. Why is that so hard to comprehend? But I digress.*

Cory Robin believes the right has even more to fear from Trump than impotent resistance from the left. This is perhaps what Rubio and friends really fear:
Trump hasn’t dared touch a lot of the orthodoxy of the right, including its penchant for tax cuts, which is the keystone of the conservative counterrevolution, as everyone from Howard Jarvis to George W. Bush understood. But without the fear of the left—listening to the Republican debates, you’d never know the candidates were even concerned about their opposition, so focused is their fratricidal gaze—Trump is free to indulge the more luxurious hostilities of the right.

And this, in the end, may be why Trump is so dangerous. Without the left, no one has any idea when his animus will take flight and where it will land. While counterrevolutionaries have always made established elites nervous, those elites could be assured that the wild Quixotism of a Burke or a Pat Buchanan would serve their cause. As today’s Republicans and their allies in the media have made clear, they have no idea if Trump won’t turn on them, too. Like Joe McCarthy in his senescence, Trump might try to gut the GOP. At least McCarthy had a real left to battle; Trump doesn’t.
Jelani Cobb distills Trump's movement succinctly for the New Yorker:
Polls conducted during the Obama era have consistently shown that large pluralities of whites believe that they, not blacks, Latinos, or Asian-Americans, are the primary victims of racism in contemporary America. Donald Trump built his reputation as a real-estate developer, but he is primarily a salesman, and it did not take a great deal of market research to know that there was a pool of eager consumers for the product he’s been offering the public for the past eight months. His is not the conservatism of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater, it’s the conservatism of another Queens-born mouthpiece of white grievance, Archie Bunker. Trump is, in a very real sense, presiding over a White Lives Matter movement.
British novelist Matt Haig's viral Facebook post explains that whether Trump wins the Republican nomination and/or the presidency, he has already unleashed the Furies:
Obvioulsy it would be worse if he became president but even if he didn't, he's already done damage. Not just in America but across the world. He has allowed the international league of closet racists to step out of their little wardrobes of hate. He has legitimised ignorance. He has shown that if the world watches The Apprentice for too long instead of reading books it slowly loses empathy and the power of critical thought. He has taken the legitimate torrents of anger of poor white people and managed to channel it downstream to the even more marginalised, rather than up river where it belongs. This new Emperor Nero, who makes Saddam Hussein's taste in interior design look understated, has shown how you really can't underestimate an electorate. He, with his vulgar Vegas towers and his golf courses and his shrugged-off hypocrisy, has shown the west that mad rulers don't just belong in totalitarian regimes. They can belong in the west. Because democracy means little when it becomes another reality TV show.
But the most acerbic take comes from Matt Taibbi's response to Trump's fawning endorsements from "swollen-headed, oxygen-deprived has-beens" to "assorted freaks and weirdos from the political margins," and lately from political rivals-turned lapdogs:
Trump's ignorance is monstrous, but it's nothing compared to that of his supporters, who apparently take "we don't know who is who" to mean that ISIS could be just about anyone not wearing a NASCAR uniform. This is like the Red Scare all over again, only dumber and more racist. We're like a week away from seeing Trumpshirts in Texas or Alabama gang-tackle a college student for eating tabouleh.

[...]

The way you build a truly vicious nationalist movement is to wed a relatively small core of belligerent idiots to a much larger group of opportunists and spineless fellow travelers whose primary function is to turn a blind eye to things. We may not have that many outright Nazis in America, but we have plenty of cowards and bootlickers, and once those fleshy dominoes start tumbling into the Trump camp, the game is up.
It is now 9 a.m. EDT and time for the bobbleheaded wise ones to explain it all to us in dulcet tones. Did we really move the clocks forward? It feels like backward.

* Update: As I said ...