Trump and his dangerous ideas offer a mirror to too many Republicans

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Donald Trump is on track to once again secure the Republican presidential nomination, as he did in 2016. No surprise here.

Anxiety and weariness are ever-present in the run-up to the November 2024 election. There is intense speculation on how Trump and his cult-like band of sycophantic followers will respond, whether in the face of victory or defeat.

The motivating factor for Trump’s reemergence as a candidate is revenge. He has made it abundantly clear to his MAGA base he is their answer to retribution, and has promised to “completely annihilate” the deep stat. Whatever actions he takes – illegal or otherwise – would garner significant support from pluralities of Republican voters and politicians.

Polls continually demonstrate that politically right-of-center voters are increasingly shunning political decency. It began happening almost immediately after Trump announced his initial candidacy in 2015. Instead of rejecting candidate Trump and his odious messages of racism, sexism and xenophobia, many right-wing Republicans, including White evangelicals, saw an opportunity to regain executive power by coddling white supremacy and tapping into the regressive psyche of the nation’s most reactionary impulses.

Today, almost a decade later, we are still enduring the results of such reductive maladies.

This is not the only disturbing difference among Republican voters. An increasing segment is now considering condoning political violence. A poll conducted in October 2023 indicated that a startling 33 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

Particular animosity has been directed toward Republicans who have adhered to the rule of law. Republican lawmakers and election officials in Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin, as well as members of their families, have received death threats for following the law and rejecting Trump’s demands to overturn the 2020 presidential election. More recent threats have been directed against political officials in the political, legal, and criminal justice system, who have tried to hold Trump accountable for his actions.

Recently, Trump amplified his rhetoric, referring to his political opponents as “vermin” and declaring that immigrants entering America illegally are “poisoning the blood of our country.” In more politically sane and sensible times, such remarks would be considered so offensive and reprehensible that any politician would undoubtedly suffer backlash from colleagues and voters. Nonetheless, in the perverse political world of conservative politics, a Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll found that a 42 percent plurality of likely Iowa Republican caucus goers said such rhetoric would actually bolster their commitment to Trump.

This is  hardly a new American phenomenon. To quote Black Panther H. Rap Brown, “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” Violence is deeply embedded in the fabric of the nation’s soil starting with the Revolutionary War, when the nation aggressively, defiantly, and skillfully defended itself against the tyrannical impulses of British imperialism. During the Civil War the nation was engaged in a fractious divide over the repugnant regime of slavery. Post-reconstruction President Rutherford B. Hayes and his vice president, Samuel Tilden, with their infamous Hayes/Tilden compromise of 1877, withdrew union troops from the South and returned the region to its segregationist Dixiecrats, who were all too eager to exact their revenge on Black citizens through a variety of economic social and judicial indignities  —  among them overt, wanton violence and political disenfranchisement.

Millions of workers waged courageous battles during the early to mid-decades of the twentieth century as they remained steadfast and defiant against the physical and emotional violence directed toward them by sadistic corporate managers, wealthy stockholders, and other business titans. Also consider the brave and heroic struggle so many clergy, students, and ordinary folk undertook during the modern civil rights movement. These men, women, and in a number of cases, children routinely managed to bravely persevere despite relentless opposition from hardcore segregationist sheriffs with water hoses and cattle prods, foreclosures of land, violent prisons, and angry white segregationist mobs.

Trump has been successful in sinisterly tapping into the socially-stunted psyche of more than a few white people who long for the days when people of color and non-christians were second-class citizens and members of the LGTB+ community were shunned.

Trump’s die-hard base longs for the day when America returns to the nation it unmistakably resembled in the mid-nineteenth century. The Jim Crow era of the mid-20th century is too benign for them. Their message is clear: either you are with them, or you are against them.

If you are a member of the latter category, they intend to deal with you by any violent means necessary.

Copyright 2024 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.