Trump’s decision to exploit the misery that he pretends to know how to assuage speaks to his depraved level of indifference to the health of the nation, and now quite literally to the health of the supporters and protesters who attend his rallies. The methods he is employing are classic, textbook, and frankly, a little hackneyed. They represent the techniques you find in Machiavelli’s The Prince, and you can hear them echoed almost literally in any State University freshman political science class.
He follows the recommendation of “native troops” being the most desirable (read that as disaffected whites), far better than a mixed army, or one coopted on loan from other sympathetic kingdoms (read that as the Republican establishment). The hardcore Trump people are Trump people alone, and indeed in calculated obeisance to their leader’s rhetoric, are being transformed into a mobile army as much as they are a political support group. Fistfights are common, encouraged from the podium, and are now viewed by Trump supporters and the ghoul media as a requisite feature of a Trump rally.
What would a hockey game be without the fights? It is now an expected part of these events, and will remain so from now forward. If at this point you attend a Trump rally and there aren’t a few ejections for you to scream and swear in the direction of, you’d feel like you got ripped off. If there’s a fight, so much the better, and imagine, just imagine if you got to tell people you were at the one where the guy got killed.
Other pure Machiavelli is to articulate very few and very large themes, and keep them in the people’s minds throughout The Prince’s command of them. These themes are grand in scope and are not spoken of in detail, and are not essential to be acted upon at any time, yet they must be maintained as ideas.
There are provisions also for managing mass disillusionment once this kind of promissory governing style becomes unconvincing, but as Trump’s bluff hasn’t yet been called and potentially wouldn’t be until the third or so year of a presidency, if he sticks to the book, he’ll force his faithful to find their faith again, or at least act as if they do. Your heart won’t matter as much as your obedience will. Deceit, brutality and betrayal are not only in the toolbox, they are all enthusiastically recommended.
It has taken a great deal of courage on the part of Trump supporters to finally give in to their long-held beliefs rather than suppress them in the name of social unacceptability. I am serious when I say that. They possess a very real sense of resentment of large groups of people whom they perceive as having a common characteristic that works to the detriment of their own reality, and of the general reality of the country they love. They have stifled this disdain for a long time because they understood that it was not civilized to do otherwise.
Trump has told them being civilized is not the way to look at that social pressure. He advises instead it be characterized as “political correctness” and that now rather than a virtue, it was a thing to be rejected and even vilified. With Trump’s wind at their backs they stand and deliver, unapologetic of their racism, bigotry, antipathy and hatred. It is like a group of cockroaches in a tenement kitchen whose leader has told them they don’t have to scatter when the kitchen light comes on anymore.
It has taken some courage for them to step out into the light with their darkness, and they are still suspicious of the new world Trump has given them, but they love it, and they are ready at a moment’s notice to defend it violently. They feel this hatred at the bogeyman in their hearts and when their leader says it’s okay to express it with fists and rage it is game on. The saddest part of this whole spectacle is that when Trump goes away, which I honestly think he will, he’s not going to take them with him. He’s going to do business as usual and find some other way to stroke his limitless ego, but this ethnocentric, xenophobic and quick to violence strain into which he has single-handedly breathed a newfound sense of personal credibility will remain, and it will be seeking a new sync for its energy.
Blaming the poor, immigrants, other races and religions and maintaining second-class citizenship for women has always been an integral part of many modern Americans’ personal codification. It is sad, but it is true. In addition to these deep-seated prejudices, however, in most parts of the country there has always been an understanding that this kind of talk in social circles and this kind of attitude informing public policy were both bad ideas. Whereas bigotry, xenophobia and racism lite were once upon a time a lot of people's dirty little secret, for many, Trump has released that Kraken.
This now almost nostalgic unspoken social pressure created a cognitive dissonance in a lot of people, and as such had a prayer of initiating internal dialog on the matter. That erstwhile dynamic of there being an understanding that prejudice by law and by creed had been rejected by society probably changed some minds to a more progressive disposition, as it is well known that the way someone reshapes their viewpoint on a subject is by coming to it themselves. Browbeating rarely gets you anywhere past the brow. Still, brows are beaten, and that is what a failing Trump presidency would require. The authoritarian streak of his concept of governance is, to his credit, being laid out frankly and without circumspection or apology in this primary season.
Another Machiavellian old faithful is to create unrest as a pretext for quelling it. According to the Chicago Police and according to the University Police, last night’s event was not cancelled on their recommendation. It was purely a call from the Trump campaign. The cancellation was made via a terse, two-sentence announcement from the podium, and that was it. Witnesses to the event and video documentation indicate that the unruliness only began after the cancellation announcement. Any professional events management company would have their best talker take the podium to try and manage hostilities and initiate calm. It may be an already circulating conspiracy theory, but it strikes me that the Trump campaign favors newsworthy events, and here was a beauty that might have been avoidable. Did they orchestrate the fracas? In a word, yes.
I am inspired to reread The Prince, though I no longer have it. I must, and I shall order it soon. Between November 11th and January 20th, if worse comes to worst, we all should read it, just so as to know what to expect.