It’s Trump him­self, not his sup­port­ers, who should scare us

The Saline Courier - - OPINION -

To hear some peo­ple tell it, the sky is def­i­nitely fall­ing. Lead­ing the Chicken Lit­tle Brigade, of course, is na­tional car­ni­val barker Don­ald J. Trump. You know, the porcine 73-year-old who tweeted a fake photo of him­self as Rocky Bal­boa, cin­e­matic heavy­weight champ.

Ap­par­ently, it was sup­posed to make every­body for­get about the pres­i­dent’s un­sched­uled visit to Walter Reed Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

Even Trump’s face was pho­to­shopped. No more blood­hound jowls and wat­tles, but a sleek young fel­low with an aquiline gaze.

Read up some­time about how young Sylvester Stal­lone worked to de­velop his im­pres­sive physique. Few ac­tual heavy­weight champs have ever trained harder. Trump, mean­while, can barely hump it from golf cart to green. His idea of a fit­ness reg­i­men is el­e­va­tor shoes and a gir­dle.

Any­way, if the photo was sup­posed to be a joke, the Head Tweeter gave no sign. So, more pa­thetic or more ridicu­lous? I can’t de­cide.

Any other politi­cian would be laughed out of pub­lic life.

Trump, how­ever, con­tin­ues to draw ador­ing crowds to his pro­fes­sional wrestling-style ex­trav­a­gan­zas. Like a WWE spec­ta­cle, it’s staged as an apoc­a­lyp­tic con­test be­tween good and evil: Don­ald J. Bal­boa ver­sus Evil Adam Schiff.

“Our rad­i­cal Demo­crat op­po­nents are driven by ha­tred, prej­u­dice and rage,” Trump tells crowds. “They want to de­stroy you and they want to de­stroy our coun­try as we know it.”

Re­cently he tweeted: “What is tak­ing place is not an im­peach­ment, it is a COUP, in­tended to take away the Power of the Peo­ple, their VOTE, their Free­doms, their Sec­ond Amend­ment, Reli­gion, Mil­i­tary, Bor­der Wall, and their God-given rights as a Cit­i­zen of The United States of Amer­ica!”

His re­moval, Trump pre­dicts, “will cause a Civil War like frac­ture in this Na­tion from which our Coun­try will never heal.”

Ho-hum.

At a re­cent rally in Sun­rise, Florida, the pres­i­dent warned that “the same ma­ni­acs are push­ing that de­ranged ... im­peach­ment. A witch hunt. And a lot of bad things are hap­pen­ing to them. You see what’s hap­pen­ing in the polls? Every­body said: that’s re­ally bull***t.”

The crowd roared hap­pily when Trump said the naughty word. Be­cause that’s what they love about him. He’s rude, crude and he talks like Un­cle Otis down at the body shop. Woo-hoo!

But it’s all just part of the show.

As for civil war, al­most every­body un­der­stands that Trump’s a world-class bull **** ter. That’s a big part of the fun.

Sure, sore­heads over­re­act. They also get all worked up when WWE champ Brock Les­nar bat­tles The Fiend. Or when Auburn plays Alabama. But every­body’s back at work come Mon­day morn­ing.

As for im­peach­ment, it’s true that stim­u­lat­ing tribal loy­al­ties is Trump’s only de­fense. Be­cause he surely can’t win on the facts.

Which is the big thing scar­ing com­men­ta­tors on the cul­tural left. I’m think­ing par­tic­u­larly of a lengthy think piece en­ti­tled “How Amer­ica Ends” by Yoni Ap­pel­baum in The At­lantic. To wit, what hap­pens when the coun­try’s “his­tor­i­cally dom­i­nant group,” i.e. white Chris­tians, be­comes “a po­lit­i­cal mi­nor­ity”?

Trac­ing the long his­tory of racial and eth­nic as­sim­i­la­tion in Amer­ica -- the messy, of­ten vi­o­lent process through which suc­ces­sive im­mi­grant groups, the Ir­ish, Ital­ians, Jews, etc., be­came ac­cepted as “white” -- Ap­pel­baum wor­ries that Trump’s “de­feat would likely only deepen the de­spair that fu­eled his rise,” lead­ing to a kind of au­thor­i­tar­ian mi­nor­ity rule.

Cit­ing mainly Euro­pean and Latin Amer­i­can ex­am­ples, along with the run-up to the U.S. Civil War, he warns, “When a group that has tra­di­tion­ally ex­er­cised power comes to be­lieve that its eclipse is in­evitable, and that the de­struc­tion of all it holds dear will fol­low, it will fight to pre­serve what it has -- what­ever the cost.”

Two cav­ils: First, while it’s true that white Chris­tians will no longer con­sti­tute an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans within a gen­er­a­tion, they (along with their lan­guage) will re­main the sin­gle largest eth­nic group in the na­tion for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Along with black and His­panic Chris­tians, they’ll con­sti­tute a large re­li­gious ma­jor­ity, too.

So only in­se­cure big­ots feel threat­ened, and most are al­ready Trump­ists.

Sec­ond, I think the real his­tor­i­cal ana­logue for the cur­rent un­ease isn’t 1860, but the 1960s in the Amer­i­can South. In Lit­tle Rock, where I live, many whites feared that chaos would en­sue if schools, restau­rants, swimming pools and other pub­lic places be­came open to all.

Much of that fear was stoked by the KKK, Ci­ti­zens’ Coun­cils and sim­i­lar sore­head groups, which, when push came to shove, proved ephemeral. I re­call be­ing struck by the meek­ness of many South­ern white men when I first fol­lowed my wife home from school. It wasn’t black peo­ple they feared, but the ca­reer con­se­quences of be­ing seen as “lib­eral on race.”

All that van­ished vir­tu­ally overnight, his­tor­i­cally speak­ing.

So it’s not the pres­i­dent’s en­rap­tured sup­port­ers I fear. They’ll get over him soon enough.

It’s the con­se­quences of Trump’s ma­lign in­com­pe­tence, should he some­how pull this out.

•••

Arkansas Times colum­nist Gene Lyons is a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award win­ner and co-au­thor of “The Hunt­ing of the Pres­i­dent” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000).

You can email Lyons at eu­gene­[email protected]­hoo.com.

GENE LYONS

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