Analysis by Reporting San Diego
August 23, 2017. (San Diego) we heard several descriptions after the speech in Phoenix last night. Unhinged and crazy were two of the words used. So was a question from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to the fitness to the office by President Donald Trump. He qualified the speech as “down right scary and dangerous.”
Let me add one term you will hardly see Calculating.
Early he reached to his base and told them this:
“This evening, joined together with friends, we reaffirm our shared customs, traditions and values. We love our country. We celebrate our troops. We embrace our freedom. We respect our flag. We are proud of our history. We cherish our Constitution — including, by the way, the Second Amendment. We fully protect religious liberty. We believe in law and order. And we support the incredible men and women of law enforcement. And we pledge our allegiance to one nation under God.”
These are deep references to the divide. He is not talking to the country. He is talking to his supporters. The rest of the country, those who do not agree, by implication, do not embrace any of this. This is out of the divide and conquer playbook, that authoritarians have used for decades to take power.
Yes, I can hear you. He is nuts, and a lot of the media is reacting out of fear, rightly so, but are not looking at this to the danger that it poses. It is easier to discount the crazy than to discount the calculating.
This was a highly divisive speech, given to a base that loves the man. And we mean the love part. They would excuse him shooting somebody in the middle of the street, as he famously said earlier in the campaign season.
Here is the key. In a time of national crisis, the president has been doing his level best to continue to drive that wedge in.
The question few dare ask is why?
Trump is not even using more or fewer dog whistles. He is reaching for the air raid siren. He is also constantly trying to get his base away from any media that might tell them he is lying. One of the strangest moments in the speech was this, which I guarantee most in the media will not highlight much.
“Now, you know, I was a good student. I always hear about the elite. You know, the elite. They’re elite? I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment, and I live in the White House, too, which is really great.”
This deserves some unpacking. Trump is the clarion call of the common man, this is totalitarian populism as its heart. However, it is also division, and us versus them political message. There is one example that has become somewhat common, but not in how this parallels Trump. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela used very similar techniques. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, is using very similar techniques. Forget that they came from the other end. Authoritarians of all stripes create enemies. It is essential to power consolidation.
His attacks on the media were also part of this us versus them. The media has been portrayed as a bunch of liars, who will never tell the truth. They are also un-American and hate the country. This is hardly unprecedented, even if in the United States it has been building for decades. This is a common theme in places like Breitbart, the Rush Limbaugh Show and now the White House. this enemy of the people is dangerous and needs to be squashed. If you think this technique does not work, reporters in police states are victims of the government and followers regularly. They are portrayed that way. The list of countries with these issues is long, and I predict the United States will join that list. Also, media personalities have been killed in the past in the United States.
Alen Berg was killed in the 1980s by a neo-nazi. Part of the reason is that Berg challenged their world view on his radio show. He was pugnacious, but chiefly he was a Jew and part of that conspiracy and that power structure. He was part of the elites.
The media is part of those elites.
His murderer has died in prison, from natural causes.
That man is a hero to many in the white supremacist right. In many ways, the President of the United States is repeating those words. He is not referring to any specific event. But he is egging his base to attack the media.
Incidentally, when he said that the media was turning their cameras off, we saw that on the same media outlets he was attacking.
Now, as to Charlottesville. This is critical:
“What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America. And tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs who perpetrate hatred and violence.”
I want you to concentrate on one word here, “thug.” to his white supremacist base this does not translate to the Nazis, and neo Confederates hitting the streets. It was a direct reference to those in opposition. It is code for black and brown This was so clear that Richard Spencer heard it loud and clear. The Tweet was very clear.
So if you were having any doubts as to what this speech was about, it was not about unity.
Trump’s appellation to Our History and them, was also well received by the white supremacist right. They know he is a friend. So was the promise that Joe Arpaio will receive a pardon. The former sheriff if Maricopa County is one of them.
Now let me go there. I believe this is a way to encourage his followers to continue to pursue violence. Why? We have been in slowly brewing cold civil war for at least a decade, if not longer. What people refer at times as the culture wars. The offended are mostly in the white supremacist right. They know that quite frankly, either we become an apartheid state, or their age of privilege is coming to an end. They saw Trump as their last chance, and Trump is trying very hard to get more civil unrest.
This is a tool of the authoritarian. This is how democracies die. This is how Nazi Germany rose to power, and how many third world tin pot dictators have consolidated power as well.
So while you think he is crazy, he is crazy like a fox. Underestimate this man at your peril.
This is also a test for political institutions. Those who serve in the Congress have a moral choice to make. Put the republic above party politics, or participate in the final curtain for this republic. Yes, we could conceivably return to some form of democracy after a long night. The question is at what cost?