The past several weeks have been extraordinary. It felt as if the nation was holding its collective breath, watching and listening, most of us trying to conduct our own search for the truth when it came to the testimony of two people who appeared before a congressional committee pledging to tell the truth. Everything else seemed to vanish into the news ether as a wave of political debate formed and then crested. And then, after a swearing-in ceremony that felt more like a staid political rally, things returned to what is the “new normal.”
I considered writing about the recent release of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In brief, global environmental scientists have concluded that we have 10 years to make worldwide revolutionary changes to our dependence on carbon or face an existential threat to our planet that we will be unable to prevent. I saw a news clip of Trump, preparing to leave for a rally in Florida, his helicopter waiting, being asked if he had seen the U.N. report. He was clueless.
I actually thought about devoting some space to a comment Trump made at a West Virginia rally regarding Kim Jong Un. He said they had been exchanging letters. “And then we fell in love … OK? He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters.”
He said that. But then, hey, who doesn’t love a good love story? His new BFF (be still my heart) is a dictator, a repressive thug, a small man who still possesses a nuclear arsenal, executes family members and sustains a gulag of prison camps where hundreds of thousands are worked to death. But that’s just Kim’s day job.
I thought of the migrant toddlers who are led into U.S. immigration hearings before a judge to have their presence in the U.S. adjudicated. “Zero tolerance” as a policy is so reprehensible that any administration that would attempt to justify it should be rejected outright and those who carry out this policy should have resigned at its inception.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about those protesting women who filled the corridors of the Senate wishing only to be heard, waiting outside offices and following senators into elevators. Others gathered in protest in front of the Supreme Court, many holding up hands that had written on the palms: “I Believe.” It was an appeal, a demand, a gestalt of experience, an echo of history and a plea that any woman who stepped forward and spoke her truth regarding sexual assault should be believed. Begin there.
But what the Republicans did — led by Trump, with profound cynicism and familiar dissembling — was to characterize the women protestors as an “angry, left-wing mob.” This was repeated in rally after rally, in places such as Council Bluffs, Iowa; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Topeka, Kansas. To his MAGA crowds he conflated the protesting women and the Democratic Party as being “too extreme, too angry,” and a “radical democrat (sic) mob.”
The word “mob” immediately became a Republican talking point. “The mob,” said Trump, in Council Bluffs, “is practicing the politics of anger, division and destruction. You don’t hand matches to an arsonist and you don’t give power to an angry, left-wing mob. And that’s what the Democrats are becoming. They’re unhinged, dangerous.”
In Erie, Pennsylvania, he warned that if his party loses, the mob will take away everything he has achieved, while encouraging crime and socialism. America will become Venezuela. “Republicans believe in the rule of law – not the rule of the mob,” he said.
All of this from a man who once said at a rally, “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. I’ll pay for the legal fees.” Whose signature hostility toward the press at rallies is often so vitriolic that his supporters (a mob?) seem ready to throw more than a tomato. My counsel: Believe the mob.
Chris Honoré is a Daily Tidings columnist.