There was another shooting yesterday at a garlic festival in California, of all places. Three people died, including a six-year-old boy, and another dozen or so were injured. Donald Trump, nevertheless, woke up this morning and continued his attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings and, now, Al Sharpton.
The attacks are a part of a broader effort — extending his entire Presidency and his first Presidential campaign, but kicked into a higher gear in recent weeks once he identified The Squad as his political bogeywomen — to stoke racial animus, and further divide the country along red and blue, urban and rural, black and white. It’s genuine racism, but it’s also politically calculated racism.
Donald Trump doesn’t care about the United States. He doesn’t care about running the country. He clearly doesn’t care about Baltimore, which is part of that country. Or Puerto Rico. Or California. Or any state where the majority of its citizens do not pledge fealty to him. It’s pure self-preservation. He has no plans for the future of this country. He has no ideas. He hasn’t had a new idea during the entirety of his Administration. He wants to win so that he doesn’t go to prison. He wants to win because he can’t stand to lose. And the only path that he sees is by attacking Black people and immigrants because it allows poor white people in rural areas suffering for lack of healthcare, dying from opioid overdoses, and working sh*tty low paying jobs to feel superior to the people of Baltimore. Or Puerto Rico. Or Chicago. Or California.
The media knows exactly what he’s doing, but they benefit from the divisions, as well. Over 15,000 employees in the media were laid off last year, and journalists believe that by emphasizing these divisions — by playing each side against the other — they can stop the bleeding. They’re buying into Trump’s narrative that, once he’s out of office, ratings and page views will plummet, and that Trump is single-handedly driving interest in the news right now. He may be right, and so the media — like so many Republicans — plays along out of self-interest. They’ve normalized racism, allowed Donald Trump to turn it into a political weapon, a campaign issue, like healthcare or taxes. There’s an actual article from the Washington Post about how the “Trump campaign sees political advantage in a divisive appeal to working-class white voters.” What are you doing, WashPo? “The Trump campaign sees political advantage in stripping children from their parents.” “The Trump campaign sees political advantage in murdering opposition journalists.” Is that really how you want to cover Donald Trump? By isolating the political advantage gained by evil? Not to go all Godwin on you, but Hitler also found political advantage in exterminating 6 million Jews. Stop treating it like a game.
The news media spent all weekend debating whether Trump’s tweets were racist, though every goddamn one of them knew they were. But everyone has a part to play here: Op-eds will be written — some very powerful — about how toxic Trump’s racism is and how un-American it is (bullshit), and more op-eds will be written about how this is good for Trump’s re-election prospects, and yet more op-eds will be written about what a fine city Baltimore really is, as if that were the goddamn point. It could have been any city represented by a person of color. There’ll be two dozen articles written by noon today fact-checking Trump’s statements about Al Sharpton as if the truth of his statements mattered (Hell, Maggie has already done it). But you can bet your ass that if the media finds one factual thing about Trump’s tweets — yes, Al Sharpton did invite Donald Trump to events — that Republicans will hide their racism behind that rock.
It’s all a game to Donald Trump, who had expressed anger with Twitter a couple of weeks ago because his tweets were no longer shooting off “like rockets.” Trump fatigue had taken hold, so Trump ramped up the rhetoric, crossed some new lines, while also moving the line. Trump’s not just trying to sew racial discord; he’s trying to make racism OK. He’s trying to secure another four years for himself, so that he doesn’t go to prison — or worse, so that people don’t stop talking about him.
I don’t want to play this game anymore, but I’m not sure how to extract ourselves. If you call him out, you’re playing the game. If you don’t call him out, you’re complicit. If you cover his racism, you give him what he wants. If you don’t cover his racism, you let it fester and spread.
We’re stuck, for at least another 15 months.
I’ll say this though: Next year, more 18-year-old people of color will be voting than 18-year-old white people, and that’s going to be true every single year from 2020 and beyond. I went to a concert over the weekend, dominated by much younger people than I. They’re amazing, and if the Earth can survive Trump, that generation is going to clean the hell out of the mess that Boomers, Xers, and Millennials have left behind. It sucks to be saddled with so much responsibility, but based on what I’ve seen, they can handle it. They’re going to remake the world in their image, and we’re going to be a hell of a lot better off for it.