America’s politics had already started to resemble a particularly lively episode of “The Jerry Springer Show” or some other ratings-grabbingly confrontational reality show, but over the past week it has started looking more like a late Weimar Republic-era beer hall in one of the angrier neighborhood of Munich. There’s been a long slow slide into this muck, and at this point there’s plenty of blame to go around.
The violent disruptions that have recently taken place at campaign rallies for Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show-and-scam-university mogul who is currently the frontrunner for the nomination of the Republican Party, are by now familiar tactics of the left or the liberals or the progressives or whatever else you want to call the peace-and-love-and-sensitivity side of political spectrum. Our first inklings of political awareness came watching the fuzzy black-and-white images of Democratic Mayor Richard Daley’s quite forcefully responding to the sometimes peaceful and sometimes violent Democratic protesters outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which was widely cheered on by many of the Republicans and the rest of the war-and-hate-and-insensivitity side of the political spectrum we were leaning toward, and was by far the most ratings-grabbing reality show of that memorably confrontational year, and although things had seemed to simmer down somewhat for a while since then it’s been popping up in our news-reading ever since.
Being admittedly obsessive about our free speech rights we have kept a careful eye on any reports of campus speakers being shut down, or gatherings of people with common political goals being disrupted, or newspapers having their circulation disrupted, or internet pundits having their punditry censored by hackers, or handicapped black people assembling with others to petition for redress of their grievances being beaten by racist thugs, or tax-payer paid professors associated with journalism departments calling for “some muscle” to remove a pesky reporter, and we have long noticed that it’s almost invariably people on the peace-and-love-and-sensitivity side of the political spectrum who are doing the bullying.
The peace-and-love-and-sensitivity side of the political spectrum retains this side of its censorious nature even when it obtains power, as we have also repeatedly seen. Somehow President Richard Nixon emerged from the conflagrations of our childhood, but was brought low just five years later by revelations that he’d had something to do with the bugging of a a Democratic official’s phone and had suggested using the Internal Revenue Service to harass his opponents, but the mot peace-loving and exquisitely sensitive sort of president can bug pretty much everyone’s phone and actually use the IRS to harass his political enemies and it goes largely unremarked. The current “Hope and Change” president has repeatedly castigated his political opponents for wanting dirty water and dirty and inviting them along for the ride to his utopia only if they sit in the back of the bus, and exhorting his supporters to punish their enemies and get in their faces and if they bring a knife you a gun, and threatening to talk “truth to power” to the almighty Fox Network, all of which was either ignored or celebrated by more adulatory media, and yet he assures those same media he surely bears no blame for the rise of the likes of such a shock jock insult comic as Donald J. Trump.
Those sorts of idiots who have beset Trump’s rallies probably would have been there even without seven years of Obama’s outrageous rhetoric and disastrous policies, however, they’d be at the rallies of anyone who was leading the Republican race, and they’ve even been at the rallies of both Democratic contenders, so there’s still plenty of blame to go around. You can point to a failed educational system, for one thing, especially when the fellow who stormed the stage with an incoherent rage during one of Trump’s incoherent rages turns out to to be the very peace-and-love-and-sensitivity son of a public educator, as well as the general idiocy it has caused. You can certainly point on such organized peace-love-and-sensitivity groups as MoveOn.org, which has helped organize the out-of-control protests at Trump rallies, and until we get a full-throated denunciations of these acts from self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who may or may not be the front-runner in his party’s race, we’ll also suspect him. You can point to that ’68-era terrorist Bill Ayers, who helped launch the current president’s unlikely career and was boasting about shutting down Trump’s free speech. You can point as always to certain media, who always fall for one certain line of authoritarian garbage but not another, and somehow manage to ignore more sensible alternatives. You could point to a reality show and professional wrestling and us-versus-them and betting-on-the-come but otherwise peace-love-and-sensitivity-and-free-sex pop culture that has lately supplanted the accumulated wisdom of western civilization, and we believe you’ll see something to blame in that direction as well.
What’s most unsettling about this latest go-round of leftist or liberal or progressive or whatever you want to call the peace-and-love-and-sensitivity side of the political spectrum’s thuggery is the apparent eagerness of so much of the rest of us to get right down in the mud and blood and the beer and commence the brawl. Trump has long relished the “at least he fights” reputation his bold “tweets” have earned him, and he expects a similarly bellicose attitude from the people pledging allegiance to him. Throughout a series of escalating attempts to disrupt his rallies he has urged supporters to “be a little more violent” and maybe “he should have been roughed up” and if anyone suspects a tomato throwing “knock the hell out of them” and “in the good old days they’d rip him out of that seat so fast” and “don’t try to hurt him, but if you do I’ll pay your legal bills,” and “I’d like to punch him in his face.” One of Trump’s supporters, prior to the past weekend’s escalated disruptions, did punch a protestor in the face as he was being led by police out of the building, and Trump is thus far unclear on whether he’ll pay for the legal bills, such legal matters always being long-drawn out by Trump, but so far there’s been no full-throated denunciation. This all comes as Trump is trumpeting his ability to unify the country, but at this point even his most mythical deal-making powers seem sufficient to pull that off.
The pony-tailed 78-year-old who punched the already-under-arrest protestor was arrested on assault charges, but proudly told a television news camera that he’d do it again and “maybe next time we’ll have to kill him,” but he looks to be one of those previously uninvolved voters that we’re supposed to be grateful to Trump for bringing into the party. He explained that the protestor had extended a middle finger at the crowd, and “wasn’t acting like an American,” but we can’t the times that we’ve read and heard Trump supporters saying that they support him because his candidacy is intended as that very same gesture.
Nor does Trump offer any indication that he’d be any less censorious and authoritarian when in power. He’s publicly promised that his press critics would “have problems, such problems” if he became president, he’s described the peaceful Tiananmen Square protests as a “riot” and the Chinese government’s mass-muderous response as “strong,” and he’s spoken a brand new truth to power against the almighty Fox Network, which is now apparently a left-wing organ.
Perhaps there’s nothing to do at this point but bring that gun to the knife, or the nuclear weapon to whatever V-2 rocket they produce, and perhaps the only solution at this point is to burn it all down, as many Trump also come right out and say they hope to do, but we’d like to think there’s still some hope for an appeal to reason.
At this point we have cast in our lot with the candidacy of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and we still hold out hope he offers something better than getting down in the mud and the blood and beer. Although we concede that certain media will convince a certain portion of the public that he’s a crazed beer hall putsch nutcase, at least they won’t the video footage to prove it. We’d urge you to take a look at how Cruz handles those occasional disruptions that come with politics even in the best of times, and how a friendly invitation to talk about ideas and the skills of a former national collegiate debate champion and oft-successful Supreme Court litigators handles their noisy sloganeering, and consider the chance that America might yet respond to such a campaign. We know that such dry policy wonk stuff doesn’t fare well against the professional wrestling and reality shows and peace-and-love-and sensitivity stuff, but these days nobody has a majority market share, and we’re too old to be down in the mud and the blood and the beer.
— Bud Norman