At the Debate, Trump Activated His Most Dangerous Weapon.
While I plan to watch the debate between President Trump and Joe Biden within the coming days, I’m sure I was not alone in being unable to muster up the energy to sit through what inevitably devolved into the spectacle many probably assumed it would be as it aired. Deciding to spend the night with a book instead, I did end up checking my Twitter feed’s response to what was happening to get an idea of what was going on.
It was mere seconds before I saw what was the most telling, consequential, and important moments of the night.
A transcription of the back and forth between the moderator Chris Wallace, Joe Biden, and the President reads as follows:
WALLACE: You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out antifa and other left-wing extremist groups. But are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland? Are you prepared to specifically do that?
TRUMP: Sure, I’m prepared to do that. But I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. If you look, I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.
WALLACE: Then do it, sir.
BIDEN: Do it. Say it.
TRUMP: You want to call them? What do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead — who would you like me to condemn?
WALLACE: White supremacists, white supremacists and right-wing militia.
Biden: The Proud Boys.
TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what: Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem — this is a left-wing problem.
“Proud boys, stand back and stand by.”
It should go without saying that this is far from a condemnation.
But then again, why would a man who would rather watch the nation burn than lose his re-election disavow the support of the people he knows he needs in order to win?
Ahead of the election taking place in a matter of weeks, in uttering those seven simple words, the President made the conscious decision to activate the most powerful and dangerous weapon he has at his disposal. The most powerful man in not just the country, but the entire world, is telling his most militant supporters to be ready for conflict. Donald Trump used a national debate stage to tell his supporters to allow him and his federal officers to handle the left, but to be ready for when he needs them. He is telling white supremacists who support him across the country to be ready for the seemingly inevitable chaos that will take place in the days and weeks following the election. Somewhere in chatrooms around the dark web, amidst the celebrations of the promises of conflict they have been longing for, white supremacists and right-wing militias are doing exactly as he says.
As I have done my best to make explicitly clear before, there is a reason I have devoted so much time and energy to critiquing the Democratic party and their approach to this election in particular. Especially after what just happened on national television, it’s time for anyone who stands in opposition to the President to accept and acknowledge just how fundamentally ill-prepared the Democratic lawmakers are to meet this moment. Considering everything that’s at stake, it’s hard not to notice that they are unwilling to face the threat of not just Donald Trump, but his weaponization of the Republican base, white supremacy, and the economic anxieties plaguing this country.
We are dealing with a President who in the same breath that he said the real threat is coming from the left, then urged some of who he knows are the most militant and violent people walking the streets of this country to “stand by”, and essentially get ready for battle. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is urging Republicans to “take back their party”.
I’m not sure what it will take for Democratic leadership to realize it, but this is their party.
As fascism tightens its grip, Democrats are entirely unwilling to recognize that the Republican party as it stands today is the end result of what Mitch McConnell and the donors who fund their campaigns have spent decades cultivating. There is nothing to take back. There is no more sense of morality or honor to look for within a party that has spent years appealing to the very worst in mankind, to the point where any sense of greater humanity within them has been suppressed. Right wing authoritarianism and totalitarianism are not fought by appealing to the sense of decency of those who have no motivation outside their craven desire for power.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the battle against fascism cannot be fought be people who won’t even take the first step of identifying it by name.
To be honest, I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know what to expect under circumstances where not only is the President refusing to condemn white supremacy for the sole purpose of maintaining his power, but he has proudly laid out his plans for a coup of this next election well in advance. I don’t know what to expect under circumstances where even after hundreds of thousands of people are dead due to his criminal inaction, there are still people willing to not only sacrifice the health and safety of themselves, but their families as well in order to prove their allegiance and support to him.
It feels as though with each passing day we inch closer and closer to the point of no return, and the debate was yet another grim reminder of just how much worse it’s going to get.