Ancient maps often marked their blurry fringes with a warning, “Here be monsters.” Sometimes the warnings were illustrated with charming images of the menace that lurks beyond the reach of the known world. Never did those monsters sport an orange comb over. Time for an update.
We are starting to perceive the outline of the unknown lands into which Donald Trump is leading us. For months he called for and got violence against opponents at his rallies. He routinely dehumanizes not just his opponents, but also anyone who dares to question him. He has harbored racists and even Neo-Nazis. He has unleashed actual harassment and threats of violence on those who dig into his background.
Despite all this, Republican voters have made him their Presidential nominee. We have swallowed this pill. Trump has zero shot at the White House, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever political legitimacy the Republican Party currently retains has been placed in the service a man willing to use any means for his own political ends. What happened last night in California is just a hint of what’s coming.
Here be monsters.
The idiots who have lent their political capital to Donald Trump got what they asked for in San Jose. After threatening and occasionally meting out violence toward a few isolated, poorly protected people, they are getting a taste of what comes next.
For those who want to blame this nonsense on “Bernie supporters” or “paid left-wing protestors,” a comparison might be helpful. There isn’t a single political issue on which Ted Cruz took a moderate, considered, reasonable stance. Yet no one was punched at his rallies. His political gatherings didn’t feature a regular perp-walk of protestors being harassed and intimidated while led away by thugs. Remember all the “left-wing” violence at Romney’s rallies. Neither do I.
Trump’s supporters asked for this in the most literal possible way. Now they are discovering the depths of what they’ve launched. They didn’t realize that they needed those norms, these “PC” constraints, until they had destroyed them. Ask for violence and you’ll get it, but you can’t expect to control or direct it.
Trump’s presence at the top of a national party ticket is, by itself, a destabilizing force, a challenge to basic civic norms. By making him the nominee, we have incorporated a level of semi-organized violence into our political discourse.
Some are predicting that the counter-violence by anti-Trump protestors will help Trump at the polls. Good luck with that. The people who elevated Trump are some of the most hated figures in American public life. Don’t believe me? Ask someone who has a good job whether they have ever heard someone express support for Trump at work. Go looking for any remotely or subtly pro-Trump material on LinkedIn. The bulk of the public looks at that miserable Trump supporter with egg on her face and feels a pang of schadenfraude. That’s not good for the future of the republic.
It is unclear how we are supposed to contain what Republicans have unleashed in our politics. Here be monsters.