Eventually a Trump Rally Is Going to Boil Over. But When?

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I watched a bit of Donald Trump’s speech this morning, but eventually got bored and went to lunch. I had only tuned in to listen to him insult Mitt Romney, but every time he started up he immediately veered off into some random Trumpism (Mexico will pay for the wall, Obamacare is a trainwreck, etc.) and it took him a minute or two to get back on track. After half an hour he’d basically said that (a) Romney lost in 2012, and (b) Romney begged Trump for his endorsement. That was it. Oh, and Trump is a lot richer than Romney.

Within that half hour, though, I saw no fewer than four protesters start yelling, only to be hauled away by police or Trump security guards. Obviously, this is becoming a thing, a set piece bit of political theater that both sides welcome. But will it remain theater? David French doesn’t phrase things quite the way I would (no surprise there), but he’s got the right idea:

Two sets of political and cultural arsonists are on a collision course — the angry fringe leftist who lives to disrupt versus the angry fringe Trump supporter who is begging for a fight. And when two sides are itching for a confrontation, they usually get it.

….It would be painfully easy for leftist activists to position themselves close to a group of strategically-chosen Trump supporters, initiate a disruption, and then resist the instant the crowd tried to push them out. A racially-charged brawl would be endlessly replayed on the nightly news, complete with injured, bleeding victims, and national tensions would start to boil over.

….So far, the far Left has trained most of its fire on its more moderate allies. That could soon change, and if it does…we could see the worst political violence since 1968.

I don’t really buy the “worst since 1968” line, but there’s not much question that both the protesters and Trump are eventually headed for violence. Trump wants it because it will make him look tough. His supporters want it because they hate the hippies. And the protesters want it in order to show just what a fascist Trump really is.

At this point, the game is to make sure the other side gets the blame when this happens. So the question is: who’s going to show the most discipline? Because in the public eye, whoever throws the first punch will be the one who started the violence. This is a high-stakes media game that depends on a rotating cast of completely random actors—and that makes it potentially pretty scary.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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