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It was surely a swift process for some people. Here's a talk-radio soundboard running for president, yelling about Mexicans and Muslims and how we need a Big, Beautiful Wall to keep Those People out. He knows whose country this is. He knows who should make the rules, and who ought to shut up and follow them. He knows who gets a seat at the table in America. They were in from the jump, from the moment they first stood at a rally and felt that twisted power coursing through their veins.
But others, you have to think, were more gradual converts. Maybe they felt the world was passing them by. Maybe they didn't know until he came along how much they needed an outlet for their rage at a million quotidian cuts—the new boss who doesn't look like a boss should look, having to press "1" for English. They were primed for it, sure, but it took a while to fully commit. Day after day, as they continued to support him—through the racist tirades and the attacks on veterans and their families and the exploding allegations that he is a serial sexual predator—they were forced to give up more and more of themselves to stay on-board. And as they gave up more of themselves, they became more and more devout in their allegiance to The Movement. At some point, the sunk cost became insurmountable. There is no going back now. They have given all of themselves to him.
That is how we arrived in the place we did on Thursday night at a rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Donald Trump, American president took the stage and, among a great many other things, did this. The crowd laughed and cheered.
He may once have told you, in his way, not to believe your eyes and ears. But you can. The President of the United States did indeed just act out some sort of sexual fantasy, in front of thousands and on C-SPAN, between two characters from his extended Deep State Conspiracy Universe. The stars of this show were Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI employees involved in the Russia probe who were having an affair and were opposed to the president's candidacy for president. (There is no evidence of misconduct.)
This is the president channeling everything he learned from Vince McMahon, pausing after he recites the names of the various heels so the crowd can howl their derision. The details aren't important. This is the show, where the enemies get bashed and We cheer together. This is the president deliberately debasing his office, of going lower than ever before and bringing his supporters with him, because he knows they have ventured into the deep and dark together now and they can't see any path back. They will follow him until he is stopped, and the farther they follow, the more they are his. There is nothing that cannot be excused away with half-baked crap about Fake News or What About Hillary. Nihilism is at the heart of things now. There are no standards or ethics to be observed, only enemies to lash out at from the darkness.
The rest of last night's national disgrace was predictable by now. The president cooked up egregious lies about Democratic leaders in Congress. He recited the names of his greatest allies on State TV and talked about how great their ratings are. He proudly said, "There was no blackmail," on his call with the leader of Ukraine. Mr. President: Thank you. He accused his enemies of that which he is guilty. He joked about serving more than his constitutionally mandated two terms. He exhibited clear signs of cognitive decline. He said Joe Biden, the former Vice President of the United States, only got the job "because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass." And what exactly, was Proper Evangelical Good Boy Mike Pence doing while the president simulated orgasms on-stage last night? After all, he and Mother were standing there in the arena.
But the real ugliness came on a similarly predictable topic. Minneapolis is home to Ilhan Omar and the sizable Somali community there from which she hails, and it was always bound to feature in this Thursday Night Raw-meets-Riefenstahl with a script courtesy of Stephen Miller. First, he recited some evidence-free conspiracy theories he got off a right-wing blog.
The president makes a lot of things clear here. The only real "reporting" is whatever helps him and hurts his opponents. The same goes for what constitutes Fake News: it's any negative coverage of him. What is true—what's reflected in observable reality—is not relevant. But he is also very intent to cast the Minnesota congresswoman as The Other here. Not only is she a black Muslim woman, she must be smeared as someone who would violate basic codes of our society by marrying her brother. (Again, this is all horse shit.) She cannot be One of Us. She cannot be an American. She is The Other, and has no right to a seat at the table or a say in how we run our society. The crowd howled in response, including the kid, who couldn't have been older than 15, standing behind Trump on-camera.
This is more than dirty politics, though. Omar already receives a huge volume of death threats—particularly when the president mentions her by name—and members of a right-wing militia hatched a plot to bomb a Minnesota mosque in 2017. The president himself has embraced political violence repeatedly. While the vast majority of his supporters would not engage in it, some have, including a Florida man who sent pipe bombs to the president's perceived enemies at CNN. The president knows what he's doing. He wants to make it not just unpleasant but physically dangerous to oppose him. He wants his enemies to be afraid to participate in our politics. It is the language of force. He also wanted to make clear that Omar's Otherness was a proxy for the community she represents.
This is a virulently racist tirade aimed at ginning up the worst instincts of the people in the crowd. It is not a coincidence Trump chose to come here, or to target a refugee community that is black and Muslim. This is how he thinks he can win reelection: by continuing to pull his base of support towards more vitriolic expressions of this vision of America as a country for and by white people; by scaring other constituencies away from speaking out; by using the Republican Party's machinations to stop inconvenient voters from voting; by smearing his opponents as Just As Bad As Him, They Just Pretend to Be Prim and Proper; by soliciting foreign meddling that will benefit him in exchange for favors when he is reelected.
All the while, he will drag his supporters deeper and deeper into the abyss. They cannot be reached now, only stopped.
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