From the Washington Post:
An already ugly presidential campaign has descended to a new level — one where the question is no longer whether Donald Trump can be stopped on his march to the GOP presidential nomination, but whether it is possible to contain what he has unleashed across the country.
Violence at Trump’s rallies has escalated sharply, and the reality-show quality of his campaign has taken a more ominous turn in the past few days. On Saturday, a man charged the stage in Dayton, Ohio, and a swarm of Secret Service agents surrounded the Republican front-runner.
On Friday afternoon, as the incendiary and racist political rhetoric of Donald Trump brought the country closer to the brink of widespread racial violence, President Obama was in Austin, Texas, primarily to exhort tech leaders attending the South by Southwest interactive film/music event to use their unique skills and vast wealth to help solve such national challenges as providing broadband to poorer rural areas and upgrading outdated federal networks.
But he also found time to comment on the sordid spectacle we are witnessing from the Republican Party this election cycle, and specifically the rise of Donald J. Trump as that Party’s standardbearer:
What is happening in this primary is just a distillation of what’s been happening inside their party for more than a decade. I mean, the reason that many of their voters are responding is because this is what’s been fed through the messages they’ve been sending for a long time — that you just make flat assertions that don’t comport with the facts. That you just deny the evidence of science. That compromise is a betrayal. That the other side isn’t simply wrong, or we just disagree, we want to take a different approach, but the other side is destroying the country, or treasonous. I mean, that’s — look it up. That’s what they’ve been saying.
Against this backdrop, the President observed that the rise of a Trump is hardly surprising:
So they can’t be surprised when somebody suddenly looks and says, you know what, I can do that even better. I can make stuff up better than that. I can be more outrageous than that. I can insult people even better than that. I can be even more uncivil. I mean, conservative outlets have been feeding their base constantly the notion that everything is a disaster, that everybody else is to blame, that Obamacare is destroying the country. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. It’s not, we disagree with this program, we think we can do it better — it’s, oh, this is a crisis!
So if you don’t care about the facts, or the evidence, or civility, in general in making your arguments, you will end up with candidates who will say just about anything and do just about anything. And when your answer to every proposal that I make, or Democrats make is no, it means that you’ve got to become more and more unreasonable because that’s the only way you can say no to some pretty reasonable stuff. And then you shouldn’t be surprised when your party ultimately has no ideas to offer at all.
The President’s assessment is spot on, but he is too constrained by his position and responsibilities as President– and by his unique status as the first African-American President and everything that implies—to take on its logical conclusion. Not only have “conservative outlets” have been feeding their base the fanciful notion that the Obama Presidency has been a “disaster,” but they specifically equate that “disaster” with the President’s race. So the rise of Trump is not only consistent with the upsurge in outlandish, alarmist rhetoric from the Republican Party, but with its constant deliberate focus on stoking racial resentments as well.
The President came closer to openly stating the obvious on Saturday in Dallas:
… Trump should not be viewed in isolation or as the product of a single election, President Obama said Saturday at a fundraiser in Dallas.
Obama said those who “feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people, and people who aren’t like ‘us,’ and say that the reason that America is in decline is because of ‘those’ people. That didn’t just happen last week. That narrative has been promoted now for years.”
Trump is the embodiment of “that narrative” come to fruition. Here’s David Remnick, commenting in the New Yorker:
This is not a Seth Rogen movie; this is as real as mud. Having all but swept the early Republican primaries and caucuses, Trump—who re-tweets conspiracy theories and invites the affections of white-supremacist groups, and has established himself as the adept inheritor of a long tradition of nativism, discrimination, and authoritarianism—is getting ever closer to becoming the nominee of what Republicans like to call “the party of Abraham Lincoln.” No American demagogue––not Huey Long, not Joseph McCarthy, not George Wallace––has ever achieved such proximity to national power.
Impotent and unwilling to contain the toxic genie he himself uncorked, Trump has predictably resorted to blaming the people protesting his hate speech for the violence his followers are now straining at the leash to inflict on people of color: the actual, bloody, physical violence they have always fantasized about but never had the chance before to act on, constrained by both the rule of law and social mores. Now that they are inspired by a figure who gives voice to their hatred, one who gives them implicit—and explicit– permission to act upon it, it is simply a matter of time and the law of averages that some people, perhaps many people, are going to be hurt and killed.
When that happens Trump has already made it clear he will be pointing his finger at everyone but himself. He is pathological in his unwillingness to accept responsibility for anything he has done. There is no reason to believe he will change after people start dying. And the mass corporate media, CNN, MSNBC and FOX who have cynically aided and abetted his rise will simply treat us to another round of “both sides do it” phony equivalency, all the while hotly denying their own complicity—not only in coddling Trump, but in failing to call out the Republican Party’s role in creating a backdrop for violence through its blatant and unprecedented disrespect of this President during the last eight years. The fact is that there is a direct, unbroken line connecting the behavior of the Republican Party since 2008 and the violence being encouraged by its front-runner today.
So in this narrow, tiny window we have before the violence Trump clearly wants spirals out of control, there should be no ambiguity. Americans must be absolutely clear on who brought this on the country:
The G.O.P. establishment may be in a state of meltdown, but this process of exploiting the darkest American undercurrents began with Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy and, more lately, has included the birther movement and the Obama Derangement Syndrome. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who compete hard for the most extreme positions in conservatism, decry the viciousness and the vacuousness of Trump, but they started out by deferring to him––and now they ape his vulgarity in a last-ditch effort to keep pace. Insults. Bigotry. Nationally televised assurances of adequate genital dimensions. This is the political moment in which we live. The Republican Party, having spent years courting the basest impulses in American political culture, now sees the writing on the wall. It reads “Donald Trump,” in very big letters.