Inciter in Chief

Alan Zendell, October 15, 2018

Since the day he announced his candidacy for president, Donald Trump has relentlessly attacked the media. His initial attacks were completely unprovoked, as all of the major cable news channels devoted far more airtime to his campaign than anyone else’s. Those long, raucous rallies he conducted were covered live from start to finish with virtually no commentary.

Leading up to the 2016 primary elections, the media were united in their criticism of Trump’s campaign tactics – yes, even Fox News. Fox was the voice of the Republican establishment, and Trump was threatening to turn it upside down. When the media began criticizing Trump it was because of his divisiveness, his pandering to the most negative elements of our society, and his demonstrated attitude toward women. Also because millions of Americans old enough to remember World War II and its aftermath still cringed at the striking similarity between Trump’s rhetoric of hate and anger and that of Adolf Hitler during his rise to power.

Today, the same Donald Trump who last week re-enacted the criminal assault of a Congressional candidate in Montana against a reporter claiming, “He’s my kind of man,” has the unmitigated gall to blame the climate of anger in our country on the media. I could fill pages recounting the times Trump encouraged his rabid, screaming supporters to punch protesters in the face, throw people out bodily, lock up his opponent, accuse Mexicans of being rapists and murderers, even suggesting that Senator Ted Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy – the list is endless.

When Trump was recently asked if he regretted anything he’d said or done, he said, “I don’t regret anything. It all worked out, didn’t it?” All that mattered to him was that he won.

The truth is that President Trump is the chief inciter of violence in this country. He refused to condemn the White Supremacist march in Charlottesville, and he has consistently defended everyone accused of violence against women. He demonizes Muslims, lies outrageously, and peddles fear wherever he goes. When he’s done stoking anger at his rallies, the crowds sound like lynch mobs.

The majority of Americans, even many who support his policies are horrified by his demeanor and lack of a moral center. Our country has become a tinderbox that threatens to explode into violence at the merest provocation. It undeniably divides families and destroys friendships. The question today is whether the climate of hate and anger Trump has created contributed to the actions of the people who mailed bombs to two former presidents and at least seven other people, every one of whom was specifically targeted by the President’s vitriol.

A Trump supporter I spoke to yesterday compared the current acts of terrorism to the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise and others during a Congressional baseball practice last year. He argued that that attack was the act of a crazed liberal, and that attributing the actions of the current mad bomber to Trump was simply exaggerated bias on my part. I’m sure most of Trump’s base agrees with him, but common sense says otherwise.

Do I believe the bombs were part of some plot dreamed up by Trump’s staff? Of course not. But I and many others have said from the beginning of our Donald Trump nightmare that his behavior as a role model was a danger to our country. Mailing bombs isn’t the act of one insane individual with a grudge. It is a carefully planned attempt to either kill or terrorize a specific list of people the president has identified as enemies.

The real question is: has our president’s rhetoric of hate and divisiveness created a climate in which terrible acts of violence are more likely to occur? We’ve all heard people we love and respect erupt with a level of anger and rage that shocked us when the subject was Donald Trump. Most of those people were not prone to violence, but what about the millions who are less stable? Given the level of untreated mental illness in our country, how many people who are unbalanced to begin with hear our president inciting violence against specific individuals or institutions and interpret that as permission if not outright encouragement to do violence?

I believe the terrorist actions of whoever sent those bombs were inevitable in this climate. Trump may not have intentionally encouraged those bombs, but he very deliberately created an atmosphere in which one spark could set them off. His narcissistic lust for power and his willingness to win at any cost make him culpable.

Trump has been telling the crowds at his rallies to vote as if he were on the ballot on November 6th. In that, I agree with him. Get off your butt and vote as if your life depended on it, because it very well may.

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