“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!””LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA!”
Are we in this together, as the nation’s governors insist? Forget about it. Yesterday President Trump signaled — to supporters toting AR-15s — his blanket approval for acts of violence in pursuit of their economic security, particularly in states led by Democrats. The call to arms, such a characteristically Trumpian contradiction, was issued the day after the president made comments at the White House in support of governors who were taking actions to protect their citizens.
“Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own states,” said the president. “Every state is very different. They’re all beautiful. We love them all.”
“But they’re very, very different,” he added. “If they need to remain closed, we will allow them to do that. And if they believe it is time to reopen, we will provide them the freedom and guidance to accomplish that task–and very, very quickly–depending on what they want to do.”
That Trump changed his mind after watching Fox News–which he did in this instance– is nothing new. Nor is it new how dangerous his previous abrupt changes in thinking have been. Prodded by Fox, in August 2017 Trump commended the “very fine people on both sides” after the Charlottesville neo-Nazi riot. It was a dog whistle that has led to an escalation of hate crimes against Jews, African Americans, and immigrants across the country.
In late February, once again encouraged by Fox News, he said the novel coronavirus was the Democrats’ “new hoax.” In effect a political IED, the attack turned the virus into more than just another source of division and disruption. That word impeded people’s understanding of its danger.
In March, after declaring a national emergency, Trump changed his mind once more and said he wanted to revive commerce by Easter. Pictures of corpses wrapped in white sheets in New York City prodded him to climb down from that foolish ledge.
But this alteration in how Trump presents his case is different. It will promote more civic division at a time when unity is absolutely essential for survival. With Trump’s encouragement some people will now get violent. Trump’s supporters admire his evil expertise in shifting blame, a skill he spent a lifetime developing. Where Trump’s critics see a man filled with sawdust, his supporters celebrate a hero made of grit, sass, and unapologetic persistence.
There’s that much desperation in America, and that much admiration for the president. Before the pandemic emerged in the United States, almost half of all Americans endured the frightening uncertainty that comes with living paycheck to paycheck. The American Dream is a myth to far too many: from low-wage workers to professionals slammed with student loan debt; from folks who worked jobs that globalization and technology killed to undocumented workers whose every new dawn in the U.S. is like living as endangered species.
Declining life expectancies in the U.S., particularly in rural regions, are the myriad consequences of drug abuse, gun deaths, suicide, obesity, alcoholism, divorce, and other abuses to mind and body brought on by the self-knowledge that something different needed to happen for things to improve. Trump’s election reflected the desperation.
Recall that Trump promised, “We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning.” He promised, “I alone can fix it.”
How we doing with that?
The advancing deaths from a virus that Trump resolutely ignored for 10 weeks–save for banning travel from China but not from other nations — does not register as a presidential catastrophe with Trump’s minions. To Trump’s supporters it’s the libtards, the media, the Democrats, Mueller, Pelosi, Schumer, and of course Obama, who are at fault for criticizing the president and impeding his progress. But endless weeks in self-isolation and what looks like an approaching Depression does register. Democrats, libtards, the media, Pelosi, and Schumer and Obama — not Trump — are seen as mortal dangers to families, businesses, and the republic.
Thus Trump declares “LIBERATE!” With that call to arms, Trump is courting desperate people to introduce a new chapter of domestic violence to the COVID-19 narrative. In effect, Trump is modulating the motherboard of national clamor to produce an anthem of rage. In the three-year-old musical score of dissonance and national peril that Trump wrote since he was inaugurated, “LIBERATE!” is the most dangerous note of all. It is a presidential invitation to substitute frustration and fear with gunfire.
— Keith Schneider