Trump World’s Darkest Side

Donald Trump’s campaign has exposed and spoken to the real pain and profound alienation of many Americans, but the candidate also has exploited those emotions with lies and appeals to prejudice, says Michael Winship.

By Michael Winship

When I grow up, I want to be Charlie Pierce, who covers politics for Esquire magazine and has toiled in our scrivener’s trade, as far as I can tell, since the late 1970s.

I know, technically, he’s a couple of years younger than I am, but he writes with the fierce wit and well-aimed anger to which I aspire, and as this wheezing milk train of a presidential campaign clanks into the final station, few have been as perceptive when it comes to trying to figure out just what the hell has happened to America this year.

Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Photo credit: Grant Miller/RNC)

Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Photo credit: Grant Miller/RNC)

Charlie Pierce has done so with great style throughout, but now, thanks to Donald Trump and just hours before Election Day, he has come to the end of his watchdog rope. He wrote on Saturday that Trump — to whom he refers as El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago — had “managed to exceed even my admittedly expansive limits for political obscenity.”

Pierce was talking about Trump’s reaction after President Obama responded to an elderly heckler wearing a military tunic at a Friday campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

As the crowd booed the man, Obama said, “Hey! Listen up! I told you to be focused, and you’re not focused right now. Listen to what I’m saying. Hold up. Hold up! … Everybody sit down, and be quiet for a second… First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might’ve served in our military and we got to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly and we got to respect our elders. And fourth of all, don’t boo, vote.”

In other words, the President showed poise, grace and yes, class. But shortly after, here’s how the moment was seen through Trump’s eyes at a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania: “There was a protester and a protester that likes us,” Trump said. “And what happened is they wouldn’t put the cameras on him. They kept the cameras on Obama. … He was talking to a protester, screaming at him, really screaming at him. By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they would say he became unhinged.”

Unhinged? Really? We all know that Trump seems to get his news from an implanted electrode picking up propaganda signals from the Planet Mongo. But there comes a point when the lies piled upon lies become too much for even the fairest and most equable of us. Hearing Trump’s demonstrably false description of what happened at Obama’s rally, Charlie Pierce finally had it.

“Maybe it was because it was so ludicrously provable a lie,” he wrote. “[Trump] didn’t care. He never has cared. His contempt for the democratic processes and for the norms of self-government is matched only by the deep contempt he has for all the suckers who mistake his contempt for the American experiment for their deep disappointment in it. He has measured their intelligence by his heavily leveraged net worth and found them hilariously lacking.

“We are all the subcontractors who build his indomitable ego for him and, as such, he can stiff us according to his customary business plan. His campaign long ago became a sickening charade performed by a grotesque charlatan.”

The Scene in Reno

And so it is. Look, too, at how Trump and his followers at a rally in Reno, Nevada, on Saturday responded to a man with a “Republicans against Trump” sign. Before someone shouted “Gun!” and the moment turned even uglier, Trump had looked down and said, “Oh we have one of those guys from the Hillary Clinton campaign. How much are you being paid, $1,500?” As the crowd booed, Trump said, “Okay. Take him out.”

The run-down PIX Theatre sign reads "Vote Trump" on Main Street in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. July 15, 2016. (Photo by Tony Webster Flickr)

The run-down PIX Theatre sign reads “Vote Trump” on Main Street in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. July 15, 2016. (Photo by Tony Webster Flickr)

The protester, a Reno resident named Austyn Crites, described himself as Republican and a fiscal conservative. He told The Guardian he was grateful to the police who removed him from the auditorium for interrogation — they kept him from being further kicked, choked and pummeled by the gang of Trump supporters who surrounded him.

Still, he said, “The people who attacked me — I’m not blaming them. I’m blaming Donald Trump’s hate rhetoric, … The fact that I got beat up today, that’s just showing what he’s doing to his crowds.”

Throughout the campaign, whenever Trump has egged on his followers, I’ve thought of that line in Young Frankenstein, when the angry Transylvanian villagers are told by the local police inspector, “A riot is an ugly thing, and I think that it is just about time we had one.”

Remember what Trump said when a protester was dragged out of a February rally in Las Vegas: “I love the old days — you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks. … I’d like to punch him in the face.”

By now, you’ve heard it all before and the litany of lies, outrageous claims and insults has climbed so high that many of us have become numb and weary from the sheer repetition of Trump’s buffoonery. You can only go to so many demolition derbies before the sight of flaming car wrecks becomes routine.

Dog Whistles

What’s more, you can argue that far more insidious and frightening are the dog whistle attacks appealing to the baser instincts of the bigoted and ignorant. The latest: the closing ad from the Trump campaign that, with anti-Semitic overtones, points fingers at “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona. March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona. March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

As Josh Marshall notes at Talking Points Memo, “The four readily identifiable American bad guys in the ad are Hillary Clinton, George Soros (Jewish financier), Janet Yellen (Jewish Fed Chair) and Lloyd Blankfein (Jewish Goldman Sachs CEO)… This is an ad intended to appeal to anti-Semites and spread anti-Semitic ideas… This is intentional and by design. It is no accident.”

Here is something Charlie Pierce wrote back in May. Trump, he said, “is riding on a wave of pain that he never has felt.”

“He is riding on a wave of anxiety he never has encountered. Beyond their love of him, there is no indication that he is as deeply aware of what has powered his rise as the people whose fear, and doubt, and, yes, hatred has powered his rise. Their job is still to wait in line, cheer on cue, and give him the devotion that he has earned because, after all, he is He, Trump, and they’re not, and that will never change.”

Add it all up and to me, this is what it comes down to: Do you want to live in a United States where anger, prejudice and fear rule, and dissent is viewed as treason, or in a country where we try to meet every issue from terrorism to education with clear eyes and a rational mind?

This year’s choices are far from perfect, but nonetheless a choice must be made. To quote a founding father who believed in such things: liberty, once lost, is lost forever. This could be democracy’s last stop. Vote.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship.

14 comments for “Trump World’s Darkest Side

  1. Zachary Smith
    November 10, 2016 at 01:22

    Since the election is over this may seem dated, but to me and an instructive author at Counterpunch it was a final and rather unpublicized effort by Trump to avoid getting elected. (I hadn’t seen this until tonight)

    Donald Trump is considering former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for his secretary of state and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for chief of staff, according to a report by NBC.

    Also under consideration: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for attorney general, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn for secretary of defense or national security adviser, Steve Mnuchin for secretary of the treasury, according to three unnamed sources

    I remember the early signs from Obama when he started appointing neoconservatives and keeping Bush the Dumber’s warmongers.

    If any of these lunatics and/or near criminals turn up in a position of authority in a Trump administration, it’s a sign to me that he’s going to be a lot worse than we have a right to expect.

    Until somebody produces some evidence to the contrary, I’m going to continue with my belief that Trump was as shocked by the election results as was Hillary. This 70-year-old man is now nailed down for at least four years with a hell of a lot of work which he really doesn’t want to do. The prospect of that work being outsourced to Pence gives me the willies.

  2. Abe
    November 9, 2016 at 12:17

    A notorious forgery was written at the beginning of anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire.

    Trump’s Protocols herald a new era of not-so-anti-Jewish pogroms.

    Then and now, the question of the conspiracy theory’s authorship persists.

    Hint: Then and now, it wasn’t the Russian Empire.

  3. Brad Owen
    November 9, 2016 at 05:14

    So now it begins. Coyote Trickster came through. The Broad Left (the one that Bernie tried to lasso into the now-defunct D Party) will now get serious. It’s like having a red flag waved in front of a bull. The ten-dollar check goes into the mail today. R.I.P. D-Party. We’ll send your evil twin into the trash bin with you.

  4. Zachary Smith
    November 9, 2016 at 01:04

    I don’t read Charlie Pierce anymore, not even when a link is provided. A few years ago I concluded the man is a dishonest hack. Sometimes a very clever one, but nobody I’m going to give a single “site visit”.

    A President Trump will be a disaster. Any other outcome would be a joyful surprise, and also a totally unexpected one. I’ll continue to maintain the risks with Trump appear to be fewer than with a President Hillary.

    One pleasing election outcome so far was the drubbing Evan Bayh took in my state of Indiana. What a louse! Never mind that our newly elected senator is also a total creep. But if I’ve got to have a dirtbag representing me, I much prefer he or she have an (R) by their name.

  5. Joe Tedesky
    November 9, 2016 at 00:09

    On a local level here is what Trump’s problem is.

    This predominantly white suburban neighborhood I live in had, I mean had a lot of Trump yard signs up, but starting about a month ago things got strangely ugly, and the Trump signs started coming down. Prior to the Trump yard sign exodus, Hillary yard signs couldn’t stay up. Since the Trump yard signs started to come down almost every yard now is sign less. If Hillary wins, she will win the most votes by votes cast by people who hate her with a passion, but these same people are even more deathly afraid of Donald Trump presidency …and for no other reason, this will be Hillary’s path to victory. It’s not a vote for Hillary, as much it’s a vote against Trump…and this rule may work vice versa.

    My neighbor across the street, who is retired and doing quite well, started lashing out at myself and others recently. He called us names like N-word lovers, and he went ballistic over my wife and son’s Sanders bumpers stickers. This sixty seven year old always known to be a nice man turned into an outspoken racist claiming how after Trump gets elected everything will change back to normal. His homophobic racist inner self bleed through his soul for all to see. This is to bad, because up until now he and I got along well. I knew he was racist, but I feel he has every right to like who he wants to like…my neighbor is a quit racist, but recently he broke his silence in a really big way. He really got me good. We were both getting new walls and driveways from a masonry contractor. The contractor was to start on my neighbors wall first, and then do mine. Well my neighbor got his wall and driveway redone, but the masonry contractor with the rebel flag on his pickup truck gave me the finger and just like my neighbor the contractor showed me his real colors. I just want my driveway and walls replaced. This contractor wasn’t very bright, he literally passed up making 20k on my job since my driveway is bigger than my neighbors 5k driveway job. The only time the contractor spoke to me was when he took the time to jag me about the Sanders decals on my wife’s and son’s car….the Trump effect is real.

    Then another case near by happened over the weekend. Locally these two white lesbian moms, who are raising a four year old boy, and a three year old little girl, who happen to be black had a bad encounter. The kids who were adopted through the mom’s church were sitting on they’re front porch with they’re moms, when a car suddenly stops and out jumps some gray haired good old boy who shook his fist at the small toddlers and started calling the little baby kids animal names, and swearing how soon things will change. This guy terrified the two young mothers.

    So lately all but a couple Trump signs came down in our little suburban world. No one is talking about why. I still suspect that many will still vote for Trump, but I m not seeing the outward support there once was in the air. Lately seeing this I fear a Trump win will only emboldened the racist ilk that pervades inside Trump supporters. This is regrettable, but if you recall the Donald opened his campaign with the Mexican rapist and murderer claim, so what does that say about his message when broken down? It’s too bad that this is all everyone will attach the Donald to, because some of his comments on trade and war made perfect sense.

    If Donald Trump wins I hope that a side effect isn’t the rise of the racist citizen who thinks they have a dominant majority voice. Although I feel if you want to fly a Confederate Flag or burn a Swastika in your forehead then so be it. What we don’t need is threats of violence, and the last thing we all really don’t need or want is physical violence. Picking on little babies, and people who adhere to diversity isn’t one of the things that need picked on, and that’s a fact.

    This 2016 presidential campaign season has lasted way to long. America needs to come together, but our media wouldn’t have as good of a story to tabloid up if that kind of cohesion was to take place. Thanks MSM for a job well done for agitating the electorate with your noise machine.

    We need to come together, come together, right now.

    • Zachary Smith
      November 9, 2016 at 02:51

      “Lately seeing this I fear a Trump win will only emboldened the racist ilk that pervades inside Trump supporters.”

      The racists have always been around, but in recent many have seen fit to go underground. If they’re thinking Trump is a racist, I’m thinking they’re wrong. Opinion time now, but Trump saw a chance to get established by coddling the assorted “nuts”. If that’s the case, he’s an unprincipled opportunist who’ll now be grooming himself for the history books – assuming of course he ever moves into the White House. IMO a President Trump would dump the ugliest rednecks like Obama did the Liberals – he’d want nothing more to do with them after they’ve served their purpose.

      Still assuming a nominal Trump victory, I’d wager he is as surprised as the next fellow. I thought the man was awfully quiet the last few weeks of the campaign, and I’d now propose that’s because he figured he didn’t need to do anything crazier than usual to lose.

      If these early results hold up, the outcome is NOT an endorsement for Trump and his base, but are instead a rejection of Hillary. Those are very different things, for a person doesn’t have to be stealth racist, an NRA cultist, or a tobacco-chewing nose-picking redneck to despise Hillary and all she stands for. Those insulting characterizations are unfair to most of the people who voted against Hillary anyhow – they’re genuinely hurting from all the woman and the class of predators she has represented so well over the years have done to their lives. Everybody except a number of starry-eyed young women KNEW what Hillary was, and a lot of citizens decided a foul-mouthed loose cannon like Trump was a lesser risk.

      IMO most of the Trump voters aren’t going to tolerate the racist crap any more than will the stunned Democrats – so the racists and goons ought to remember that what they say and do won’t be soon forgotten or forgiven by their neighbors.

      • Joe Tedesky
        November 9, 2016 at 03:35

        Thanks Zachary, your perspective sheds some good light on a dark subject. My hope is that America may overcome this conquer and divide scenario, and move towards a nation which at least listens to each other. My hopes are probably naive to core, but wouldn’t it be great if we could at least stay away from violent confrontation? The other thing which this election season has produced is an electorate that didn’t necessarily vote for the candidate they agreed with the most, as much as each voting block was comprised of various concerns, but mostly made up of voters voting against the other candidate out of dislike for that other candidate. The Democrate’s will regret for along time the sabotaging of the Sanders presidential run, but hopefully this will turnout to be a great learning experience, paid for at a very high expense, all for the coronation of the Queen of Chaos who ran on an obsession ticket, and not for any political expediency for the commons. Trump won because there are people out there who are attracted to his narrative, but Trump also won because the Democrate’s lost their way, and forgot what elections are really all about. It’s time for Hillary and Bill to retire, and for them to enjoy they’re grandchildren…this is where America wins if they do!

  6. Realist
    November 8, 2016 at 18:20

    By all means, Trump has displayed humongous flaws which are so conspicuous and numerous we don’t even need to specify them, but then Trump was never a polished professional politician. He only got the nomination because none of that species (aside from Bernie Sanders, and Bernie was robbed by the DNC) was inclined or allowed (by whomever funds and endorses these lackeys) to describe and oppose the pantsing of American workers by the 1% the way Trump was willing to do. Yes, Trump will lose because of his unadorned crassness and because half the electorate has been brainwashed to believe that Hillary should win becasue i) she’s a woman (hear her roar), and ii) an ersatz “progressive” who flips and flops with great virtuosity. The lying warmongering law-breaker side of her charm they have kept well hidden with the complicity of the M$M. Frankly, most of her celebrity surrogates have been just as profane and insulting as the man they strive mightily to insult every day (the Huffington Post really takes the cake devoting top-of-the-page-to-the-bottom mudslinging round the clock with an obligatory slanderous postscript appended to every article), so I have never seen the “high ground” occupied by “the left” in this one. I muse about two very likely outgrowths to come of Trump’s methodical destruction by the establishment elites: i) the GOP professionals will recognise that revolutionary politics, practiced by experienced players, is the coming thing and beat the Dems to its winning formula; and ii) the GOP survivors in the congress will be so angry at their total abandonment by the establishment that they will not give Hillary Clinton a moment’s respite from unending charges and investigations. If they would not play nice with Obama or Bill, who were both philosophically one of them at least in the economic arena, why would they cut Killary a single break? I know, she’s with Wall Street like most of them, but so were Slick Willy and Obomber. It comes down to tribalism, not reasoned negotiation and diplomatic behavior, and their tribe is hopping mad… again.

    • backwardsevolution
      November 8, 2016 at 18:58

      Realist – “…I have never seen the “high ground” occupied by “the left” in this one.” Not even the low ground. Whoever writes an unbiased account of what has occurred during this election cycle is surely going to bury the myth that the “left” are somehow above the rest. From paying protesters to incite violence at Trump rallies, to the media going after Trump virtually non-stop, to Bernie and the DNC fiasco, the leaked emails, the accusations re Russia tampering with the election, and on and on.

      Win-at-all-costs, criminal behavior, none of which the author points out.

    • Realist
      November 9, 2016 at 04:27

      Got that prediction wrong, but then so did most everyone else. Let’s hope that Trump is a better, more reasonable negotiator behind closed doors than he is in front of the TV cameras.

  7. Bill Bodden
    November 8, 2016 at 17:16

    There have been many comments, particularly regarding Trump supporters, about how angry they after they have finally realized they had been treated very badly by the ruling oligarchs in both parties who nevertheless helped the rich get richer while many of Trump’s supporters were rendered poorer. Neither Trump nor Clinton will help them. They would do well to contemplate Martin Niemöller’s well-known quote: “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to
    speak up.”

    Very likely many of these same people in the woe-is-me brigade didn’t care when others were getting screwed by our politicians because they themselves were okay. Now that the misery is spreading to ensnare more and more people they are looking for someone to take care of them. Well, don’t look at Trump or Clinton for any help there. It will be business as usual regardless of the one moving into the Evil Office. They should do what they should have done a long time ago. Pay attention to what was and is happening and join in opposition to our corrupt political and economic systems that are destroying the nation from Washington, DC to the local state, county and city offices.

    If nothing is done to bring an end to American militarism and wars of choice, and if we fail to do something about climate change then we will all have much more to complain about in the not-too-distant future..

    • backwardsevolution
      November 8, 2016 at 18:37

      Bill – yes, that is what I was trying to say the other day. There are many who have not been affected by the loss of jobs, who are still sitting pretty and don’t understand what all the anger is about. Their time will come, of course, but they won’t start squealing until it happens, until their taxes start squeezing them, until their property taxes increase so much that they’re forced off their own land.

      And if the author really wants to know why the “deplorables” are angry, take a look at these charts showing what they’re facing (price inflation, lack of wage growth) versus the 1% – “The Disaster of Inflation – For the Bottom 95%”:

      Take a look at those charts! These people are being strangled. And, no, Trump can’t possibly know their pain, but he can walk through the abandoned factories, listen to their stories and, as a man who I believe actually loves the U.S., feel a sadness for the loss of a once-great country whose people are now relegated to working two and three jobs just to keep food on the table.

  8. D'Esterre
    November 8, 2016 at 16:53

    “….in a country where we try to meet every issue from terrorism to education with clear eyes and a rational mind?”

    I’ve been taking note of US politics for many years. With regard to foreign policy – that which concerns most of all those of us who live elsewhere in the world – how far back to we need to go to find a rational, clear-eyed reaction from the US to issues arising overseas? There’s been a bucketload of interference – regime change, colour revolutions, funding of jihadist militias and so on – but precious little in the way of just plain common sense, never mind sophisticated, well-thought-through decisions.Or so it seems to me and many other observers.

  9. James lake
    November 8, 2016 at 12:49

    Trump has put the issue of globalisation and its negative impact on the american middle class on the agenda
    Both parties have ignored this growing group in favour of devisive identity politics.
    The declining middle class have found their voice and with or without Trump they will not be ignored going forward.
    Economic change is needed or the us will decline as an economic power.

    Trump did not invent black lives matter.
    The usa has deep divisions that it ignores by their showbiz politics and identity politics – appealing to emotions. People have woken up with bernie and trump looking for answers

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