Treating Trumpism With Kid Gloves Has Brought The Country To The Brink
The day after Joe Biden was finally projected to be the winner of the presidential election in November, I looked around at some of my former Trump friends’ social media sites to see what their reactions would be. Some of it was schadenfreude trolling, I admit. After years of being told “fuck your feelings” and “whatever, you lost,” I wanted to see how they reacted to losing. I wasn’t going to incite them, even though I really, really, REALLY wanted to. Trump had lost, there was no need for that, but I wanted to see what they were saying now.
What I saw though was extremely alarming. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that the reaction was not “fuck this, we’ll beat them in 2022 and 2024,” or “you won this time, but we will be back,” which was the reaction most Democrats had in 2020. Their response were completely divorced from reality. Trump did win, they said. The election was stolen. How could he have lost when he was ahead on Election Night? How could he have lost when he had big rallies? As time went on, more and more fabricated “evidence” of fraud popped up. Biden ballots being delivered in Detroit and Atlanta, voting machines changing votes, voting “dumps” of fraudulent ballots. Some of them, college educated adults, believed the Sidney Powell allegations that Hugo Chavez had worked with Democrats to rig the election, even though he’s been dead for seven years. As November turned into December, the fever didn’t break. They were convinced state legislatures would choose Trump electors, then that the Electoral College would elect Trump even though Biden electors were chosen, then that the Supreme Court would get involved and hand Trump the election. When all that failed, January 6th became the do or die date.
“If all that fails,” one Trump supporter said on Facebook in early December, “We go to war on the sixth.”
Eating dinner with my parents the day after the Electoral College voted, I expressed a sense of dread, especially about what he might do on or before January 6th.
“What if Trump tries to declare martial law?” I suggested. “What if he gets a mob of his supporters to attack the White House or Congress or the Inauguration?”
My parents dismissed it as fantasy. My dad was exceptionally non-receptive to the idea, actually going so far as to scold me for suggesting such a thing.
“We’ll be fine,” he said. My father, for the record, is often one who tries to look on the bright side and try to calm everyone down and remain optimistic. He believed that Trump supporters would never allow him to declare marital law or would never resort to violence. They where, he said, Americans after all. If they were truly patriots, they wouldn’t attack their fellow citizens.
But he didn’t see what I saw. I read what Trump supporters were saying. I read how my former friend had bought tickets to Trump’s second inauguration and right into the new year remain adamant that it would happen “even if we have to get tough to make it happen.” She suggested that “Congress would be given no choice but the hand Trump the election on January 6th. He won.” and subtly suggest if they didn’t do it, they would be made to through violence. I read how they didn’t consider Democrats or liberals or anyone who voted for Biden “Americans” or “patriots.”
Weak people who are desperate to project strength, fearful people will see their weakness, will find anyway to look strong. People who feel aggrieved will lash out, even if their grievances are false and even if it against their own. Trump supporters were left feeling weak and vulnerable by his loss, and the lies that convinced them he won made them feel aggrieved.
They warned us. For weeks, they talked about January 6th. For weeks, they said they would march on the Capitol. Trump himself said “it will be wild.” But we didn’t believe them, we wouldn’t believe them. For them, no amount of facts mattered. Trump had won in a landslide, the election was stolen, and everyone was in on it; the Democrats, the media, Hollywood, Europe, Dr. Fauci, everyone. There was a giant conspiracy and only the people who “woke up” knew the truth and only outlets like Newsmax, TownHall and OAN were willing to tell you the truth. They kept asking the same question and it stuck with me.
“Why would they lie?”
There seem to be this idea that Democrats, Biden, the media, Hollywood, the “elite,” all of these people they hate had a vested interest in lying: power. But Donald Trump was a billionaire who gave it all up to “serve his country,” so why would he lie? Why would religious people who know they’d be damned to hellfire for lying, risk such a punishment? Why would reporters on Newsmax, OAN and Fox lie? Their reputation and integrity is at stake. They MUST be telling the truth. Not only do they want it to be true, they have concocted some logical rationale in order to make what they are hearing true.
This is how terrorism is fermented; through lies, misdirection and fear.
It is tiresome that these are same people who say “fuck your feelings?” I understand they feel disenfranchised and forgotten, but these are the same people who are happy to forget and disenfranchise others when they are close to power. They call me a coastal elite, despite the fact that I grew up in a working class outer borough neighborhood, the son of a laborer who rode the subway every day and a bank teller. I’m the coastal elite, even though my great uncles cleaned Donald Trump’s toilets.
But what makes me mad is we spent five years trying to rationalize this behavior. We called it “economic anxiety,” we blamed “wokeness” and “PC culture.,” We dismissed it as performative and laughed off any ideas that Trump supporters would get violent as they grew more desperate. I was even told multiple times by people that once he loses, his supporters will go away. That once he loses the election, the spell will lift. Then the election happened, and all the signs were there, but everyone dismissed it anyway. Everyone was sure they would never take it to this level.
But for those of us who kept a watchful eye, we saw this bubbling over. We saw the strength of QAnon and how it was delivering people to Trumpism. I even wrote about it back in August. It remains this blog’s most-read post.
I recognize the type of people who stormed the Capitol. They are the same people who bullied me in school, whose parents responded that maybe I was the one who encouraged the bullying by being different, or by “showing off,” or by not being friendly. That I made them feel uncomfortable or inadequate, which is why they bullied me. That somehow I should be the one to change in order to stop the torment. There was also some reason or excuse as to why they were bullies, as if circumstances put them under some sort of spell that took away agency.
They are the ones who were never dealt it, or if they were disciplined, it was with a slap on the wrist, which only encouraged them to go further. When there is no accountability, there is no telling how far people will be willing to go, and I have watched bullies who aren’t held accountable go father and farther, and I know how it feels to be terrified of what line they’ll cross. I also know what it looks like they cross it.
In finding every excuse in the book to dismiss Trumpism as something other than what it is – a dangerous fascist movement that threatened our democratic system – we have allowed it to fester to the point where it did something Al-Qaeda couldn’t even do, sack the U.S. Capitol.