It’s not a joke anymore. Violence erupted outside a Trump rally in St Louis and a rally later in the evening was canceled, supposedly over security concerns. Where violence inside these rallies has long been ignored the act of it spilling onto the streets has suddenly caught the attention of nearly everyone. This is scary stuff.
Nevermind that it’s been at a boil for months. Somehow, a line was crossed.
This will unquestionably change the nature of the Presidential race, but it’s unclear exactly how at this point. Will it crystallize Republican opposition? Will it escalate by engaging the left? What will the average voter think of this? What will the media report?
The fiery election of 2016 just had a lot of gasoline dumped on it. It’s no longer even remotely predictable.
What we know at this stage is rather limited. For months, protesters inside Trump rallies have been shoved, punched, and dragged out of the events physically. The first time this spilled over onto the street came in St Louis, when a group of anti-Trump demonstrators got close enough to the Trump rally attendees to start trading punches. The police moved in swiftly and things got worse. That evening, a Trump rally in Chicago was postponed indefinitely.
Where violence before had been lightly reported, the press has responded to the public spectacle sharply – as if what went on before was some kind of private thang they had no business caring about. Many outlets have condemned Trump for inciting violence, as have his opponents, placing blame squarely on his shoulders.
Trump, for his part, blames Sanders’ supporters for what happened. How can this be?
Sadly, he has a thin line of reasoning to back this claim. Students at University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), the Chicago venue, asked moveon.org to help them organize a counter-rally against Trump. The group eagerly complied. By the time the rally was to start the protesters outnumbered rally attendees by several to one, making the situation volatile.
This is a dangerous escalation of the situation no matter how we look at it. No matter how you feel about the UIC students and moveon, they need to be very careful.
Trump, typically, right out lied by saying that the Chicago Police asked him to cancel the rally. It was a brilliant move where his lie made the first pass of the news and the subsequent denial by the police is relatively lightly reported. Trump can claim that he didn’t start a thing.
More to the point, this enabled Trump to claim that Sanders’ supporters were behind the potentially violent move to take his right to free speech, given that moveon has indeed supported Sanders. Not only does the focus move away from Trump, it has a name to turn on.
When moveon organized the protest it probably seemed like the reasonable thing to do. After all, no one wants to simply let Trump continue to spew hate and promote violence without being countered, right? But this is a dangerous path that they need to consider carefully before proceeding.
If nothing else, Trump is a master at turning any situation to his favor immediately, largely because he has no shame whatsoever. Like the Nazis, who almost certainly did not burn down the German Parliament in 1933, he is able to quickly capitalize on any chaotic situation because he is the most nimble and the best prepared.
Simply organizing students into a protest is not enough. Such an action is escalating the situation without being as prepared as the opposition for what comes next . There are only two possible actions necessary at this point. One is to become as reckless and violent as Trump, taking control of the situation in the same manner. The other is to proceed as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) did to promote civil rights, which involved years of constant training for protesters in non-violent means.
We don’t have the time for the latter, and the former is horrific.
Does that mean that we cannot engage Trump? Of course not. But everyone has to be careful about it. Unfortunately, the thrill of a nasty confrontation is likely to bring out the very worst in both sides as people start showing up at these rallies looking for trouble. It’s only likely to get worse no matter what.
Thankfully, the press is finally doing its job. Perhaps the Republican Party will find a way to do what needs to be done, too. But setting up a left-right street war is a classic Nazi move being done in a classic Nazi way at the moment.
Trump’s true colors are on display, and they are clearly red, black, and white. We cannot forget this.