Last week’s Super Tuesday 3 was comprised of contests in just 5 states but they included three battleground states, the home turf of two of the Republican candidates (at the time, bye Rubio), and a stretch across the industrial Midwest that was closely watched on the Democratic side in the wake of Bernie Sanders’ Michigan upset. While Clinton did extend her pledged delegate lead to 317, reports and questions about Sanders ending his campaign, with many employing the tactic of adding the unpledged super-delegates to the count, certainly seem overblown. She took Florida handily with 64.4%, but the races in Ohio (56/42), Illinois (51/49), and the virtual tie in Missouri paint a picture more of a break-even night than that of decisive victory. Many pundits project Sanders to do well in the Western primaries that await and on Wednesday night the hashtag #StillSanders took Twitter’s top trending spot.
While the delegates on the Democratic side of the Primary process are mandated to be proportional, the GOP has several states that are winner-take-all (WTA), a few that are majority-take-all, some that are proportional, and several levels in between. Last Tuesday, Ohio governor John Kasich managed to take a 10-pt win over Trump in his home state, one of the two WTA states on the night. The other was Florida where Trump exceeded the already lofty poll projections, taking 45.7% of the vote and all 99 delegates. This spelled the end of the Marco Rubio campaign that seemed so promising, fated almost in the pre-Trump era. Ted Cruz scored well in the right places on Tuesday, notching in the teens for the two WTA states where he would be presumably receiving no delegates anyway but scoring in the 30’s in Illinois and North Carolina, less than 10 pts behind Trump in each. Unfortunately for Cruz, in Missouri, where he landed in second place by just 1726 votes the allocation is winner-take-most, giving 12 delegates to the candidate with the most votes and splitting up the remaining 40 by winner of each district. Released on Wednesday morning, the Missouri GOP has awarded 37 delegates to Trump and 15 to Cruz.
Donald Trump’s sweep of the five Super Tuesday 3 states played out against a backdrop of growing unrest at his rallies. Protestors have been attending his events, kicking off with the infamous March 11 rally in Chicago. The event was held at University of Illinois at Chicago, a notably liberal area in a not-very-conservative city. As the ire of his opponents at his uninformed and cavalierly racist statements has risen, so too has their voice, a voice Trump is eager and quick to silence. As altercations continue to break out at rallies in several states, which I will break down below, Trump regularly denies and outright lies about his responsibility for this corrosive environment. He continues to claim that the Chicago police shut down the tumultuous rally, though the cops have gone on record as saying they had no impact on that decision and they were well prepared for the crowd. In fact, the Trump camp didn’t even give the police prior warning that they’d be cancelling, leaving them less prepared when disappointed supporters got the news. There were no reports of violence until after the cancellation was announced. Trump claims that protestors have violated his First Amendment right to free speech, a claim that would be laughable if he weren’t serious. Claiming that protestors have robbed him of his right to free speech is a similar logic that says gay rights are an affront to heterosexuals’ religious freedom. It’s not a principle, it’s just whiny selfishness. As is eloquently explicated here in a piece from Truthout about the misinformation surrounding the Chicago rally, “’Freedom of speech’ does not guarantee a space free from protest, criticism or disagreement. Nor would it have protected against the cancellation of an event due to concerns about safety or appropriateness of the time, manner or place of the speech.”
Donald Trump, though, does believe he has some right to exist beyond criticism, both from the press as evidenced by his plan to sue journalists who report negatively about him, as well as the obvious desire to silence and jail citizens who disagree. Using words like “tyrannical” and “fascist” to describe the GOP frontrunner once seemed like hyperbole. They become more apt descriptions with each passing day.
One of the toughest truths I’ve been wrestling with over the past two weeks is the fact that, in some way and to I know not what extent, Trump and his supporters do reflect who we are as an American people. I think as a progressive I’ve always envisioned that social change toward equality and greater unity was a matter of simple ignorance, that education and awareness would help us shrug off the burdens of greed and fear within our human nature, ever moving from the dark shadows of our discordant past toward a brighter future. I think I always believed that those who carried feelings of bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism, and other societal darknesses could and hopefully would have their minds changed with time and exposure to views different from their own, that the shadow of simple ignorance informed their positions and could not help but erode in the light of open and informed discourse. And here we are, with an unintelligent, unqualified, fake conservative blowhard stoking those xenophobic, sexist, and, yes, fascist embers in the American underbelly, the conversation about him and what he means reaching an unignorable level, covering our social media feeds, engaging young and old alike. And you know what? A large segment of the American populace couldn’t be happier with such a figure leading our Nation. I’ve watched numerous videos of Trump rallies, especially now in light of the contentious turn they’ve taken in the past weeks, and the fervor in his supporters for ideas of exclusion, isolation, violence, and nostalgia for times when such attitudes were more pervasive gives me a chill in my bones. I’ve watched as he repeatedly and without remorse calls from the podium for violence against those who disagree with him and his supporters cheer, eager to be set free from what they envision as a prison of political correctness to which we’ve all been condemned in this hellishly liberal modern age.
If only we could go back to calling people racial slurs and “faggot” without the damn queers getting their panties in a bunch, and if only a little bit of old school roughing up was allowed and overlooked when the time is right because they obviously deserved it and didn’t belong wherever they were, and if only we weren’t such pussies about turning the Middle East into a parking lot, and if these bitches would only stop being so uppity and go back to having proper masculine-feminine roles in the household, and if only they’d stop saying “Muslim” when they mean “terrorist”, and if only these pinko lefties would stop acting like symbols of oppression actually mean something and just let us go on being who we were generations ago- maybe then the country could go back to being great again and not so divided.
This is us, this is America. Where we yell at our fellow citizens to “Go Home!” to Africa, and Mexico, and wherever we think “Arabs” live.
This is America, where we will quickly deprive another citizen of their rights and/or freedom in the face of a perceived threat to our own comfort.
This is America, where bluster and ego and inexperience pass for keeping it real and speaking one’s mind.
This is America, where fascism, violence, and mob rule bubble just below the surface of our disconnected concepts of democracy.
Every time Trump talks about some plan of his without any details or information, and every time he talks about the “bad deals” the US government has made and how great he’d be at making “deals” without any actual knowledge of the issue at hand, and every time he uses the word “disaster” (expand your goddamn vocabulary!), and every time he inflates numbers (“we had 25,000 people at the Chicago rally and one protestor, a real bad dude, starting getting very violent…”), answers a legitimate question with fear-mongering fluff, or just obviously and outright lies to journalists – every time these things happen (and they occur several times a day) I am struck by the harsh truth that this is what the American want and respond to. How can this truly be who we are?
I really don’t know what to do with my new cynical realizations. And I think this is worth noting: I don’t actually believe Donald Trump is a tried and true racist in his heart. He’s a New York liberal businessman who is capitalizing on the xenophobic sentiment that exists within many of our citizens. But his ability and willingness to don that garb perhaps only makes him more dangerous. I keep coming back to that dystopian vision of Nixon as 4th-time president in The Watchmen or some Hunter Thompson nightmare, inflated by the helium of fear and hatred to the shape of a nuclear-fueled dirigible looming over our Nation. My most recent revelation is that maybe Trump is necessary, both to turn a horrible and ugly mirror back on ourselves that we can never unsee and that will inform better policy for half a century to come, and to also tear apart the circus sideshow that passes for a conservative movement in this country. Liberals do not have all the answers – there, I put it in print for the whole world to see. And there was once a time when the interaction and negotiation between the bounds of conservative and liberal in this country had the potential necessary to result in a more perfect Union. That’s not how our national discourse behaves at the moment. It’s somewhat more akin to a Jehovah’s Witness trapped in a room with a rabid double-headed ferret.
We now live in an era of nonstop visibility, with in-person video evidence of what actually occurs at any given event. It’s easy to throw around labels and cast aspersion on those with whom we disagree, but it is hard to see it in living color. So as a sort of lack-of-conclusion, I’ve compiled videos from the past couple weeks that provide little in the way of answers but put our current atmosphere on bright and frightening display.
We start in Louisville, KY where Trump’s March 1 rally was marked by Shiya Nwanguma being ousted, not by security personnel, but by attendees, somehow feeling justified to physically assault their dissenters. We watch as the young black woman is shoved and screamed at by a retired Naval officer named Al Bamberger, while Trump bloviates in the background about the values of water-boarding. Though Bamberger has gone on record here as saying he regrets his actions, he has certainly brought shame upon his uniform. Note, he apologized to the Veterans association but not to Shiya Nwanguma herself.
From that same rally, Joseph Pryor was one of the other young men screaming at Nwanguma. Pryor was an enrollee a “delayed-entry program” to the Marines. After the rally he decided to take a stillshot of his berating Nwanguma and make it his Facebook cover photo. He has now been banned from the Marines for life for his participation and glorification of the incident.
The Young Turks Youtube show makes some good points in their episode on the event here, chief among them that Trump isn’t yelling for security to get the protestors out, he’s calling for his supporters to do it. This is one of the most frightening aspects, Trump’s willingness to appeal to mob rule.
And yet the Republican front-runner continues to claim a lack of responsibility for what happens at his rallies, despite directly contributing. After the Chicago rally, Rachel Maddow ran a video on her show that compiled Trump’s calls from the podium for violence against his dissenters.
A video that circulated on Facebook this week paired two videos, one of President Obama dealing with a protestor as his rally and one of Trump. The difference is staggering and in many ways encapsulates just what makes Trump un-presidential.
In a similar vein, another video that made the social media rounds this week compared former Republican candidate John McCain to Trump in the way that he addressed the falsehood of our president being a Muslim. While McCain makes the gaff of contrasting Muslims and Obama as a “good family man”, his tenor and content make one nostalgic for substance and civility in our presidential race.
We’ll close with coverage of last week’s rally in Dayton, OH. Music producer James Troup attended the rally alone, remaining silent and taking Instagram videos. It’s worth noting that Troup is a black man, a fact not unnoticed by his fellow attendees. His experience is related here, including video of Trump supporters yelling “Fuck that Ni**er!” about our current president, calls to kill a protester as he’s removed, and a particularly poignant and ugly moment as a high-schooler attending with his father yells, “Fuck those dirty Beaners!” in response to Trump’s call for a wall.