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Friday, June 3, 2016

We're Giving Trump Exactly What He Wants

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 10:54 AM

click to enlarge AP/NOAH BERGER
  • AP/Noah Berger

Donald J. Trump's bellicose Republican Party train rolled into San Jose last night, and the South Bay did not disappoint. Protests before a Trump rally at the downtown SAP Center started peacefully enough, according to the UK Guardian and other outlets on scene, but soon enough led to violence — because, when you bait someone enough, they eventually lash out.

And Trump was baiting. Prior to his visiting San Jose, a city with a sizable Latino population in a state that is significantly Latino, Trump repeated his plans to build an even bigger wall on the border with Mexico, and posited that an American-born judge assigned to the lawsuit over Trump's pyramid-scheme swindle of a university is biased because of his "Mexican heritage." After his rally, as dark fell in San Jose, people took the bait. 

Eggs were thrown at otherwise proud-faced Trump supporters, some of whom had their "Make America Great" hats stolen and set on fire. "Dozens of fights" broke out in the streets, according to the San Jose Mercury News, and at least one young man, identified as a Trump supporter, was left bleeding from a gash in his head.

Many of the protesters, most of whom were students and union members, according to the UK Guardian, were also from heavily Latino East San Jose, and waved Mexican flags. An overwhelmed San Jose Police Department was unable to keep the peace, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo blamed Trump's aggressive rhetoric for setting it all off.

In sum, it could not have gone better for Trump.

click to enlarge Protesters give chase to a man leaving Donald Trump's rally on Thursday night in San Jose. - AP PHOTO/NOAH BERGER
  • AP Photo/Noah Berger
  • Protesters give chase to a man leaving Donald Trump's rally on Thursday night in San Jose.

click to enlarge ap_482420302754.jpg

The crowd on Thursday was relatively small, with a few hundred people gathered, four arrests, and no major injuries or property damage reported, according to local media. That is nothing compared to the footprint of the event in media. 

It's a vicious cycle. Trump agitates and inflames. The targets of his agitation predictably react. The reaction only fuels more agitation. "See? I told you so!" 

Some of Trump's supporters on the right cast blame at a "leftist mob," calling Trump's rally "political" and "peaceful" — a patently absurd suggestion. An angry man leading a group of angry people, whose thought leaders openly suggest on television Hillary Clinton should be tortured — and who has yet to fully account for his words last year that Mexican migrants are rapists — is anything but peaceful. 

And as former Bush White House spokesman Tony Fratto pointed out, people furious with this language are now lashing out at the nearest Trump proxies: his supporters, who, logic would dictate, must hold his views. As many more astute observers have noted for months, the race-baiting is wide open.

To state the obvious: Things are frayed in America now. People are afraid and insecure. Worry over economic viability, in a capitalistic society, is an existential worry. When baited and baited and baited again, people fearful for their own existence will lash out.

By now, it has to be clear that  this is all part of a calculated strategy. And it will continue all summer and into the fall. Hillary Clinton, attacked time and again, is striking back, using Trump-like language to try to disassemble his strongman image.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, just a step behind Clinton in polling for Tuesday's make-or-break California primary, puts in an obligatory call for peace.

It's far too late for that, to ask people to sit by Zen-like while their houses burn down, and the arsonist is in the living room. 

Trump has created a unique "unsafe space" in America — a forum for anyone to vent their worst and ugliest fears. It's been demonstrated time and again that Trump rallies are near-"anything-goes" areas, where deliberate actions are receiving their intended reactions.

Shout, lash out, rally, and repeat. It's going to be a long and ugly summer.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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