Donald Trump: Demagogue of the Future
By Rick Bowers
Throughout the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump was accused of blowing dog whistles to signal kinship with fearful white voters and the white supremacist fringe.
The fact is that the bombastic billionaire shouted through a bullhorn to tap irrational racist fears and activate the latest incarnation of our nation’s historic hate fringe.
Trump’s masterful display of white supremacist demagoguery made previous efforts to play the race card look tepid and lame.
Now it is true that Trump’s trudge through the swamps of hatred and bigotry followed a path forged by previous hate and fear peddlers like Sen. Joe McCarthy and Gov. George Wallace. Trump’s hateful rhetoric, outrageous lies and senseless attacks echoed the ravings of those and other demagogues past. For susceptible white voters, Trumps’ anti-immigrant ravings conjured images of roving hordes of illegal immigrants raping and killing white women. His anti-muslim tirades stirred images of suicide-vested terrorists pouring through our “open” borders. His comparison of inner city black neighborhoods to hell foretold rampant black crime breaking out of its urban confines. Trump was a natural at this age-old game and his appeals worked. He gave fearful white people a reason to reach back for simpler times and gave white supremacist hate groups a new raisin d’être and recruitment tool.
While Trump’s methods and messages harkened back to hate mongers of old, he also “distinguished” himself from those old race baiters and fear mongers. Unlike those professional political panderers of the past, Trump broke new ground as a 21st Century demagogue. He masterfully exploited complex issues and trends, promising simple solutions and easy fixes. He moved his messages through modern media channels and manipulated the mainstream press at each turn. He served up scapegoats like a smorgasbord at a Klan meeting. Even more importantly, he will not stop doing it. Why? Our modern, interdependent world is actually made for demagogues. As immigrants and refuges continue to flee war and climate disasters, Trump will blame them for his failings to solve the problems. As technology fuels the global economy, Trump will blame foreigners and global corporations on his inability to bring back millions of manufacturing jobs. As the environment grows more brittle, Trump will blame pin-head scientists and Green Peace for earth quakes and floods. And as far right nationalism continues its global ascendent, Trump will encourage his friends in the American “alt right” to join hands with the European neo-Nazi movement.
After all, Trump empowered the alt right crowd to rebrand and repackage the old hate doctrines for future generations. Why stop now?