Commentary: Trump’s Rally Evokes Images None of Us Want

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Over the last month, Jews and Japanese have taken the lead in pushing back against the treatment of refugees in detention camps.  But there has been a debate over the use of the term concentration camps to describe the camps that have come under increased scrutiny and criticism.

But against the backdrop of protests over concentration camps, the last thing Trump and his GOP allies wanted was a campaign rally that seemed to resemble the Nuremberg rallies of a bygone era.  The chants by the crowd of “send her back” had to be alarming for many.

The NY Times reported that nervous Republicans urged the president to repudiate the chants, as they feared that the really could backfire and harm their party.

That move was in sharp contrast to the social media scene for much of Thursday, where conservatives were defending the president and downplaying the incident.

In typical fashion, the president disavowed the behavior of the crowd, and claimed he tried to contain it – clearly a claim that was contradicted by the video of the event.

The problem that the president had is a feedback loop – he whips the crowd into a frenzy and then feeds off their energy.  He claimed he tried to stop it, by starting to speak “very quickly” after the chant.  The video shows otherwise – with the crowd roaring “send her back,” the president paused, looked around the audience for at least ten seconds, and did nothing to halt the chorus.

“I didn’t say that,” he said. “They did.”

Politically it’s a much finer line than anyone wants to acknowledge.  President Trump is the master of pushing these kinds of buttons – walking up to the edge, but trying not to go over the line.

There was a good article two days ago that pointed out that Mr. Trump’s attack on four women in the Democratic party – all unpopular with his base, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a freshman Democrat who is Muslim – is part of a calculated strategy to identify the Democratic Party with the far left and unpopular women.

But it is at the same time a risky move.

As the New York Times points out, while the Republicans want to brand “Democrats as radicals in favor of open borders,” they see those two along with Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashiba Tlaib of Michigan “as particularly good embodiments of that radicalism” while at the same time “there is some concern that suggesting they leave the country makes the argument too personal and could backfire.”

The view from many of his allies is that while his core supporters “might have enjoyed the moment,” President Trump “was playing with political fire.”

The Times writes, “Mr. Trump’s inner circle immediately appreciated the gravity of the rally scene and quickly urged him to repudiate the chant.”

The polling bears this out.  A recent poll showed that 59 percent of Americans believe the president’s tweet for them to “go back to where they came from” was “un-American.”  But Democrats and Republicans are deeply split, with 88 percent of Democrats expressing that view compared to 25 percent of Republicans.  Independents were in the middle, with 54 percent.

Two-thirds believe that the language is racist.

But there is a danger here.  Seventy percent of respondents in the same poll believe that “people who usually call others ‘racist’ usually do so in bad faith.”

Polling has shown that racial fears are part of the driving force by the right and support for President Trump.  Americans have picked up on this, even before President Trump’s tweets, the AP reported: “Americans considered race relations in the United States to be generally bad — and said that Trump has been making them worse.”

Earlier this year, a CBS News poll found that 6 in 10 Americans said race relations are bad – that compares with 66 percent of Americans who said they were good in April 2009 after President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Trump is not the sole blame here because, by 2014, those views began to sour after a series of high-profile shootings of black men by police officers.  But 56 percent of Americans believe President Trump has made race relations worse.

Moreover, a poll last year found that more than half of Americans, including large majorities of blacks and Hispanics, think President Trump is a racist.

President Trump sees his path back to the White House, narrow as it would appear to be, as hinging on his ability to marginalize the left wing of the Democratic party while mobilizing his base.  The danger that he faces in that strategy is if he’s not careful, either he or his supporters could step over the line between insinuation and outright racism.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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15 thoughts on “Commentary: Trump’s Rally Evokes Images None of Us Want”

  1. Alan Miller

     . . . there has been a debate over the use of the term concentration camps to describe the camps that have come under increased scrutiny and criticism.

    I resemble that remark.

    But against the backdrop of protests over concentration camps . . .

    I wonder which side of the debate “Z Vanguard” is on?

  2. Alan Miller

    Seventy percent of respondents in the same poll believe that “people who usually call others ‘racist’ usually do so in bad faith.”

    Those that label others as racists are in the same vile pile as racists.

      1. Alan Miller

        What I am referring to is the expansion of the term in recent years, and the use of the term to smear someone with ‘permanent dog poo’, a ‘smell’ that never comes off, like when someone is accused of child molestation and then cleared, the ‘smell’ lingers:  ‘I wonder if they actually did . . . ‘.  It used to be the term ‘racist’ was reserved for only the most vile among us, now it is used as a smearing agent, and we all have it in various forms (which I agree with, and I believe it’s important to recognize our own internal bias’ in order to deal with them, but that’s different than labeling someone else a racist, most especially publicly).   This Orwellian redefining of words is being done with other hot button terms as well to muddy the waters and ‘score’ political points, with terms such as, I dunno . . . “concentration camps” or “anti-fascist”.

        1. John Hobbs

          “…It used to be the term ‘racist’ was reserved for only the most vile among us,…“concentration camps” or “anti-fascist”.”Gutless lip service to democratic ideals while coddling the vendors of venom seems to be your thing lately. What level of degradation to human rights would be too much for your tastes? How many more deaths in Trump’s detention centers before you consider them concentration camps? There is nothing not “vile” about this usurpation of human rights, common decency and democratic processes.

          You and the too many others who passively endorse Trump’s crimes against humanity are the reason I believe that a “De-Trumpification” is needed.

        2. Alan Miller

          Gutless lip service to democratic ideals while coddling the vendors of venom seems to be your thing lately.

          Lip service to democratic ideals?  What are you talking about?  Coddling the vendors of venom?  What are you talking about?  My thing?  What are you talking about?

          What level of degradation to human rights would be too much for your tastes?

          I stopped beating my wife on Tuesday, thank you.

          How many more deaths in Trump’s detention centers before you consider them concentration camps?

          The are what they are.  One definition could be ‘concentration camp’, but clearly this is being used as a political tool because of the inflammatory nature of the common use of the term, which is what I object to.  As deplorable as the conditions may be, there is no indication that Trump’s goal is mass execution of a race of people.  CR dismissed this as ‘well, that’s were we are heading’.  That’s ridiculous.

          There is nothing not “vile” about this usurpation of human rights, common decency and democratic processes.

          OK, but I wasn’t using the word ‘vile’ to describe those things.

          You and the too many others who passively endorse Trump’s crimes against humanity are the reason I believe that a “De-Trumpification” is needed.

          What does that even mean?  Go ahead, “De-Trumpify”.  That and $3 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

        3. Ron Oertel

          From article:  “Seventy percent of respondents in the same poll believe that “people who usually call others ‘racist’ usually do so in bad faith.”

          I believe it’s important to do so in “good faith”.  (As “constructive criticism”, if you will.) 😉

          Yeah, I’ve waded into this – against my better judgement.  Not a topic that I’ve ever liked discussing, but see nothing “wrong” with Alan’s comments.

          Not commenting, regarding Trump.

        4. Alan Miller

          I believe it’s important to do so in “good faith”.  (As “constructive criticism”, if you will.)

          That was hilarious . . . 🙂

  3. Tia Will

    From Merriam Webster

    Concentration camp: a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution

    So Alan ( or anyone), please tell me how exactly these border “detention centers” are not word for word, the epitome of a place where large numbers of people are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities?  I did not include those words in my proclamation because of the inflammatory nature. However, I would point out that being inflammatory does not make words less accurate or true.

     

    1. Alan Miller

      The are what they are.  One definition could be ‘concentration camp’, but clearly this is being used as a political tool because of the inflammatory nature of the common use of the term, which is what I object to.  As deplorable as the conditions may be, there is no indication that Trump’s goal is mass execution of a race of people.  CR dismissed this as ‘well, that’s were we are heading’.  That’s ridiculous.

  4. Ron Glick

    When Trump was elected I wondered if it felt like I did the morning after Hitler was elected Chancellor in Germany in 1932 and Alan you pushed back. Now with Trump rallies seeming like less choreographed versions of those the Nazi’s held at Nuremberg,  people being locked up in camps in cells at high concentration, while children are separated from parents like in Sophie’s Choice and, in some cases, dying in government custody, I am getting more repulsed with each passing story.

    While the crowd was chanting “Send her back” in my mind I started hearing  Seig Heil back. It didn’t take much imagination on my part.

    1. Alan Miller

      When Trump was elected I wondered if it felt like I did the morning after Hitler was elected Chancellor in Germany in 1932 and Alan you pushed back.

      I don’t understand.  I pushed back on what, when?  You were around in 1932?  I really don’t understand that sentence at all.

      Now with Trump rallies seeming like less choreographed versions of those the Nazi’s held at Nuremberg,

      Comparing Trump to Hitler.  How original.  Ever hear of Godwin’s law?

      people being locked up in camps in cells at high concentration,

      You can say ‘concentration camps’, but how and why people get there, the percentage of people who die and how they die, how long they are held, how they get out (compared to ‘at all’) are all radically different.  This Nazi comparison to smear Trump is political hyperbole — that’s my point.  I object to it on the right, and I object to it on the left.  I remember seeing a story on 60-minutes during the Obama-era about people crossing the border and all the people who were dying, particularly drowning crossing a canal and succumbing to desert heat, including children — and no one tied it to Obama.

      The ‘send her back’ chant was pretty low.  Trump distanced himself from it — pretty f*cking lamely in my opinion, but hopefully enough that it won’t become a ‘thing’.  While I don’t believe all Trump followers are racists, those who are racists (as I define the term, which seems to be a lot more narrowly that modern usage) I would imagine all support Trump, which is a cross he has to bear, and he does very little to discourage that.  That chant was a reflection of that portion of Trump’s followers.

      1. John Hobbs

        “We do not subscribe to the view that Mr. Hitler and his friends, now finally in possession of the power they have so long desired, will implement the proposals circulating in [Nazi newspapers]; they will not suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights, nor enclose them in ghettos, nor subject them to the jealous and murderous impulses of the mob. They cannot do this because a number of crucial factors hold powers in check. . . and they clearly do not want to go down that road. When one acts as a European power, the whole atmosphere tends towards ethical reflection upon one’s better self and away from revisiting one’s earlier oppositional posture.”

        A Jewish newspaper’s assessment, days after Hitler’s election.
        Nobody wants to believe their country is going over the cliff, but it’s too late to stop it once its center of gravity has moved too far forward.

        Santayana is shaking his spectral head in disgust.

        1. Alan Miller

          Not sure how to respond to that, except maybe place a bet?  The last time I made a bet on here, I lost a cool $100 cash, but I’m pretty sure I’ll win this one.  In fact, I’m so sure, I’ll bet $500 cash.

          So here’s the bet:  by the end of Trumps third term in 2028, the federal government, under Trump, will not be gassing, or using other means of mass execution, in an attempt to genocide all Mexicans and Central Americans who cross the border from Mexico.

          Care to take me up on that bet?  I will gladly accept friendly amendments to the wording.  Perhaps ‘friendly’ is an optimistic word in this case.  Note:  In case you think Trump will only have two terms, we can make the bet for 2024.  In case you think Trump will declare himself King of the USA for life, we can deter the end date of the bet to Trump’s date-of-death.

          Anyway, I’m good for the cash, and I pay my debts.  You?

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