Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Imagine living in a nation whose leader encourages extralegal violence against his political enemies.
Wait, there’s no need to imagine it. We’re living in one.
President Donald Trump once again revealed his fascist leanings last week when he issued a thinly veiled threat that forces acting on his behalf could attack his opponents on the left.
“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,” Trump said.
This was an atrocious remark, and there’s no question it was aimed at stirring ideas among Trump’s supporters.
Note that he made the remark in an interview with Breitbart News, a propaganda outlet for right-wing anti-government extremists. Trump knows how media works and how to reach an audience — he fully realizes there are few better places than Breitbart for him to flash a bat signal to his supporters who may be prone to violence.
This isn’t first time Trump has gone down this path either. He made a similar remark this past September while campaigning for Republican Sen. Josh Hawley in Missouri, saying left-wing protesters “better hope” that the Bikers for Trump remained peaceful at rallies.
That came on top of his numerous other comments encouraging his supporters to beat up protesters, and his appalling suggestion during the 2016 campaign that “Second Amendment people” could take action against Hillary Clinton.
Trump, of course, typically says that these and other comments are misinterpreted. Our chronic liar of president says he would never condone violence, much less do anything to instigate it. When he’s confronted, the White House will roll out a version of this mistruth last month from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “The president and the entire administration have condemned violence in all forms as we have stated many times.”
But those who are defending Trump, or are wink-winking with him and cheering him on, should recognize that words have consequences. And bloodshed is one of those potential consequences amid the combustible political atmosphere that Trump has had a large role in creating with his divisive and hateful rhetoric.
Keep in mind that the Southern Poverty Law Center reported recently that militia organizations have begun conducting training camps to send armed groups to counter left-wing protesters. Meanwhile, although the Bikers for Trump have been nonviolent thus far, it’s a group of about 20,000, and it’s difficult to control all members of such a large collection of people.
The situation takes on even more seriousness when considering reports that Trump and the White House have assembled enemies lists — leakers, media critics of the organization and others. Just this month, it was revealed that Customs and Border Protection had identified dozens of activists, attorneys and reporters to stop at San Diego-area checkpoints, and had questioned and even arrested many of them.
Now comes Trump’s latest remark, one of his most blatant yet at fanning embers of violence and intimidating his opponents. The message is that anyone who dares not to support Trump should be very afraid.
Clearly, Trump yearns for obedience. He’s shown obvious admiration for such dictators as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Rodrigo Duterte, and even “joked” about how he wished Americans would “sit up and pay attention” when he speaks, like North Koreans do with Kim.
Some joke, considering the horrific human rights crimes that the Kim regime has inflicted on its citizens for decades — starvation, forced labor, executions and more.
Meanwhile, it’s unsettling to note that Putin draws lockstep support from a large and menacing Russian biker group known as the Night Wolves but also as “Putin’s Angels.” That group espouses nationalistic ideology and has pledged full loyalty to Putin, leading to concerns that it could be used for extralegal actions against groups that Putin would consider enemies of the state.
For those familiar with the Night Wolves, Trump’s latest remark sounded like he was taking a page from Russia’s playbook.
The positive news here is that several veterans, motorcyclists, law enforcement officers and others have taken to social media to denounce Trump’s remark.
That’s commendable. This is a president who has crossed a line and needs to be told loudly and often that Americans will not allow him to silence those who disagree with him.
Trump has yet to expressly call for attacks on his critics. But he’s edging ever closer to that dark line.
It’s disgusting and un-American behavior. At a time of pipe bombs being mailed to critics of the administration and a plot by a Coast Guard officer to kill untold numbers of people in the name of white supremacy, Trump’s remarks represent a clear and present danger.
They can’t be condemned strongly enough.