Republicans in Crises and the Rise of the Trump Brown Shirts

Ideas and Issues
WILLIAM PHILPOTT/REUTERS Authorities detain a protester on Saturday at Trump's rally in Dayton, Ohio.
Authorities detain a protester on Saturday at Trump’s rally in Dayton, Ohio.

New Orleans The Republican divide is expanding to the size of the Grand Canyon.

In the wake of the cancelled Donald Trump rally in Chicago and the attendant violence between protesters and his supporters, both Republican candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are now saying that they are not sure that they could endorse Trump for President if he wins the Republican nomination. Conservative columnist for the New York Times, Ross Douthat, has taken the preemptive step from that forum of the Republican establishment to call for party leaders and bosses, both nationally and at the state level, to do whatever they have the power to do to block Trump’s nomination regardless of the primary results and force him to run as a third party candidate, regardless of the guaranteed defeat in the presidential election in order to save the party itself. The tide is turning inside and outside of the Republican ranks from examining the anger of voters to beginning to more closely scrutinize the demagoguery of Trump himself.

I had mixed feelings when news broke of the pushing and shoving in Chicago. Having just called for showing our “troops to power,” rather than speaking “truth to power,” though unrelated to the events in Chicago, I wondered if I had been clear enough about tactical selection being confused with strategic recommendation. A Los Angeles friend had tweeted a simple, “Thanks, Chicago,” settling my fears somewhat. The demonstration in Chicago wasn’t symbolic, but an explosive effect of the bullying and blustering by Trump and a demonstration of the hatred he is inspiring to fuel his campaign, existing in a totally different world than his grabbing the cloak of “freedom of speech.”

What are we dealing with here?

Trump asking his supporters at his rallies to raise their hands if they are with him. Trump telling his troops to chant his name if protesters are in their midst. Trump claiming he would take a swing at protesters. Trump claiming he would pay for any legal fees for supporters who defend him at the rallies. Trump legitimizes one of his folks sucker punching a protester. Trump having to walk back his welcome mat for David Duke and the endorsement of the KKK. Trump’s cult of commerce and personality coupled with an insatiable egotism claims a patriotism, but his reality is “all about me.”

We’re beginning to move past partisanship where progressives and Democrats can grin at the prospects that a Trump nomination should be embraced with the conviction that he is the one candidate in the field that we could beat with an old mangy dog.

The images that most align for me these days in watching the Trump bluster at rallies of thousands of white people is old reels on public television from the 1930’s documenting the rise of the brown shirts in Germany.

This is becoming a scary season.