At the Republican National Convention Monday, the theme was "Make America Fear Again." Well, that was the real theme. Speakers pushed fear at hysterical cowards. Well, that's been the Republican strategy for some time now, hasn't it?
The fact that crime has dropped in recent decades is immaterial to the elderly white men - and some women - who are easily frightened by change. Of course, that's ideal for a fascist political message. Make people afraid, and then offer them vague promises from a bombastic authoritarian promising to make them feel safe again.
The fact that it's the authoritarian who's pushing that fear doesn't seem to register with them. Well, they're faith-based, not evidence-based. They believe what they want to believe.
Is terrorism scary? Of course. That's the whole point of terrorism. Terrorism is a tool of the weak, and it relies on cowardice. Terrorists want to make you afraid, so that you'll overreact (thus creating more terrorists for them). If you're easily scared, that's perfect for them.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party is allied with the terrorists in this. The Republican Party wants the same thing the terrorists want - to make you afraid, so that you'll overreact (in this case, so you'll elect a bombastic, narcissistic, fascist clown to the presidency of the United States).
This convention has been crazy, so far. (The only sane part of it was plagiarized from Michelle Obama.) Josh Marshall at TPM noted this about the first day in Cleveland:
We've become so inured to Trump's brand of incitement that it's barely gotten any notice that Trump had three parents whose children had been killed by illegal/undocumented immigrants tell their stories and whip up outrage and fear about the brown menace to the South. These were either brutal murders or killings with extreme negligence. The pain these parents experience is unfathomable.
But whatever you think about undocumented immigrants there's no evidence they are more violent or more prone to murder than others in American society. One could just as easily get three people whose children had been killed by African-Americans or Jews, people whose pain and anguish would be no less harrowing. This isn't illustration; it's incitement. When Trump first did this in California a couple months ago people were aghast. Now it's normal.
Even more disturbing, numerous speakers from the dais, including some of the top speakers of the evening, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. At least two - and I think more - actually led the crowd in chants of "lock her up!" There has never been any evidence of criminal activity on Clinton's part. An investigation with a lot of pressure to find something amiss concluded that no charges should be recommended against her and that no prosecutor would bring charges against her for anything connected to her private email server.
It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that the opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we've ever gone down.
This is not a disagreement about a matter of law: it is a demand for vengeance and punishment, one rooted in the pathologies of the current Trumpite right and inevitably to some extent about the fact that Clinton is a woman. If you have a chance rewatch the speeches by Rudy Giuliani or even more ret. Gen Michael Flynn. These are not normal convention speeches. It is only a small skip and a jump to the state legislator in West Virginia who demanded Clinton by executed by hanging on the National Mall. In such a climate, don't fool yourself: worse can happen.
Today's Republican Party was built on their notorious "Southern strategy" of deliberately wooing white racists. Politically, that worked great for them for decades. But it's not working so well these days.
Rather, it's still working great within the GOP base, those people who were attracted to the party by that racism in the first place, but not so well in the rest of our country. Elsewhere, they're losing, and they know it. That's making them hysterical.
That's why we're getting this apocalyptic rhetoric. They're losing. They know it. That's why fascism is gaining ground in the Republican Party.
There were riots in some American cities when my Irish ancestors started arriving here in large numbers. Now, we're getting that same kind of hysteria about Hispanic immigrants. Lou Holz called it an "invasion" when he spoke at a Republican luncheon in Cleveland:
“I don’t want to become you,” he said, as quoted by the Daily Beast. “I don’t want to speak your language, I don’t want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team!”
But we didn't become the Irish. Those Irish immigrants became us. If you don't want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, no one is forcing you. And I don't cheer for soccer any more than I cheer for football.
This is fear-mongering, pure and simple. We turned away Jewish refugees in the 1930s, sending them back to be killed in the Holocaust - sending back Jewish children to be killed in the Holocaust. That, too, was because of bigotry and fear.
And now? Now we're seeing that same bigotry and fear when it comes to Muslim immigrants. And even worse, it's America, this time, which is turning to fascism - a significant proportion of us, at least.
Not every Republican is happy with Donald Trump, true (although the vast majority still support him). But these are the same people who've gleefully pushed bigotry, irrational fear, and hysterical anger for decades now, for their own political ambition. This is the party built on racism and fear-mongering.
The Republican Party created Donald Trump. This is the end result (hopefully) of that "Southern strategy." No Republican leader should be surprised by this.
And if you're still a Republican, even after the race-baiting and the fear-mongering, don't act so superior to Trump now. You were quite willing to use these hysterical bigots, even if you're not one yourself.