Call me a Trump Believer. He’s sold me.
Not on his candidacy, which I will oppose with all of my being — but on his seriousness and his savvy, which are hard to see beneath all the hate and Halloween makeup.
His campaign has been more method than madness, built on a mission to avenge a humiliation and steeped in absurdly extreme-dog whistle tactics. In in his first actual campaign, he’s made hundreds of millions of dollars of his opponents’ war chests and Republican heroes like Scott Walker — who took on the entire labor movement — crumble into Sea Monkey seeds.
So when he spends months ginning up violence at the people who protest his rallies over and over again, I no longer think he’s just overcompensating for insecurities the size of Delaware.
He has a plan.
On the immediate level, he recognizes this authoritarian display turns him into something his supporters identify most with — a victim of the raging forces of a politically correct, diverse society that tolerates thuggery.
Esquire‘s Charles Pierce makes the case that protesters are actually feeding Trump “like some science-fiction monster that absorbs the energy of whatever attacks it and then uses it to destroy.”
Historian Kevin M. Kruse — author of the fantastic One Nation Under God and maker of fine tweestorms — offers the case that the larger narrative of Trump facing constant disruptions, which are definitely legal, could end up helping the billion-dollar baby. He explained on Twitter why these protests differ from effective civil disobedience such as sit-ins at lunch counters:
Civil rights protests were about disrupting the status quo of segregation, the southern claim that all sides were happy with “good race relations.” So non-violent direct action served as a pointed statement that, “No, it wasn’t working and moreover, that when the state tried to force it, it was clearly inhuman and cruel.” With political rallies, there’s a different dynamic. Trump is telling supporters they’re victims and they need him to stand up to dangerous forces out there. If protesters shut down rallies that merely validates their victimhood and rationalizes their extremism. Meanwhile, moderates who otherwise are turned off by Trump’s style, buy into a “both sides do it” false equivalency and rationalize that Trump is, as several tweeted yesterday, “the lesser of two evils.”
And polls show that though protesters successfully shut Trump up in Chicago, it only improved his chances of wrapping the Republican presidential nomination before the convention — which leads me to what I think is Trump’s secondary and more dangerous motive behind his not-so subtle encouragement of violence that goes as far as him suggesting he will subsidize the defense of those who attack protesters out of “loyalty.”
Republicans are plotting to swipe the Republican nomination away from Trump, especially if he arrives at the convention without meeting the threshold of delegates to cinch the nomination.
“Though the real action will take place on the convention floor in June, the machinations to take the nomination from Trump are already fully in progress,” Bloomberg‘s Sasha Issenberg explains.
And it’s all legal and within the rules the Republican National Committee established in 2012.
“Trump suggested in Thursday night’s debate that the leading candidate, even one shy of a majority, should automatically receive the nomination,” GOP legal guru Benjamin Ginsberg explains in Politico. “But to allow a candidate to be declared the nominee with only a plurality of delegates would require the unprecedented amendment of the existing rules, a feat of rules wizardry as transformative as denying a candidate with a majority the nomination.”
If he steps into Cleveland without those necessary 1,237 — or possibly even if he does — he will face Republican candidates angling to rip his prize away. There’s a decent chance these efforts will be defeated by an authoritarian party’s fetisihizing of rules and order. Or — more likely — Trump will be aided by his greatest advantage in this primary, conservatives’ inability to gather themselves behind one candidate, even as they face what may be an existential threat to their movement and party.
But let’s say a miracle happens and one of the many Republican candidates who is fantasizing about rushing in to save the party manages to unify the party. What then?
Would Trump — who by then will have little-to-zero hope of launching a third-party run — just sit back an absorb a massive humiliation?
Well, you won’t like Trump supporters when they are angry and legally indemnified against violence.
This threat isn’t just some fantasy I’ve conjured. Trump has all but said he and his “people” would resist being usurped with everything he’s got:
“I don’t know that that’s going to happen. But I’ll tell you, there are going to be a lot of people that will be very upset if that doesn’t happen. I think that would be pretty unfair.”
With his daily war against protesters as training and his followers seeing him as their savior, maybe the Republican establishment will decide they’re better off just letting Trump take the nomination. Sure it could be the end of the GOP and the dawn of American fascism. But at least he’ll try to cut their taxes by $1.3 million a year.