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March 23, 2016
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Calls for Violence against his Critics are No Joke
J ohn K iriaKoU
As you probably
heard, Donald Trump
canceled a rally in Chi-
cago after scuffles broke
out between Trump sup-
porters and opponents
around the arena where
the candidate was supposed to speak.
True to form, Trump blamed everybody but
himself for this debacle. He eventually de-
cided that Democratic presidential candidate
Bernie Sanders was somehow at fault — and
even threatened to send protesters of his own
to disrupt rallies for Sanders.
What was newsworthy was that Trump
himself canceled the event. He normally rev-
els in the clashes between protesters and sup-
porters that erupt at his rallies.
These confrontations have become routine,
with the real estate mogul usually egging on
his supporters to “rough up” interlopers. He’s
cheered on supporters who’ve shoved, kicked,
and punched protesters — even people who’ve
simply stood silently at Trump’s rallies.
Throughout it, he’s had the gall to claim
that he deserves credit for keeping the events
as calm as possible.
Despite the incendiary tone of his rheto-
ric — that all Muslims are our enemies, that
Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers, and
that practically anybody who disagrees with
him is an ISIS supporter or a “socialist” —
Trump refuses to take responsibility for the
violence he incites among his followers.
Indeed, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he
wasn’t condoning violence, not even when he
told a crowd shouting down a protester, “I’d
like to punch him in the face.” Darker still
was Trump’s reminiscing, “I love the old days
— you know what they used to do to guys
like that when they were in a place like this?
They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”
Similarly, Trump said at an earlier rally
that if supporters saw anybody with a tomato,
“Knock the crap out of them, would you? Se-
riously. OK? Just knock the hell [out of them].
I promise you I will pay for the legal fees.”
Combined with his offer to pay the legal
fees of a supporter who assaulted a peaceful
Black Lives Matter activist, that’s a blank
check for violence.
The American body politic certainly has
seen demagogues in the past. Former Ala-
bama governor George Wallace, who ran for
president in 1968, 1972, and 1976, comes
The Italian leader and his “brown shirt” goons
routinely beat protesters at rallies around Italy
in the 1920s and 1930s. They targeted com-
munists and anarchists at first, but graduated
to socialists and then to all small-d democrats
as they solidified their iron grip on power.
Trump’s tactics aren’t unlike those of the
fascists who came before him. It goes some-
thing like this:
First, they isolate and attack marginalized
people with little political power, like Mus-
lims and undocumented workers. Later, they
graduate to “socialists” and other opponents
of dangerous right-wing populism. Finally,
they play the victim and deny adamantly that
they’ve done anything wrong.
Anyone who challenges them, they claim,
Trump’s events are more akin to the
old fascist rallies of figures like Benito
Mussolini. The Italian leader and his
“brown shirt” goons routinely beat
protesters at rallies around Italy in the
1920s and 1930s.
to mind immediately. Former Ku Klux Klan
leader David Duke, who ran for multiple state
and federal offices in the 1980s and ‘90s (and
has since thrown his support to Trump), sim-
ilarly attracted fringe elements to his rallies.
But violence at American political rallies
has never been acceptable, especially vio-
lence encouraged by the candidate. That’s
why comparisons of Trump with other Ameri-
can demagogues aren’t an easy fit.
Trump’s events are more akin to the old
fascist rallies of figures like Benito Mussolini.
just wants to tear the country down. “These
people are so bad for our country, you have
no idea,” Trump has complained to his sup-
porters. “There used to be consequences” for
But Americans shouldn’t be fooled. Trump
isn’t at all unique or special. He doesn’t have
a gift for connecting with the common man.
He’s just a bully and a demagogue.
OtherWords columnist John Kiriakou is
an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy
Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
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