Oregon and the Trump Mayhem Circus

7 mins read

We learned last night that Trump doesn’t want to be “distracted” by the pandemic:

Trump isn’t working on the pandemic. He’s busy trying to rewrite the script of the White House Reality Show. The fiction he wants to create is this: The problem isn’t Covid; the problem is the protestors, and only “Strongman Trump” can save us.

This brings us to Oregon:

The clue, I believe, is in his campaign’s “thinking” behind his “OPEN THE SCHOOLS!” gambit earlier this summer.

McConnell and others have given Trump his instructions: Improve your poll numbers. Trump has been trying for months. That’s really all McConnell and pals care about. They don’t care about controlling the virus. They don’t care about saving lives.

The OPEN THE SCHOOLS! gambit shows you how badly Trump and Kushner misread public opinion. According to this CNN reporting:

This miscalculation with white suburban women is not surprising given the fact that Trump and Kushner are isolated in an echo chamber. Anecdotally, the GOP “suburban” women I know probably voted for Trump in 2016. They’ll also fight like mother bears if anyone tries to endanger their cubs. If Trump thought insisting on opening the schools would bring suburban women back to his fold, it was a stupid calculation. 

I suggest he similarly thinks that the Oregon Mayhem will improve his election chances. These thugs, acting on Trump’s behalf, are—in the words of Josh Marshall—the perfect vehicle to “seek out confrontations which are consistent with President Trump’s campaign agenda.” It’s about his campaign agenda.

There are fears that Trump plans to expand this operation to other cities. I expect we will see chaos and mayhem, but don’t worry about a military coup. 

The US has 328+ million people spread out over a vast landmass. Even if Trump had the actual armed forces behind him, pulling off a Pinochet-style military coup d’état would be difficult. But he doesn’t and won’t.

But Trump wants everyone to think he is mighty and strong. He’s good at fooling people into thinking he’s something he isn’t: Successful businessman. Strongman. The con keeps his base behind him. It also keeps everyone else in a panic, which reinforces the strongman image.

Creating mayhem in Ring #3 excites his base and prevents them from thinking about how many people are dying of Covid-19. If his base thinks about the virus, they might lose faith in him.

Anecdotally, a Trump-supporter in my town told me that for all Trump’s flaws, she has to vote for him so he can save us from those dangerous, lawbreaking protestors. The con works with a segment of people. Trump is in an echo chamber and listens only to those people.

This will backfire, just like the tear-gas-St. John’s-Photo Op, and just like the “Open the Schools” gambit. It also further exposes the hollow hypocrisy of the “states’ rights / federalism” people.

How long will this particular crisis last? I wish I knew. I only know this will not be the last time Trump violates the law and finds a way to keep his base cheering. This crisis will end when Trump moves the spotlight to the next act in the Trump Mayhem Circus.

This is a good place for a quotation from the late John Lewis. (Writing the words ‘the late John Lewis’ brings tears):

John Lewis knew it would never be easy.

I agree. Fascism needs an enemy. This time, Trump selected the protestors. For many voters, this means the “dangerous enemy” are sons, daughters, friends, etc.

Deliberately creating mayhem doesn’t strike me as a smart re-election strategy [I typed that in the understatement font.]

Trump runs into trouble because the truth keeps coming out, and because enough people have access to the truth.

After the 2018 midterms when Trump realized he was in trouble, he launched Operation Ukraine Shakedown to frame the Bidens. Ukraine never launched the investigation. The operation failed because people inside came forward.

Now this:

When we talk about the institutions hold out against, we mean the people employed by the agencies, the free press, the Courts (SCOTUS rejected Trump’s ‘absolute immunity doctrine’), etc. Someone leaked that memo to the NYT.

Another motive for Oregon:

To quote Mary Trump in her book, Too Much and Never Enough: “If he can keep forty-seven thousand spinning plates in the air, nobody can focus on any one of them.” Steve Bannon calls it “flooding the zone with shit.”

I guess we can also call it the 47-Thousand-Spinning-Plates Trump Circus Act.

He is trying to consolidate and maintain power. See this post for more.

Here’s the thing. Some of them genuinely, truly believe that the protestors are a bigger danger than the virus. They believe (and Fox repeats) that Trump will protect their “way of life.” They understand what that’s code for.

The best answer is from Richard Hofstader: 

Those on the fringes of American politics exhibit the paranoid style and believe that their way of life is being taken from them. They think the essence of America is being destroyed. The Confederates similarly claimed that they were protecting their “way of life.”

Now Trump says that if Biden is president, he will destroy the “suburbs.” Trump has a 1950s idea of “suburbs” (think “white flight.”) This is why they’re more afraid of BLM than the virus .The virus will kill people. BLM will destroy their “way of life.”

[View here as a Twitter thread]

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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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