Littwin writes: “Donald Trump has brilliantly exploited white working class unease, with Obama, with immigration, with ISIS, and now with homegrown radical terrorism and the horror they produced. It’s the perfect time for a strong man who would tell a crowd Saturday night that there would be no San Bernardinos in a TrumpWorld.” Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr.
The most obvious, and most disturbing, thing anyone can say about Donald Trump’s latest outrage is that it will probably work.
I mean, why not? All his previous outrages have.
It’s no coincidence that Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the country — just until, you know, we get this stuff straightened out — came on the heels of a Monmouth poll showing Ted Cruz creeping (I think that’s the apt word) ahead of Trump in Iowa.
And it can’t be a coincidence, either, that Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown” came a day after Barack Obama’s Oval Office speech warning that defining the war against terrorists as a war against Islam would only benefit ISIS and its ability to recruit disaffected Muslims.
Obama’s speech was being roundly panned for not being sufficiently passionate in explaining, just days after the San Bernardino terror attack, how to confront ISIS. No one was going to pan Trump for that. He would offer passion and only passion.
As Trump put it the other day, “Every time things get worse, the better I do.”
The people, Trump explained, “want strength.”
And when Trump went to South Carolina Monday night to confirm that he was serious about his altogether unserious plan to stop Muslims at the border — presumably meaning immigrants, refugees, tourists, businesspeople and maybe even American citizens, none of whom actually have “Muslim” stamped on their passports — he got a standing ovation from the strength-hungry crowd.
Yes, things were worse.[pullquote]”Every time things get worse, the better I do.” — Donald Trump[/pullquote]
“We have no choice,” Trump said. “We have no choice. We have no choice.”
Jeb!, just as one example from the Republican field, called Trump “unhinged,” which presumably wouldn’t make him the best choice. All day Monday Trump was being variously slammed by nervous GOP competitors, gleeful Democrats and, of course, White House spokespeople.
In other words, it was everything Trump could have hoped for. After all, Trump is no more unhinged than he ever was. And it’s the same thing people were saying when Trump was calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.” That was back when he began surging in the polls. All he has done with his latest appeal to America’s worst instincts is to further raise the stakes in demagoguery. Won’t the polls follow?
No one can be surprised by Trump’s latest move. We know how he got there. After the horror of the Paris attacks, there were the 30 governors who said they would refuse to accept Syrian refugees. And then there was Chris Christie who took it a step further and said he wouldn’t even accept orphan toddler Syrian refugees. And then there was Jeb! saying we should put the Christian refugees first. That’s how we got there.
And then, of course, there was Cruz calling for a religious test for refugees and Cruz saying of ISIS that in his administration, “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”
Cruz didn’t mention that in the past 15 months, in an Obama administration, the Air Force had hit ISIS with 20,000 bombs and missiles and, according to CNN, had fired off so many that they were starting to run low. But Obama is weak and won’t say “radical Islamists.” Cruz is strong and wants to make the sand glow.
So, of course, Trump is going to ban Muslims. He had already said there’s “something going on” with Obama, suggesting, well, you know what the birther guy was suggesting. Trump was in front saying he would bomb the bleep out of the terrorists. And torture them. And round up their families. He had already said he was going to monitor American mosques and maybe force Muslims to sign onto a registry.
All that was before San Bernardino. He would have to go bigger. Much bigger. So, why not a completely unenforceable, unworkable, unimaginable ban? And if people call you a xenophobe, you can call them weak and craven and, if comes down to it, even politically correct.
Meanwhile, conservative pundits who had been trying to explain Trump’s months-long standing atop the polls were now starting to wonder whether Trump was, in fact, a fascist. Ross Douthat wrote in The New York Times that he didn’t think Trump was exactly a fascist – more like a proto-fascist, which seemed close enough.
In The New Yorker, John Cassidy wrote that Trump was America’s version of Marine Le Pen, whose ultra-right National Front Party won the early round in France’s regional elections. Others were settling for George Wallace. Or Joe McCarthy. I like the local favorite, Tom Tancredo, who just wrote a piece for Breitbart calling for 100-million-strong, state-based militias to battle “Islamists” in our country. In a nice Tancredo touch, he would have the government subsidize insufficiently-armed, low-income Americans with “gun stamps.” I kept waiting for him to propose carpet-bombing Mecca.
It’s obvious that something is going on. Trump has brilliantly exploited white working class unease, with Obama, with immigration, with ISIS, and now with homegrown radical terrorism and the horror they produced. It’s the perfect time for a strong man who would tell a crowd Saturday night that there would be no San Bernardinos in a TrumpWorld.
“We’re going to be so vigilant,” he said. “We’re going to be so careful. We’re going to be so tough and so mean and so nasty.”
No one should doubt when Trump says he’ll be nasty. It’s just a matter of guessing now how much nastier he can go.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr.