I mentioned to a few people yesterday that the thing that bothered me the most about Trump’s mockery and denigration of Dr. Christine Ford at one of his rallies on Tuesday was the fact that the audience approved. They laughed. They applauded. Even far-right republicans, I thought, surely couldn’t approve of this b.s. by Trump, but it appeared that they did. Even women, some of whom surely had also been victims of sexual abuse, cheered. I find this deeply disturbing. This morning, as I was perusing various news outlets, I stumbled across an editorial by Charles M. Blow of the New York Times. I believe Mr. Blow has hit the nail squarely on the head with his explanations for that crass behaviour that is so often exhibited these days at Trump rallies, and I thought his ideas were worth sharing with you …
The Trump Circus
By Charles M. Blow
03 October 2018
It is a scene that has become all too common, and dare I say dangerously close to becoming mundane: Donald Trump said something outrageous at one of his political rallies and his supporters, those hopelessly beguiled by the bully, cheered.
This week, Trump trekked to Southaven, Miss., where he took the degenerate step of mocking Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Trump imitated and chided her:
Thirty-six years ago this happened. I had one beer, right? I had one beer … How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.
It was a repulsively grotesque spectacle, and yet from the assemblage of thousands came applause and roars of approval for Trump.
It is at moments like these that I try to step back from the particulars, to create some distance, so that I can ask myself the larger, more profound questions. How did we as a country arrive at the point where this is even possible? And how are there so many Americans willing to accept Trump’s corrosion of our culture and our discourse, to gleefully follow him as he plumbs the depths, probing for a bottom of acceptability that, in his world, seems to have been obliterated?
There are multiple explanations, to be sure: racism, xenophobia, ethnic hostility, Islamophobia, nationalism, Fox News, reduced access to privilege, lingering anti-Obama sentiments, a pronounced distrust of media in particular and truth writ large.
But I believe there are two other explanations that are much more base: entertainment and ownership.
First, the entire Trump presidency is a show, and many Americans find it quite entertaining, viewing Trump as its antihero.
He is brash, unconventional, emotional, sometimes raging and sometimes funny.
His rock-and-rage rallies (he has held nearly two dozen since being elected) are simply an extension of that, only more raw and raucous. Trump brings the big show and the big media with their big cameras to places and people who feel forgotten and isolated, looked over by the bustling coasts and the urban centers.
He is their entree to power, a personification and articulation of anger and anti-intellectualism, a way to wrap their hatreds in humor.
The rallies are part tent revival, part circus, part call-and-response game show. Like-minded people with look-alike faces populate them. They are orgies of sameness in which crowd dynamics produce and escalate a tornado of affirmation and acceptance until it is perfectly admissible to surrender any remaining morality to the mob.
It is a religious experience of conversion and immersion, a born-again baptism in which people emerge bound to one another and bound to Trump.
Trying to pry them apart from Trump, to make them somehow see the light and turn on him, is a time- and energy-wasting exercise. Trump is wielding a Jim Jones-level of influence and control over these people, and deprogramming the members of his cult would take more effort than most are willing to commit.