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November 22, 2017

Incendiary


The Huffington Post’s headline read, “American Psycho.” It was, by far, the most accurate take on what happened in Phoenix, Arizona last night. But what we witnessed was a lot more than just a psychotic rant; it was nothing short of a complete meltdown. A sitting president stood up, not just in front of his frenzied base, but before an entire nation and proceeded to dissolve in front of our very eyes. If there were any doubts about the stability of this man before last night, they have all been removed.

Just when you thought he couldn’t sink any lower than his depraved response to what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, this president shamelessly one-up’d himself. So much for John Kelly’s influence, or Steve Bannon’s departure for that matter. Captain Queeg was a one-man wrecking crew on that stage.

Consider that in just 77 minutes he managed to savagely attack both Republican senators from Arizona, as well as the majority leader of the Senate; he continued his assault on the media – his favorite target, it seems – even going so far as to falsely claim that they were pulling the live stream of his speech; he doubled down on his comments on Charlottesville, conveniently omitting the infamous “many sides” part; he practically French-kissed Fox News’s Sean Hannity and Fox and Friends; he teased the crowd that he will pardon Joe Arpaio, though he added he wouldn’t do it now because it would be too “controversial;” threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get the funding for his wall; and, lastly, I swear I’m not making this up, he bragged that his apartment was “bigger and more beautiful” than the ones the fake journalists who were covering him were living in.

You not only couldn’t make this shit up, you wouldn’t even try. No rational person could concoct a scenario in which the President of the United States was so unhinged that even a satirist would insist you were putting him on. Seriously, when you read a story about Trump in The Onion and think to yourself, didn’t I read this in The New York Times? it’s time to pack your bags and head for the hills. We have now entered into a new dimension where satire and reality are one in the same, and a fractured country hangs in the balance.

And that is precisely what this man wants. Howard Fineman summed it up best when he wrote,

Donald Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. He is racing to undermine the federal political system — if not all American public life — before still-independent forces (for now, the federal courts, the press and Congress) undermine him.

The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble. And “winning” is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival. With a record-setting low approval rating, world crises everywhere and a special counsel on his tail, the main victory he can hope for is staying in office.

It’s not only an emotional imperative for Trump, it’s a deliberate ― and thus far successful ― strategy.

When you think about it, all begins to make sense. Trump doesn’t win the 2016 election without dividing the country. He incendiary rhetoric – as reprehensible as it was and still is – has a perverse logic behind it. And it was specifically targeted towards those groups that were the most susceptible to it: the disenfranchised, the bitter and the despondent. They were the ones who came to his rallies chanting “lock her up” and “build that wall.” Trump played them like a violin and they carried him across the threshold.

Yes, some of the attendees at his rallies were racists or had racist tendencies, but not all of them. In fact, most were just people who were angry and without hope. Trump, with the skill of a surgeon, directed that anger outward instead of inward and gave them something they could hang their hats on. When no one else would listen to them, Trump gave them a platform and a cause.

And so he continues to pander to the same people who put him in the White House, knowing full well that he does not have the support of the majority of the electorate. He could care less. He got elected with only 46 percent of the popular vote, so why would he bother to concern himself with polls. He beat every Republican who took him on; he beat the ultimate establishment candidate in Hillary Clinton; and despite the whirlwind that continues to surround his administration, he’s still the president.

He has no plans for governing. Indeed, governing was never part of his agenda. His sole aim is to divide and conquer the nation, first by undermining its institutions, then by taking them over one by one. We’ve already seen evidence of this at both the Justice and State Departments. His voter fraud commission is a blatant attempt to suppress Democratic turnout in 2020.

He is doing what all despots do: destroying the ability of the system to challenge him. It is as brilliant as it is sinister. And if he isn’t stopped soon, either by Robert Mueller or by Senate Republicans, it will be too late to put out the fire.

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Peter Fegan

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