How Much Are Far-Left Activists Fueling Trump? Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader dissents over the premise of this discussion thread:

I’m not going to go into whether or not Trump’s right to freedom of speech is being hampered by those who protested over the past weekend. What I want to address is the incredible short memory of journalists. Trump has been spewing violent rhetoric against a large number of people since he began his campaign. For months and months, individuals have either not been allowed in or have been escorted out if they are assumed to be disruptive (no matter whether they were or not). There was zero evidence that these people were encouraged by any movement on the left. Many were simply curious and most did not do anything anti Trump except be there.

Now, Trump comes to Chicago to a venue in a heavily Hispanic and African American neighborhood that is also home to many young college students and young professionals of all ethnicities. They decide to object to him. Now the media decides to ignore all the months of no movement from the left against Trump and claims that this is an organized movement by leftists. And who is arguing this? The Washington Times. Reason. What is the record of reliability of these two sources? I’d say very little given that they are nothing more than mouthpieces for the far right. Why on earth are you jumping on this bandwagon?

And frankly, why not admit that the real reason that there are more demonstrations is that a lot of people are getting very tired of a media that treats Trump with a respect that he doesn’t deserve and which also does not recognize the fact that there is little difference between the “sane and moderate” Republicans and Trump. Cruz is equally as bad as Trump, with an ego and personality and temperament to match. Rubio and Kasich are barely better. Their party created a space for a man who incites fear and spews hatred. That’s why they all say they will support him if he is nominated. That’s the sickness you should be examining, not looking for leftists behind the curtains and under the rug.

Another reader responds to my posting of the video of women reading misogynist quotes from Trump:

I agree with you about using Trump’s words against him. I actually think NBC should release all the raw footage from the various episodes of The Apprentice.

Another reader thinks through the question of how to most effectively protest Trump:

I’m increasingly convinced the way to countering Trump’s rise isn’t going to be through Trump. That method has clearly failed. Maybe the thing to do now is to start trying to reach Trump’s supporters.

Certainly that path is fraught with its own problems; they eschew traditional establishment, traditional media (and, in many cases, traditional education). But I think Trump surged because he was able to speak to their fears and concerns in a way that no other politician really did. And when the response to them is calling them racist or Nazis, it’s going to galvanize them further to Trump rather than bringing them around. I won’t pretend there aren’t any racists in his base, but I don’t think all of them are. There’s a lot of concern for the middle class right now and their future in America, and they’ve been lost in the shuffle in some of the larger recent politics.

The counter, of course, is that the entire primary season is about persuading those voters, and they haven’t been swayed from Trump. But too much of the message has become wrapped up with attacking Trump himself, rather than picking apart (what few) specifics he’s provided. Poke at his message, poke at his contradictions, and try to show them the faults and empty rhetoric.

But at this point, the primary is pretty well set, even if it goes into a contested convention. I think there will have to be a major regrouping for the actual election, if he becomes the nominee. Maybe not publishing 5+ articles a day about this and that of Trump, too.

For a unique perspective, I thought this recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about academics supporting Trump was interesting.

Like the first reader above, this next one also objects to the framing of this discussion:

Trump is fueled by stagnating wages and globalization that drains money from workers and funnels into to the rich and highly skilled in urban centers. The protesters are a reaction to Trump’s scapegoating of minorities and his appeals to authoritarian answers to social problems. [CB note: Reason’s Nick Gillespie has a great analysis of how Trump should be more accurately viewed as dangerously “populist” rather than “authoritarian,” especially when compared to the more authoritarian, fundamentalist Cruz.]

The racial aspect of Trump’s rise is more connected to his followers beliefs that politicians have ignored whites for minority interests, which is splitting and degrading America. Hence the need for a unifying nationalism. A unifying nationalism that thrashes against corrupt political society, foreign humiliation, and elitists bankrupting society over greed. If no protesters showed up, would Trump supporters stop believing in all that?

Also, from a Hispanic perspective, this question of “How Much Are Far-Left Activists Fueling Trump?” is in some way insulting. It’s kind of Nixonian Moral Majoritarianism; the problem isn’t the majority of white America, it’s the agitators of Progressives, Blacks, Muslims, and Hispanics. It’s kind of an ideal that, “If it weren’t for those agitators, we wouldn’t have a problem in America! They just need to stop breaking the law in Ferguson and Baltimore, then cops wouldn’t have to shoot them. Protesters are the problem, not the solution!”

A bigoted base of the Republican Party is clearly the cause of the problem, and Trump is clearly inflaming that bigotry, but the question raised in this discussion is simply whether certain forms of far-left activism at Trump’s rallies might be inadvertently driving more support to him among fence-sitters and inflaming his loyal supporters even more. It’s a debate over tactics.

Our next reader raises a key point: Why aren’t moderate Republicans speaking out more?

I pose a counter question: To what extent are far-right activists (and their brutal tactics) fueling far-left activists (who stamp their feet loudly and whine for equality) who IN TURN are fueling Trump?

I have an idea! How about the centrists stand up and take a stand against intolerance and bigotry?  

Oh wait... BOTH DEM candidates have done so. But ALL GOP candidates say they’d ultimately vote for Trump!

So the more important question here is: Are moderate Republicans voters ready to stand up against intolerance and bigotry, or would they prefer to just blame the whole thing on far-left activists and see what happens?

Today Michelle Cottle spotlights at least one prominent Republican officeholder taking a stand again Trump: Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who has “called the billionaire a ‘megalomaniac strongman’ and vows not to support him—even if he’s the GOP nominee.” Country First, finally.