Trump's recent psychological warfare salvo reveals not only a short term method to win in 2020, but also the perilous face of his long game. He chose four minority congresswomen as effigies and tweeted for them to go home, that is, leave the country, even though three of them were born in America and one, Ilhan Omar, is a naturalized citizen. It is worth noting the prodigious mendacity and calumny of his flimsy attempts at evidence, adjoined to claims that the congresswomen hated America. Fact Checker, for instance, gave four Pinocchios to Trump's claim that Omar supported Al Qaeda.
Also noteworthy is the irony of language like "infested" from a man whose soul is ugly with voracious egotism and repugnant not only from an absence of conscience, but also a prevalence of depravity. At his first rally after the 'go back' tweets, a pumped-up crowd chanted "Send Her Back!" referring to Omar. Trump let this chant go on for 13 seconds without interruption, even though he claimed the next day to have resumed his speech quickly.
Mainstream pundits condemned this bald-faced manifestation of racism. They vilified the blatant use of well-known racist tropes, and underscored that dog whistles are out and fog horns are in. But to some degree, at least, the media didn't convey the full threat.
Take Morning Joe. The parsing there was correct but limited. The Republican Party, so the analysis went, shamelessly accepts Trump's moves to solidify the base. However, in so doing they wed themselves to white jingoism, and lock themselves out of expanding demographic blocks.
The conclusion of this 'death by math' argument, though, relies on a key premise: that the US remains a democracy. A POTUS-crowd chanting racist hate is a watershed, and it's past time to consider a danger we've too long kept at arm's length. Namely, when fascist authoritarians have to, they aspire to win elections, but their ultimate goal is to make elections irrelevant.
The counterargument is that Trump's base is too small to make him a President Putin. But if you look at history, and the rise of dictators in republics, at some point they no longer rely on the vicissitudes of votes. They seize power, usurping the right of the majority.
It's worth point out that any seismic event of national significance, such as full scale war with Iran, could incite a bellicose stampede of fear that drives the citizenry right into Trump's hands. Does anyone really think that someone who '"fell in love" with Kim Jong un--a totalitarian who demands worship of his statues--will shy away from conflict with Iran if it becomes his best route to power?
Trump's know-nothing mega-claque isn't going to pull back from the edge. There won't be some magic moment when they see they are trading liberty for a protection racket. Ignorance can take hold even in the smartest people, who then work to spread and defend it. So ensconced, it gains immunity to the strongest logic, or even 'right before your eyes' evidence.
The Republican Party is hardly worth mentioning as a safeguard for our democracy. They have become Trump's puppets. As for Trump himself, apologists have been arguing for years that he isn't as bad as he seems, or that others can control his 'impulses'. There is a persistent idea that he is rash, stupid and incapable, even though he is perhaps the most successful con man in modern history. At the very least, he has a genius for knowing how to exacerbate and exploit fear. And he knows how to conjure efficacious chaos. And yet commentators still continue to label him as inept, perhaps because their standard is a strong USA on the global stage, whereas Trump's goal is a crippled USA under his thrall.
The idea that Trump's ineptitude could be a smokescreen for fascist ambitions hardly gets any airtime at all. He ambushed everyone in 2015, coming down a golden elevator after months of original, insightful calculation. He became the most powerful man in the world. Liberty requires perspicacious vigilance. And yet we seem more than ready to be blindsided by Trump again. What is our excuse at this point, after "Send Her Back"?
In terms of actions, there is a straightforward one. The Democrats could impeach Trump and thereby greatly alter public opinion. Their willful violation of an oath to protect the Constitution bears the greatest part of the cataract in our collective blind eye.