What is Trump preparing his base for?
Part I of II
By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
No matter the issue, Donald Trump always speaks reassuringly to his base — that 35percent of the electorate who are loyal supporters and have stood by him no matter what he says or does.
Even his speech at the United Nations was delivered directly to his base, with its trumpeting of the same nationalistic themes from the campaign, complete with derogatory nicknames — a style honed and lifted right out of his campaign — all to keep his supporters on the Trump train.
Cathleen Decker at the Los Angeles Times described it:
For Trump’s supporters, those [United Nations] headlines evoked one of his strengths, the belief that he speaks their language and is willing to disrupt the establishment anywhere, even in a stronghold such as the United Nations. … He has emphasized issues he knows are important to his followers ….
Unlike any other White House head of state, Trump has time to travel around the country to Red States, staging boisterous campaign-like rallies where he continues to whip up his crowds with those favorites: Build the wall! Lock her up! Fake media!
Speaking the language they want to hear, Trump stands before his crowds and uses these rallies to continue to disparage his latest enemies, which always include the media. By his constant denigrations, Trump’s core doesn’t trust the media and its account of his presidency.
“That has heightened the power of the president’s own social media and communication tools, which include nearly 39 million Twitter followers and nearly 23 million followers on Facebook.” Los Angeles Times
He has definitely established a noteworthy track record now. Trump does something or reads something off the teleprompter that sounds reasonable, then pivots to issuing statements or tweets that directly contradict and undercut whatever he just did or said.
Pundits jump in and explain, well, he’s just appealing to his base. And he needs to maintain his base for his ego, his penchant for popularity, to feed his narcissistic personality, to relive the campaign, they say. That’s the personal side, they say, for Trump.
On the political side, they — the pundits, op-ed page writers and nightly talking heads, progressive or not — say Trump has to keep his base charged up because he has so far failed to deliver on major campaign promises. He needs to keep them whipped up with all that excitable and extreme campaign rhetoric.
And daily, the pundits describe and detail how Trump keeps jumping back and forth in order to maintain his base as he fails to deliver on any major legislation — unless, god forbid — he make deals with the devil Democrats.
Yet, I don’t think many of he mainstream conveyors of news and analyses go far enough. They don’t make the connections or follow the dots or align the pins on their talking points all the way to their logical conclusions. I fear there’s a more foreboding and dark future than most of them are willing to discuss, given our country’s current direction.
It’s incredible to think that Charlottesville was almost six weeks ago, on Friday, Aug. 11 and Saturday, Aug. 12.
Yet it was Trump’s blast to his base in response to the thuggery, violence and murder by white supremacists over that weekend that stands out for us now.
A month and half ago, Charlottesville and the reaction, retraction, restatements were in the news for days. No longer. Charlottesville has been off the front page and has disappeared from the news cycle.
Since then, of course, we’ve had three monster hurricanes — Harvey and Irma crushed the southern portions of our mainland, and Maria decimated Puerto Rico. We’ve had a temporary detente between Trump and Democrats over hurricane emergency funds, a budget deal, a possible compromise on DACA. We have another Congressional showdown on repealing the Affordable Care Act. And we have the bellicosity and threats between North Korea and the U.S.
And importantly, of course, there’s the daily drum beat of revelation after revelation by journalists on the Mueller investigation digging deeper and deeper into collusion, coordination and cooperation between Trump, his people and the Kremlin in sabotaging our last election — so, yes, Charlottesville has disappeared.
But it’s important to keep Charlottesville in our collective consciousness. For it has become the euphemism we now use to cover the first open display of violence by white supremacists on a national stage — coupled with Donald Trump’s declaration of sympathy for them by his “blame on both sides” narrative. “Charlottesville” stands for the moment the president of the United States publicly stated those who stood up to up to white-supremacists, Nazis and the Klan, have a moral equivalency with them.
And yes, the violence by white supremacists and Trump’s dog-whistle, led to all manner and levels of negative reaction and condemnations en mass from Democrats, activists, world leaders, every editorial page in the country, and Republican members of Congress. One cabinet official considered resigning, while two economic advisory boards did, in fact, resign.
This is why Charlottesville stands out — as a milestone on the road to a possible dark future for America. For, in the end, Charlottesville was a shout out — a signal — by Trump directly to the most extreme elements of his base, his most racist, most violent and mostly armed wing of the mass movement he has tried to cultivate these last 28 months. We know they got the message, as a few leaders, like David Duke, even thanked him.
Ah, Charlottesville, you would be removed from our collective consciousness, except for Trump himself, bringing it back. He raised it again on September 14th, a month after Charlottesville. Traveling on Air Force One, speaking to reporter, he said:
“Now because of what’s happened since then, with antifa, you look at, you know, really what’s happened since Charlottesville — a lot of people are saying — in fact, a lot of people — have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump might have a point.’ I said, ‘You got some very bad people on the other side also,’ which is true.” NBC
Just hours after making this statement, Trump — in a classic pivot — signed a congressional resolution condemning white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Klan, as well as their violence at Charlottesville, and urging the president to speak out against hate groups. Earlier in the week, the mostly ceremonial resolution passed both the House and the Senate in near unanimous voice votes. Despite Trump’s open sympathy for white nationalists, the resolution had been brought forward as part of the reaction and revulsion to the white supremacist violence at Charlottesville.
Charlottesville is staying with us. Why, just on Sunday, Sept. 24, counter-demonstrators at a far right rally in Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley repeatedly chanted, “Charlottesville! Never again! Charlottesville! Never again!”
So, why did Trump return to “Charlottesville”? Why did he once again raise his barely-cloaked defense of white supremacists? Was it because he was in the midst of making compromises with Democrats over budgets and DACA and he wanted to reassure and placate his base, signal his supporters that he was still their guy?
Could it also be that he sees his mass base being mobilized as one of his last remaining options to counter the probable end result of the most important and significant investigation in America’s history? The investigation into the sabotage of our 2016 presidential election by a foreign government with the use of American collaborators.
The Coming Inferno
The coming storm over this powerful force that’s out there, underneath the surface like a sunken and bumbling volcano, shooting our fiery reminders now and then, like the FBI raid into Paul Manafort’s house, the request for White House documents on Comey’s firing and on Trump’s handling of the response to that June Trump Tower meeting between Jared Kushner and the Russians.
Mueller’s hard-nosed investigation is now shining bright flashlights into the murky corners of the White House and up the stairs, jumping over the “red line” and into Trump and family finances, and the financial dealings of his associates like Manafort. Reporters talk of the intense, paranoid atmosphere throughout White House.
We also can see the coming storm in all the polling about support for impeachment. Recent polls show the percentage of those who support impeachment are up in the high 40s. One poll of 1,200 voters had 47 percent for impeachment, 53 percent opposed. It’s clear the country is split nearly down the middle on impeaching Trump. Public Policy Polling
Trump knows all of this. He watches a lot of cable TV; he can read the headlines. He’s certainly seen the polls about impeachment. He knows what’s coming. An investigation into his own obstruction of justice and his own collusion with the Russians. Possible resignation or impeachment. This is the investigation he’s tried on numerous occasions to derail over these last eight months.
Trump keeps telling us he’s not a quitter. He’ll never resign. He’s looking at his options, the options of a desperate president unbound by political and electoral norms. We know all too well how Trump has exploited and exploded every and all norms and boundaries since the day he slid down the escalator. He can’t fire Mueller. That would only speed up the impeachment process.
Yet, once Trump sees impeachment as inevitable, that’s when he will be the most desperate — and the most dangerous. We’ve seen his disregard for the rule of law or the courts. There is simply no guarantee that he’ll stay within the norms of a democratic republic — even one like ours with much-needed repairs.
Increasingly becoming more and more desperate, Trump keeps whipping up his base, stirring them up, keeping them fired up — despite the flailing numbers of the rallies. (After the Phoenix rally, he fired one of his main rally organizers for the smaller-than-usual turnout.) By maintaining, even cultivating, his base with staged rallies, dog-whistle speeches and tweets, he has a movement of fans and discontents.
But what does he expect of them? What are his plans for this mass movement? Just what is he preparing his base for?
A Liberal Coup?
Unfortunately, this writer sees something deeper and darker than a mere incitement of the Trump base to cover up legislative failure or to stroke the Trump ego and narcissism.
We fear that Trump is preparing his base to mobilize it in order to prevent any impeachment proceedings or to protect him personally if he is threatened with removal of any kind. He’s signaling to his supporters — even and perhaps especially the armed supporters — that he will need them to keep his position of power, even if they violently take matters in their own hands.
Impeachment? That’s a coup by the liberal elites and fake news and the Deep State. Any attempt at removing Trump would be seen and declared as an illegitimate toppling of the rightfully-elected president, a usurpation of the heir to all that’s good and decent and godly. Trump is the true patriot and he needs other true patriots — armed and in mass numbers — to stand up for him and prevent it.
Civil war? Insurrection? Revolution? These are the terms used by trumpeters of the president.
Conservative broadcaster Alex Jones has for months been advocating a war against other Americans to show support for Donald Trump. Jones has been announcing on his radio show, on YouTube and on his Infowars website that the country is on the verge of a bloody second civil war, and he urges his listeners and viewers — some 2.7 million people monthly — to kill more liberal Americans because of their political differences. Newsweek
Jones isn’t alone. Right wing broadcaster Michael Savage, host of The Savage Nation, declared “there’s going to be a civil war” because of “what this left-wing is becoming in this country.”
Pat Buchanan, a former GOP speechwriter who goes back to Reagan, described the appointment of Mueller and Charlottesville-type street violence as steps towards a “deep state media coup” and wrote America is “approaching something of a civil war,” and that it’s time for Trump to “burn down the Bastille.” Newsweek
Televangelist Jim Bakker has predicted that American Christians would begin a second civil war if Trump were impeached. On “The Jim Bakker Show,” he said:
“If it happens, there will be a civil war in the United States of America. The Christians will finally come out of the shadows, because we are going to be shut up permanently if we’re not careful.” The Hill
Roger Stone, one of Trump’s former top advisors during the campaign, predicted there would be an “armed” and violent “insurrection” if there was an effort to remove Trump. When queried on the issue of Trump’s impeachment, he responded:
“You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen. The people will not stand for impeachment. A politician that votes for it will endanger their own life. There will be violence on both sides.” Daily Kos
Stone — who some believe was the original architect of a Trump candidacy — dismissed those who call for impeachment as mere Clinton supporters who can’t get over her loss. He insisted in an interview he wasn’t “advocating violence,” only “predicting” it would happen. Alex Jones reportedly was told by Trump that the president “really liked” Stone’s comments. Common Dreams
Of course, it isn’t just the Right Wing that is contemplating or discussing a new civil war. For instance, Robin Wright in The New Yorker asks, “Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” While Max Pensky and Nadia Rubaii at AlterNet ask “Is the United States on the Brink of Erupting in Mass Violence?”
Writing in the New York Times in late August, columnist Charles M Blow theorized that Trump was raising “an army” to assist him if there was a threat to the continuation of his presidency, a threat Trump would call “a political coup.” He wrote:
Trump wants to position any attempt to remove him as a political coup. His efforts to delegitimize the press are all part of this because one day the press may have to deliver ruinous news.
In that scenario, Trump knows that the oligarchs and establishment Republicans would be quick to abandon him. Their support isn’t intrinsic; it’s transactional. But the base — the market — the ones with guns as well as those who are simply excited, the die-hards, the ones he keeps appealing to and applauding, will not forsake him. They see attacks on Trump as attacks on themselves.
Trump is playing an endgame. In the best-case scenario, these die-hards are future customers; in the worst, they are future confederates.
If these people should come to believe — as Trump would have them believe — that establishment systems have unfairly and conspiratorially acted to remove from office their last and only champion — another thing Trump would have them believe — what will they do?
Blow doesn’t leave us with any answers, as he ends by asking:
What would Trump’s army do if he were compelled to leave but refused to graciously comply?
Now all of this is just talk.
What about those guys who support Trump and are taking up arms for him? Those heavily armed men in camouflage, carrying semi-automatic weapons and tactical gear, who were at Charlottesville, for instance.
An article at Haaretz in early September reported on why anti-government militias are taking up arms for Trump, and preparing for “an all-out war.” Seeing the “the show of force by extremist militant groups in Charlottesville” as a “likely harbinger of worse to come,” it raised a central concern with the “ominous manifestations” of “the proliferation of radical anti-government paramilitary organizations and their recent, improbable entry into the world of partisan politics.”
It reported the election of Barack Obama was a important cause in a resurgence in the last decade of anti-government militias, after years of decline. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of armed militias rose dramatically after 2008 and peaked in 2011 with 334 such active groups. The number dropped however to 165 militias by 2016, a time-honored trend during Republican administrations. Most of the groups weave white nationalist ideas into their ideology while all of them typically see the U.S. government as their main enemy.
Despite these anti-government conspiracy theories, following Trump’s election the militias came out of the woods and began getting involved in more partisan politics. Members of a group called Three Percenters, one of the largest militia network in the country, adored Trump because his stances fit nicely into their agenda; staunchly pro-gun, fiery anti-Islamic incitement, hatred of immigrants.
Generally, the militia groups celebrated Trump’s victory, finding a new legitimization under him. They are armed and they are ready to serve him and his agenda. They’re recruiting through their social media and websites and have hundreds of thousands of subscribers to their extremely active websites.
The white supremacist armed militias have also found welcoming embrace by some Republicans who are apparently eager to use them against liberal activists. According to a recent report by Vice/The Trace:
“Some state and local politicians who are remaking partisanship in Trump’s image may see militias as a way to tighten their grip on power.”
Reportedly, for the past two years militia groups have been making appearances at numerous Right Wing political events.
In some cases, heavily armed militiamen have been asked to provide security at Republican Party and pro-Trump functions. In July, for instance, Republicans in Portland, Oregon, voted to invite armed members of two local militias – the Oregon Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers – to protect their events from left-wing protesters. Both groups espouse radical antigovernment and racist ideology inspired by various conspiracy theories.
Raw Story‘s Travis Gettys shares a warning by Yale University Historian Timothy Snyder to “watch out for the paramilitaries,” as Right Wing militia groups align with GOP officials under Trump.
In Charlottesville, militias played a visible role. Did you know that local authorities effectively “turned the streets of the city over to groups of militiamen,” who “played a more active role in breaking up fights” than the much-maligned, local police force? Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe defended this: “It’s easy to criticize, but I can tell you this, 80 percent of the people there had semiautomatic weapons,” said McAuliffe, who went on to say that the militias were better equipped than the State Police. Business Insider
Given this new trend of Trump legitimization, experts on terrorism continue to worry. A report by FBI and the Department of Homeland Security states white supremacist groups have carried out more terror attacks than any other domestic group in the past 16 years, with more likely to come.
Since 2008, there’s been a consistent increase in the level of violence, with much of it through so-called lone wolf attacks, driven by the radical racist ideology of the movement. Last year, for example, a plot to bomb an apartment complex occupied predominantly by Muslim immigrants, was hatched by members of a Kansas militia group known as “the Crusaders.”
One expert stated:
“Eventually, [the militias] believe, a violent confrontation with the U.S. government will occur, so they are preparing for that by conducting military training, stockpiling weapons and so on. They are training, because they believe eventually there will be an all-out war in which they’ll have to defend themselves, but they are smart enough to never really engage in violence in a systematic way.” Haaretz
Casey Michel, writing in Politico in mid-August warned:
“… only seven months into the Trump administration, America’s militias appear closer than ever to the halls and structures of power they’d long abjured: an unofficial, paramilitary force growing increasingly close to the president’s party.”
Charles Blow agrees:
… I think that Trump is raising an army, whether or not he would describe it as such, and whether or not those being involved recognize their own conscription. This is not a traditional army, but it is an army no less.
And, when I say army, I’m not speaking solely of armed militia, although there is a staggering number of guns continuously being put into circulation. As the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action wrote in June: “Each month of Trump’s presidency has seen over two million firearm-related background checks. Only in 2016, when Americans faced losing their Second Amendment rights forever, did the F.B.I. run more checks during a January to April period.”
I’m also talking about the unarmed, but unwavering: the army of zombie zealots.
Part II to come.