25 February 2016
The punitive campaign
Every time the "establishment" denounces Donald Trump, his supporters see more resemblance between him and themselves. Yet another potential "jump the shark" moment came earlier this week when Trump, watching a protester get escorted from a rally, expressed a desire to punch the man in the face and a nostalgia for the days, remembered perhaps by him only, when such disruptive people were taken out of rallies like his on stretchers. And maybe it did turn a few people off, but I suspect that the majority of Trump supporters themselves want to punch people in the face. Their slogan could be borrowed from the hilariously bad line uttered by a villain in the new movie Gods of Egypt: "You will bring them reckoning!" For them, I suspect, there is no making America great again without punishing the people they hold responsible for de-greating it. That punishment might be as light as humiliation by Trumpian insults, and it certainly won't be as severe as some fear, but there probably has to be some suffering, some sign that they've gotten the message and felt the just wrath of an offended populace. To the "establishment," of course, politicians aren't supposed to say what Trump said, since it signals an intolerance of criticism, but "criticism" probably is too abstract a concept to be relevant to what Trump or his followers feel. They aren't interested in a deliberative exchange and comparison of ideas; this campaign is about right and wrong to them, and those who are wrong need, as reactionaries are fond of saying, to "wake up," even if that means slapping them awake. Any notion of physical punishment for expressing ideas, not to mention expressing disapproval of a leader or would-be leader, would seem to be as un-American as you can get, but the Trumpites (or Trumpets and Trumpettes?) seem engaged in a moral equivalent of war, and the rules change under such perceived circumstances. To them, smacking the idiots who've held the country back -- and this could be anybody from the "establishment" Republican to the Black Lives Matter protester to the furtive immigrant -- is as American as the Sons of Liberty tarring and feathering Loyalists or making them drink boiling tea -- or it would be if they knew that history. For them, ideas may not merely be wrong but disloyal or heretical. Let them think so, so long as they don't forget that democracy is reciprocal and everyone is accountable to everyone else. If Trump wants to punch people, even as President of the United States, then the old man had better be prepared to put up his dukes.