“When I see that rally, that looks like a Klan rally to me.”
That instantly fitting characterization was made on MSNBC by Zerlina Maxwell, a writer and political commentator. It struck a chord. Trump’s campaign rallies have become the modern version of a Klan rally, where racists and misogynists gather to celebrate their shared pathologies and focus their hatred and rage on targeted scapegoats.
The meaning of Trump’s rallies was further unpacked in an outstanding and powerful op-ed by Jamelle Bouie in the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt:
To be clear, the Trump rally was not a lynch mob. But watching the interplay between leader and crowd, my mind immediately went to the mass spectacles of the lynching era. There’s simply no way to understand the energy of the event — its hatred and its pleasures — without looking to our history of communal racial violence and the ways in which Americans have used racial others, whether native-born or new arrivals, as scapegoats for their lost power, low status or nonexistent prosperity.
He goes on to say this:
If Trump has an unbreakable bond with his supporters, it’s because he gives them permission to express their sense of siege. His rhetoric frees them from the mores and norms that keep their grievance in check. His rallies — his political carnivals — provide an opportunity to affirm their feelings in a community of like-minded individuals.
Why do so many Trump supporters feel a sense of siege? Because they’ve absorbed thirty years of fear mongering, demonizing, and scapegoating from AM hate-radio, Koch think-tanks, and the Fox network. Creating fear and drama and a false sense of peril is good business. It can make your a fortune. Guys like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones have made tens of millions of dollars–and Rupert Murdoch made billions–by convincing aging whites that they would have been so much better off if it weren’t for [blacks, Mexicans, immigrants, gays, etc.]. They played up and amplified any feeling of, as Bouie puts it, “lost power, low status or nonexistent prosperity.” As cultural outsiders were granted equality, those with privilege were constantly urged to experience it as lost power and lowered status, especially with Rush Limbaugh in their ear telling them it was the fault of welfare queens and Mexicans.
One of the things activists can do to push back against malignant fear-mongering is to keep pointing out that violent crime has been on the decline for years. That immigrant communities have lower crime rates than communities of people born here. That the vast majority of citizens feel safe in their neighborhoods and homes. That anyone feeling employment or financial anxiety has a friend and a champion in the Democratic party.
Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”