It seems like I have always been interested in politics ever since I was a teenager and joined the thousands of people my age who were swept up in the energy of John F. Kennedy’s campaign for President. Watching his rallies and campaign speeches I first became aware of the need to help the poor, the disadvantaged and those of color, as well as all minorities. Throughout numerous political campaigns I reveled at speeches by Democrats and Republican alike promising to bring Americans together, to help the poor and homeless, the unemployed and the middle class. The only disparaging words were directed towards our enemies which at the time included Communism, Fascism, poverty, drugs and crime. After the the presidential election the rallies came to an end and the rhetoric turned to uniting Americans and putting forth policies and programs to serve the economic and social well being of the American people. Those who voted both for and against the elected president were treated equally, for the most part. The opposition party was mentioned in terms of probably not being able to serve the country as well as the party in power, but never vilified. Republicans and Democrats were actually friends, who just happened to disagree upon how best to create and maintain policies to best benefit the country. Whenever the president made a public appearance it was to tout the benefits of his party’s agenda. As thoughts turned to the re-election of the president, in the latter part of his term, the presidential assemblies turned into campaign rallies where the president boasted of his perceived accomplishments, often stretching the truth, but rarely blatantly lying.
How things have changed! The presidential election of 2016 was probably the most vicious and disgusting campaign I have ever witnessed, thanks to Donald Trump. He didn’t rail against the old enemies, Communism, poverty etc. He railed against his own invented personal enemies! The Press, immigrants, Muslims, women, the educated and especially Barack Obama were all the “Enemy”! He constantly spewed forth a tirade of hateful insults directed at his opponent Hillary Clinton and Obama along with derogatory denunciations of the press, except for Fox News, which eventually became the propaganda arm of his campaign and later his administration. He attacked and belittled his political opponents throughout his entire campaign to win the Republican nomination. For the first time in my memory I heard a candidate for the esteemed office of the President of the United States refer to his opponents with names any third grader would use to bully his classmates. Names such as Lying Ted, Crooked Hillary and Little Marco, which belong on an elementary school playground, came into common usage by this presidential candidate. At his lowest point he even mocked a physically handicapped reporter and derided the mother of a Gold Star Mother, solely because she was a Muslim! He has also attacked women and mocked them because of their physical appearance.
As a result of his campaign rallies our fellow Americans and immigrants of Mexican descent became rapists, drug dealers and criminals. Our Muslim neighbors all became terrorists. He attacked John McCain, one of America’s most beloved war heroes because he was captured by the Vietcong. This was from a 5 time draft dodger, don’t forget! A complete record of Trump’s attacks during his campaign can be seen on Newsday
Now that Trump is president his hateful and divisive rhetoric has not diminished, on the contrary it has intensified. He has not attempted to unify the country, but to further divide it along racial, political and religious lines. He has doubled down on the press and has even incited violence against them, except for Fox News that is. Five people were killed in a newspaper office in Maryland and Trump hesitated to mention or condemn the killings until a national outrage forced him begrudgingly to address the situation. After the Charlottesville, Va. white nationalist rally, where a counter-protester was intentionally run over and killed by a white nationalist and 13 other people were injured in the violent protests, Trump refused to condemn the violence, instead he offered tacit support for Neo-Nazis. Addressing his supporters he has praised Vladimir Putin as a strong leader as well as supporting Philippine dictator Duterte. By meeting with North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un he has legitimized the tyrant and he even praised him as being much loved by his countrymen during some his rallies.
As the investigation into the Trump-Russia collusion heats up and some of Trump’s closest campaign advisors have either been indicted or pled guilty and the investigation is getting closer to Trump and his family, Trump is moving closer to his base of supporters. He knows that his base will support him no matter what. He once said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” and he truly believes it. Whenever things get hot with Mueller, Trump turns to rallies with his cult like base. He knows he can say anything he wants to his supporters, even racially charged speeches in which he can denigrate people of color, especially Black athletes, journalists and entertainers. He ridicules and blames immigrants for the imagined sufferings of his supporters and attacks our allies in order to fire up his supporters. He promises to bring back jobs that will never return. He promises to return their country to a time basically when white people were in charge and women and Black people knew their places. His continued attack on the press has resulted in TV networks having to provide their journalists with security to prevent possible physical attacks, as Trump gleefully incites his supporters to chant vile hateful chants directed at the press. Despite his attacks on the media the press continues to cover his rallies,even though they produce no news, only pure unadulterated hate. There is no reason to cover these rallies other than to aid Trump in the dissemination of racist propaganda. He does not promise his base a better life, instead he seeks their help in destroying his enemies, anyone who disagrees with him, criticizes him or stands in the way of his taking authoritarian control of the country.
Now to the purpose of Trump’s rallies. When he is among his racist and bigoted followers Trump feels safe engulfed in their admiration of the man who makes their expressions of hate not only possible but normal. For years these people have been hiding in the shadows and now they can come to the forefront. Trump knows this and he is using their fervor to hold onto his position of power and to help him exact his revenge on Obama. He is using the same tactics as his idols, Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, Kim Jong-un and the most notorious madman in history, Adolf Hitler. One may say that it is not fair comparing Trump to Hitler, but it cannot be denied that Trump is using his rallies in the same way Hitler fired up his supporters. Hitler’s enemies, as well as Trump’s enemies are the press. Hitler demonized Jews, the educated elite and minorities. Trump has replaced the hatred of Jews with his hatred of Muslims and Mexicans. His rallies offer no hope for a better life for anyone, but Trump himself and his family. If we Americans don’t wake up and see the similarities between Trump and any authoritarian regime, we will find ourselves living under that regime.