Since Martin’s piece about the attempted bombings was published, we can add two more intended targets to the list: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Rep. Maxine Waters. We have no way of knowing if the list will continue to grow.
This news fills me with an overwhelming sense of dread. From the day Donald Trump was inaugurated, the question that haunts the back of my mind is to wonder how all of this ends. I try to follow various trajectories that don’t result in the kind of violence this country experienced over slavery and Jim Crow laws in the south. But you can imagine how a string of assassination attempts on so many of the people Trump has targeted as enemies makes that difficult.
One of the ways I tamp down my fears of an outbreak of violence is by telling myself that, while Trump’s supporters rally around his cruelty and like to harass the opposition, most bullies eventually back down when their targets don’t cower in fear. So even after today’s events, I’d like to think that this will ultimately be true of our political conflicts in the 21st century:
Politics is supposed to be a tough business, and fighting and partisanship is part of the deal, but it is designed to be a substitute for violence, never a mechanism for it.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) October 24, 2018
The problem I have with that stems partly from how conflicts like this have played out in our history and partly from the man who currently occupies the White House. As Michelle Obama so presciently said a couple of years ago, “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.”
We’ve now had more than two years to learn who Donald Trump is. As everyone who knew him well predicted, he can’t handle defeat and sees it as akin to death. When challenged, he ramps up the lies, hysteria, and attacks. That is precisely why, as a blue wave appears plausible in the midterm elections, Trump has gotten exponentially more brazen. Does it come as a surprise to anyone that attempted violence is the result?
Think back to the 2016 campaign and how he talked about “the good old days.”
Or the time he joked about how “second amendment people” could stop Clinton.
If Michelle Obama was right, being president will continue to reveal that this is a man who envisions violence as an appropriate response to political opponents, whom he constantly paints as enemies.
The other thing I’ve been thinking about since Trump became president is that his current mental state tells us that he will never get better, only worse. Watching with our own eyes, we’ve all witnessed the fact that he has deteriorated over the last two years. Unless someone like him is able to accurately assess his own failings and ask for help—which Trump will never do—that is the only course available.
That is what we are dealing with, folks. I wish I had some magic elixir that would guarantee that this country could get through the crisis we’re in via a reliance on our institutions of democracy and debate. But I’m having a hard time envisioning that right now. We’re two weeks out from an election in which the best that we can hope for is a congress that holds the president accountable. While that is necessary, it will not be sufficient and could ramp up the tensions even higher. That is the path people chose when they decided to vote for Donald Trump. Before it’s over, we’ll all be sorely tested.