Maybe we should be happy that the Bernie Bros have trained their anger and hate on someone their own size. After spending months harassing women, PoCs, respected Beltway journalists, and war survivors on Twitter, the Sanders militiamen finally left their mom’s basements to appear en masse to shut down a Donald Trump rally in Chicago.
Some might look at these extremists and say, “Good! Go destroy each other and leave the rest of us mature adults alone so we can take care of the real issues, like how high we need to raise the retirement age and cut Medicare to balance the budget.”
But I look at the violence in Chicago and think, “Here lies the Discourse. Killed by partisanship, March 11, 2016.”
A coalition of Bernie supporters, Black Lives Matter activists, and misogynoir internet gamers used chanting and word violence to stop Donald Trump from speaking his mind. This is an unconscionable violation of the Freedom of Speech that we as Americans hold as our birthright. Could you imagine if the Dred Scott case was interrupted by Northerners giving “Likes” to the Underground Railroad? Or if Harry S Truman had been cyberbullied by #JapaneseLivesMatter into not dropping the atomic bomb that took — and saved — countless lives? Or if George Wallace had been felled by that bullet, robbing us all of a great debate about whether black children should be able to use white water fountains?
You might disagree with Donald Trump. I certainly do. But using violence to stop him from spreading his message of racial segregation and pogroms is not the answer.
You don’t have the right to shut down Trump’s speeches. You do have the right to sit quietly, not talk to or make eye contact with anyone, and take mental notes of his arguments in order to rebut them later in a blog post or Tweet storm.
The biggest problem in American politics is that we are insulated from opposing opinions. You might think that all people should be treated equal and trans people shouldn’t be stoned, and because all of your friends do, your Facebook feed is full of views that mirror yours. It’s called the panopticon, or in academic circles, the Funhouse Phenomenon. Just because you and everyone you know believes the Holocaust happened does not invalidate other views, and if you fail to acknowledge this, you’ll find yourself pitifully unequipped when you have to defend your ideals. People need to seek out contrary points of view on such pressing issues as how violently we need to eliminate 12 million Latino immigrants or what to do about the “Jewish problem” in order to form a fully-informed opinion.
Like him or loathe him, Trump is the Republican frontrunner. Instead of holding up protest signs and reacting to spit and water bottles hurled your way, how about actually sitting down and watching a Trump speech on one of the live 9-hour blocs on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News? Lord knows he’s not the first choice of polite Americans, but by refusing to even hear him out, you prove his point by your own logic.
As I’ve said, I disagree with Donald Trump. But I believe in the Discourse. And the best way to defeat someone like Trump is to use reason and logic. Why not take a page from my personal hero, Josiah “Jed” Bartlet of The West Wing fame? President Bartlet wouldn’t block the entrances to a political rally. No, Jed would stand across the street with a bullhorn, challenging all of his ideological opponents to rational debate. For instance, when a Trump supporter tells a Jew to “go to f–cking Auschwitz,” I imagine President Bartlet dropping a major logic bomb on him, and saying “Oh, you want people to go to Auschwitz? Do you even know what happened there, sir? Not much… just a little thing called the Holocaust. Shall I even link you to the Wikipedia page, or do you concede your point?”
Or if you’re feeling particularly venomous, you can skewer Mr. Trump with satire. Imagine Trump’s face after SNL skewers him with a skit where an actor portraying him prattles on about “yuge walls” until — to thunderous applause — a man dressed as Genghis Khan enters from stage left and informs Mr. Trump that he got around the last “yuge wall” someone tried! I’m already laughing! Combine that with a few more epic John Oliver eviscerations, and Mr. Trump will look like quite the fool to everyone.
Unfortunately, these kids aren’t deferring to their intellectual leaders on television or in print. They are, in fact, helping Trump win. Yes, you may say “Trump ran away” or “looked like a huge wuss who talks a massive game he won’t back up and is crying now,” but from personal experience I must say that some of my greatest victories in life came after I “ran away.” I proposed to ex-Mrs. The Dig after fleeing a gaggle of larger-than-average pigeons near DC’s Dupont Circle. Mr. Trump, being close to my intellectual equal, is the same way. He knows that Americans see young people as outright terrifying, what with their destruction of signs, delinquent Snapchatting, and loud hip hop chants (and not the good hip hop like Drake, whose music about being “ghosted” by women on Tinder is something a mid-40s journalist can relate to. Can I just say, Drake…Is…Fantastic?). These protesters looked like the type of people who insult your vintage John Anderson ’80 campaign shirt on the train, or call you a “fat Freddie Mercury looking ass” when you’re just trying to buy a Metrocard. That’s frankly more terrifying to some of us than Trump’s ethnic cleansing programs.
But Trump isn’t guilt-free either. He needs to order his campaign to stop brutalizing reporters. In a free society, freedom of the press is just as vital as freedom of speech, if not more vital. Trump and his goons can’t just beat up female journalists, chokeslam photographers, and trigger veteran Beltway reporters’ chronic Habsburg diarrhea.
In a free society, reporters have a privileged position where their questions and opinions clearly matter more than those of the normals. Reporters need to be able to ask Trump vital questions like “How has Snapchat provided you with the epic moments to go viral?” and “What could you say to make Marco Rubio cry?”
I have spent the past week telling my fellow journalists to “stay safe out there” and “DM me if you have any problems, or just want to talk about whatever” when I hear they’re attending a Trump rally. This culture of violence is patently unacceptable. Every other campaign has provided special accommodation for journalists. Hillary Clinton lets us use her bulletproof limousines, John Kasich gives us used bus passes he claims are “still valid as long as this one guy Kyle isn’t driving,” but Trump cares not for our safety in the least.
At the end of the day, though, what both sides need to do — Black Lives Matter and White Nationalism — is set aside their differences and come together over a few beers. Sure, some of you are outraged over the demonstrably unfair treatment African-Americans get in the criminal justice system and economy at large, and the rest of you are mad about the lack of white-related television networks and history months, but at the end of the day, I think we can all agree to sit at the bar, order a few Michelobs, and watch the Big Game (Northern Marianas caucus results on PBS) together. I’m guessing that once BLM and KKK are a few brews deep, civility and comity can win out — and both sides can hash out their differences and realize that at the end of the day, we are all Americans, we all love our round children, and we all understand that no matter who wins today’s game, there’s always next season.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.
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