Dear Commons Community,
At a meeting that President Donald Trump held with evangelical Christian leaders on Monday, the president warned of “violence” from both Democrats and anti-fascist protesters if Republicans fail to retain control of Congress in the midterm elections.
“They will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently,” Trump told the leaders, according to NBC News and the New York Times. “There’s violence. When you look at antifa, and you look at some of these groups—these are violent people.”
Trump was referring to anti-fascist protesters who have counter-protested at white supremacist rallies around the country. While some members of the loosely organized movement have resorted to violence, Democratic leaders have not endorsed the protesters.
On CNN, political analyst Jeffrey Toobin argued that Trump was employing a racist dog-whistle.
“Let’s be clear also about what’s going on here. The theme here is, ‘I’m Donald Trump and I’ll protect you from the scary black people,'” Toobin said.
The president did not elaborate on how or why Democrats would become violent if they were to win control of the House or Senate, but critics condemned his vague threat—especially after Trump himself has explicitly advocated for violence toward his opponents by his own supporters.
Charles Blow in his column today analyzes Trump’s tactics of fear. Here is an excerpt:
“During the presidential campaign, in the spring of 2016, the Republican front-runner Donald Trump sat down for an interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post. They quoted President Barack Obama on global power and foreign affairs saying that “real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence.” They then asked Trump if he agreed.
“Well, I think there’s a certain truth to that. I think there’s a certain truth to that. Real power is through respect. Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, fear.”
Woodward made “Fear” the title of his forthcoming book about Trump.
Trump has found — or has always had — a winning populism perfectly suited for this moment in our history, when the anxious, scared, hateful and callous desire an unapologetic voice that has the backing of actual power.
Trump’s magical mixture is to make being afraid feel like fun. His rallies are a hybrid of concert revelry and combat prep.
Trump tells his followers about all the things of which they should be afraid, or shouldn’t trust or should hate, and then positions himself as the greatest defense against those things. His supporters roar their approval at their white knight.
Fear is the poison-tipped arrow in Trump’s quiver. He launches it whenever he needs to change the subject, justify his callousness and racism, or defend himself from critique.
And he has been doing this since he got into the race for president.”
Trump is the typical bully who thinks he can cower others to his will. He uses fear tactics as one of his major ploys. People who are not afraid to stand up to bullies understand this well.