Mr. Trump's America
"YES YOU WILL! YES YOU WILL! YES YOU WILL!"
I watched the coronation of a cult leader last night.
For what seemed like an eternity, the Republican nominee for the American presidency spoke to his constituency, both about everything and absolutely nothing.
No matter. The folks sitting on the floor of Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena ate up the entire thing. They applauded his non-plans, incessantly booed our current president and the Democratic nominee, and generally proved to Americans skeptical of Mr. Trump's chances that he has an extremely vocal and loyal base of voters who will show up to the polls in November.
And at what I want to estimate was the 40-minute mark of his acceptance, after laying out another of his multifaceted plans to return this once-great country to glory, he paused. And the chant started.
"YES YOU WILL!"
An affirmation of their belief in Mr. Trump? Sure. But you'd have to be either stupid or in denial to not see that as a dig at President Obama and his "Yes We Can!" slogan from years ago. Trump has promised to be their messiah, and his zealots came from far and wide to Cleveland to place alms at his feet.
I watched the coronation of a cult leader last night.
And this cult leader, for all the faux-inclusiveness Mr. Trump pretends exists in his platform, speaks to a particular sect of people in ways that somehow simultaneously makes complete sense and confuses the hell out of me.
In a country where they remain the racial majority, where their privilege gets them more lenient sentencing, where the policing system designed to protect that privilege grants them power to kill unarmed black people daily, this cult has convinced themselves they're now the oppressed, and that oppression is tied directly to their racial background. Plot twist, amirite?
Case-in-point: At one point, Mr. Trump mentioned the African-American unemployment rate, adding that to his list of stuff he'll fix immediately. Applause was tepid, at best.
Meanwhile, earlier in the night, Mr. Trump at separate points mentioned his capacity to stop all violence in the inner-city. He promised to end it "very, very quickly." He talked of a 17% raise in homicides in America's 50 largest cities, a number I'm not even sure is factual, but even if it is lacks the necessary context. I'm sure nearly all of those cities have been gentrified beyond belief, and gentrification begets displacement, and suddenly violent crime rates spike because the displaced do what they have to do in order to survive.
No matter. The crowd roared. They want their cities back. They feel their privilege being chipped away, and they're fed up.
How else can you explain Mr. Trump - in the course of two sentences - jumping from a repudiation of his cult's stereotypical view of Muslims to declaring that intolerance of any sort in this country will not be tolerated? Cursory acknowledgements of minority groups were all some conservatives needed; after Mr. Trump's speech, guests on Fox News's Hannity argued no longer could we paint Mr. Trump as racist or sexist, because he gave one-sentence shoutouts to Hispanics and Blacks and members of the LGBTQ community.
Cursory acknowledgment somehow meets their -ism threshold. "I occasionally say nice things about these people; therefore, I can't be racist! I can't be sexist! I love gay people! They're the best!" There's a tolerance there, but not an acceptance. To accept would beget a willingness to share. And the closer we inch toward true equity actually bound to law, the angrier the cult seems to get.
This coronation ended after 75 long and uncomfortable minutes, in which Mr. Trump did nothing but double down on his message of fear and hatred. His pleas to make America great one more time "because we never win anymore" continue to puzzle me.
Has anyone asked what the "again" in Mr. Trump's slogan means? Because, at present time, this is as good as its been for people who look like me. I mean, between slavery, sharecropping, "separate but equal," the Klan, Jim Crow, the turmoil of the 60s, Vietnam, Reaganomics ... I think I'm good here. Can't think of a period in American history to which I'd be willing to return.
But I guess that's the point.
The Trump campaign was never about me, or other people of color, or any other minority groups. He's tapped into the fear of Middle America -- of the folks in Arkansas and Oklahoma and Kansas who feel like nobody really cares about them in the District. And they're right, and I'm afraid of what'll happen if Mr. Trump wins this election solely because of those people. Because he doesn't care about them either. He needs their fear so he can get their vote.
I'm assuming he knew he could get around 35 percent of a popular vote, and if he could somehow finagle the other 15 out of uneducated minorities and folks who tried to not be racist in the Obama years but found that to be an overrated experience, then great. After that speech, I think any scenario in which he gets more than 45 percent of a popular vote is gone. He's galvanized his base, but has done nothing to convince those swing voters to lean toward him. Take this with a grain of salt, but CNN commentators were speaking last night about the text messages they were receiving from Bernie holdouts now pledging their support to Mrs. Clinton. Republicans in Congress -- anonymously, of course -- found themselves offended by much of Mr. Trump's rhetoric.
And yet, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he pulls this off. He's wholly unqualified for this job, but I could be referring to him as President in 6 short months. What a damn time.
In short order, this has gone from a really dark joke to a disturbing and distinct possibility, and I have no clue what that means for the future of this country.
The "silent majority" Mr. Trump once called this cult is no longer silent. He's given them a voice, for better and for worse. And even if he loses, they won't go away quietly.
Are we on the brink of another Civil War? Can I expect to see Klansmen on the news soon, arguing once again for white supremacy in the mainstream? Will I feel safe enough to even walk out of my apartment?
If he wins, these folks will feel empowered to do whatever, and if he loses, the backlash will be severe. And, as much as it pains me to admit, this isn't his fault. These people have been dormant, waiting for the right time to reintroduce themselves to America. All that post-racial garbage that a lot of really intelligent people were trying to force down our throats once President Obama won his first election is now moot. Bill O'Reilly can't go on television anymore and argue that racism is dead. A vote for Trump is a vote for the status quo, for a return to the good 'ole days, for white supremacy.
And a message to all the people who don't believe President Donald J. Trump can ruin this country single-handedly: Yes, he can.
And yes, he will.