This is well worth reading in full. If I still harboured some sense that he’s just a comic book cipher, idiotic wannabe, this removed it. His advisors, whoever he’s surrounded by, have sharpened the strategy and it’s chillingly blatant now. We’re already farked but if this disgusting ■■■■ gets in again the decline in the US and beyond will be really quick and really awful. Argentina and Italy have recently said yes to far/hard right populists who call themselves mainstream conservatives. They get in on fear and hate, see what Dutton is currently busy at.
Have You Listened Lately to What Trump Is Saying?
He is becoming frighteningly clear about what he wants.
NOVEMBER 22, 2023
Maddie McGarvey / The New York Times / Redux
NOVEMBER 22, 2023, 6 AM ET
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In 2019, Kennedy Ndahiro, the editor of the Rwandan daily newspaper The New Times, explained to readers of The Atlantic how years of cultivated hatred had led to death on a horrifying scale.
“In Rwanda,” he wrote, “we know what can happen when political leaders and media outlets single out certain groups of people as less than human.”
Ndahiro pointed out that in 1959, Joseph Habyarimana Gitera, an influential political figure within the largest ethnic group in Rwanda, the Hutus, had openly called for the elimination of the Tutsi, the second-largest of Rwanda’s ethnic groups. Gitera referred to the Tutsi as “vermin.”
“The stigmatization and dehumanization of the Tutsi had begun,” Ndahiro wrote. It culminated in a 100-day stretch in 1994 when an estimated 1 million people were killed, the majority of whom were Tutsi. “The worst kind of hatred had been unleashed,” Ndahiro wrote. “What began with dehumanizing words ended in bloodshed.”
FOLLOW THE ATLANTIC
I THOUGHT ABOUT the events that led up to the Rwandan genocide after I heard Donald Trump, in a Veterans Day speech, refer to those he counts as his enemies as “vermin.”
“We pledge to you that we will root out the Communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country—that lie and steal and cheat on elections,” Trump said toward the end of his speech in Claremont, New Hampshire. “They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American dream.” The former president continued, “The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within.”
When Trump finished his speech, the audience erupted in applause.
Trump’s comments came only a few weeks after he had been asked about immigration and the southern border in an interview with the host of a right-wing website. “Did you ever think you would see this level of American carnage?” Trump was asked.
“No. Nobody has seen anything like this,” Trump responded. “I think you could say worldwide. I think you could go to a banana republic and pick the worst one and you’re not going to see what we’re witnessing now.” The front-runner for the Republican nomination warned that immigrants pose an immediate threat. “We know they come from prisons. We know they come from mental institutions and insane asylums. We know they’re terrorists. Nobody has ever seen anything like we’re witnessing right now. It is a very sad thing for our country. It’s poisoning the blood of our country.”
In a September 20 speech in Dubuque, Iowa, Trump said, “What they’re doing to our country, they’re destroying it. It’s the blood of our country. What they’re doing is destroying our country.”
Trump’s rhetoric is a permission slip for his supporters to dehumanize others just as he does. He portrays others as existential threats, determined to destroy everything MAGA world loves about America. Trump is doing two things at once: pushing the narrative that his enemies must be defeated while dissolving the natural inhibitions most human beings have against hating and harming others. It signals to his supporters that any means to vanquish the other side is legitimate; the normal constraints that govern human interactions no longer apply.
Dehumanizers view their targets as having “a human appearance but a subhuman essence,” according to David Livingstone Smith, a philosophy professor who has written on the history and complicated psychological roots of dehumanization. “It is the dehumanizer’s nagging awareness of the other’s humanity that gives dehumanization its distinctive psychological flavor,” he writes. “Ironically, it is our inability to regard other people as nothing but animals that leads to unimaginable cruelty and destructiveness.” Dehumanized people can be turned into something worse than animals; they can be turned into monsters. They aren’t just dangerous; they are metaphysically threatening. They are not just subhuman; they are irredeemably destructive.
THAT IS THE WICKEDLY SHREWD rhetorical and psychological game that Trump is playing, and he plays it very well. Alone among American politicians, he has an intuitive sense of how to inflame detestations and resentments within his supporters while also deepening their loyalty to him, even their reverence for him.
Trump’s opponents, including the press, are “truly the enemy of the people.” He demanded that the parent company of MSNBC and NBC be investigated for “treason” over what he described as “one-side[d] and vicious coverage.” He insinuated on his social network, Truth Social, that the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, deserved to be executed for committing treason. At a Trump event in Iowa, days after that post, one Trump supporter asked why Milley wasn’t “in there before a firing squad within a month.” Another told NBC News, “Treason is treason. There’s only one cure for treason: being put to death.”
Trump has taken to mocking the violent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, which left him with a fractured skull that required surgery and other serious injuries. Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has brought two indictments against the former president, is a “Trump-hating prosecutor” who is “deranged” and a “disgrace to America”—and whose wife and family “despise me much more than he does.” The former president posted the name, photo, and private Instagram account of a law clerk serving Judge Arthur Engoron, who is currently presiding over Trump’s civil fraud trial and whom Trump despises and has repeatedly attacked, describing him as “CRAZY” and “CRAZED in his hatred of me.” (Trump later deleted the Truth Social post targeting the law clerk, whom he called a “Trump Hating Clerk,” but not until after it had been widely disseminated.)
And in the first rally of his 2024 campaign, held in Waco, Texas, Trump lent his voice to a recording of the J6 Prison Choir, which is made up of men who were imprisoned for their part in the riot at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. The song “Justice for All” features Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance mixed with a rendition of the national anthem.
“Our people love those people,” Trump said at the rally, speaking of those who were jailed. “What’s happening in that prison, it’s a hellhole … These are people that shouldn’t have been there.”
The Washington Post “identified five of the roughly 15 men who are featured in the video. Four of them were charged with assaulting police, using weapons such as a crowbar, sticks and chemical spray, including against Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died the next day.”
At the Waco rally, Trump declared, “I am your warrior. I am your justice.” He added, “For those who have been wronged and betrayed, of which there are many people out there that have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.” Trump has described 2024 as “our final battle.” He means it; so do tens of millions of his supporters.
TRUMP’S RHETORIC IS CLEARLY fascistic. These days, Trump is being “much more overt about becoming an authoritarian and transforming America into some version of autocracy,” Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian at NYU, told PBS NewsHour. That doesn’t mean that if Trump were elected president in 2024, America would become a fascistic state. Our institutions may be strong enough to resist him, though it’s an open question. But Trump can do many things short of imposing fascism that can do grave harm to America.
Trump, after all, has been impeached twice, indicted four times on 91 counts, and found liable for sexual abuse and defamation. Courts in New York have found that he or his companies have committed bank fraud, insurance fraud, tax fraud, and charity fraud. Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election. He was the catalyzing figure that led to a violent attack on the Capitol. And he has argued for “the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
In our nation’s history, according to former Vice President ■■■■ Cheney, who served in four Republican administrations and was part of the Republican leadership in the House, “there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump.”
That Trump would say what he’s said and done what he’s done is no surprise; he is a profoundly damaged human being, emotionally and psychologically. And he’s been entirely transparent about who he is. The most troubling aspect of this whole troubling drama has been the people in the Republican Party who, though they know better, have accommodated themselves to Trump’s corruptions time after time after time. Some cheer him on; others silently go along for the ride. A few gently criticize him and then quickly change topics. But they never leave him.
By now I know how this plays out: For most Republicans to acknowledge—to others and even to themselves—what Trump truly is and still stay loyal to him would create enormous cognitive dissonance. Their mind won’t allow them to go there; instead, they find ways to ease the inner conflict. And so they embrace conspiracy theories to support what they desperately want to believe—for example, that the election was stolen, or that the investigation into Russian ties to the 2016 Trump campaign was a “hoax,” or that Joe Biden has committed impeachable offenses. They indulge in whataboutism and catastrophism—the belief that society is on the edge of collapse—to justify their support for Trump. They have a burning psychological need to rationalize why, in this moment in history, the ends justify the means.
As one Trump supporter put it in an email to me earlier this month, “Trump is decidedly not good and decent”—but, he added, “good and decent isn’t getting us very far politically.” And: “We’ve tried good and decent. But at the ballot box, that doesn’t work. We need to try another way.”
This sentiment is one I’ve heard many times before. In 2016, during the Republican primaries, a person I had known for many years through church wrote to me. “I think we have likely slipped past the point of no return as a country and I’m desperately hoping for a leader who can turn us around. I have no hope that one of the establishment guys would do that. That, I believe, is what opens people up to Trump. He’s all the bad things you say, but what has the Republican establishment given me in the past 16 years? First and foremost: BHO,” they said, using a derogatory acronym for Barack Obama that is meant to highlight his middle name, Hussein.
If I had told this individual in 2016 what Trump would say and do over the next eight years, I’m confident he would have laughed it off, dismissing it as “Trump Derangement Syndrome”—and that he would have assured me that if Trump did do all these things, then of course he would break with him. Yet here we are. Despite Trump’s well-documented depravity, he still has a vise grip on the GOP; he carried 94 percent of the Republican vote in 2020, an increase from 2016, and he is leading his closest primary challenger nationally by more than 45 points.
White evangelical Protestants are among the Republican Party’s most loyal constituencies, and in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center, more than eight in 10 white evangelical Protestant voters who frequently attend religious services voted for Trump, as had 81 percent of those who attend less frequently. That’s an increase over 2016. Trump’s support among white evangelicals is still extremely high: 81 percent hold a favorable view of him, according to a poll taken in June—after Trump was indicted for a second time.
The evangelical movement in America has been reshaped by the sensibilities of Trump and MAGA world. For example, in one survey, nearly one-third of white evangelicals expressed support for the statement “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
It is a rather remarkable indictment of those who claim to be followers of Jesus that they would continue to show fealty to a man whose cruel ethic has always been antithetical to Jesus’s and becomes more so every day. Many of the same people who celebrate Christianity’s contributions to civilization—championing the belief that every human being has inherent rights and dignity, celebrating the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of the Good Samaritan, and pointing to a “transcendent order of justice and hope that stands above politics,” in the words of my late friend Michael Gerson—continue to stand foursquare behind a man who uses words that echo Mein Kampf.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Taking a stand for conscience, even long after one should have, is always the right thing to do.
“When we engage in dehumanizing rhetoric and promote dehumanizing images,” the best-selling author Brené Brown has written, “we diminish our own humanity in the process.” We are called to find the face of God in everyone we meet, she says, including those with whom we most deeply disagree. “When we desecrate their divinity, we desecrate our own, and we betray our humanity.”
Far too many Christians in America are not only betraying their humanity; they are betraying the Lord they claim to love and serve.
Peter Wehner is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Trinity Forum.