We’re so used to Donald Trump’s outbursts that it’s easy to discount them, like sports-talk radio or bad comedy.
Did he really suggest a Latino judge couldn’t fairly oversee his fraud trial? Did he really mock a disabled journalist? Did he really call women pigs, dogs, slobs and hormonally unbalanced?
He’s claiming now that journalists don’t get sarcasm. Perhaps. But what we really don’t get is how it is remotely acceptable to suggest someone might shoot Hillary Clinton. No, Trump wasn’t making a specific threat but that doesn’t make his words any less dangerous. As The Bee’s editors have learned, some unstable Trump followers are apt to ape their idol’s suggestions, if not act on them.
A week ago, we asked Republican Rep. Jeff Denham whether he endorses Trump. It’s important because of Trump’s long list of ill-informed, autocratic comments and because of the large number of Latino voters – many of whom feel particularly insulted by Trump – living in Denham’s district. We got a lot of feedback, which we encourage.
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But one caller left a message suggesting a Bee editor and his family might be run off the road by angry Trump supporters in pickup trucks. We don’t believe the editor is in danger, but it makes us worry about the stability (and driving skills) of some Trump devotees.
Two weeks ago, at the Republican National Convention, chants of “Lock her up” resounded almost every time Hillary Clinton’s name came up. It isn’t enough to defeat her at the polls; Trump fans want her jailed – or worse. One speaker accused her of treason and said she should be shot. Now, some chant “shoot her” at rallies.
To incite Tuesday’s rally, Trump said: “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. … If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But – but I’ll tell you what: That will be a horrible day.”
His wording was vague but his meaning clear. Jaws dropped across America, including right behind Trump. It was wrong and it was dangerous.
Wrong because abolishing the Second Amendment requires altering the Constitution, and that takes a super-majority of Congress then approval by a super-majority of states. Clinton has said repeatedly guns are part of the “fabric of America” and she doesn’t want to alter the Second Amendment – just institute better background checks and keep guns out the hands of those on terror watch lists (“no fly; no buy”). But the truth doesn’t fire up a crowd like an oft-repeated lie. Or a threat.
Dangerous because weak-minded Trump follower might take Trump’s musings as a suggestion, not sarcasm. Rolling Stone magazine recently wrote about “stochastic terrorism,” or language that can “incite random actors to carry out violent” acts. Examples were drawn from uncoordinated attacks on Planned Parenthood centers, but it could apply to people who kill in the name of any organization without being part of it. Say, ISIS.
Trump has already said a Clinton victory will be evidence of a rigged election. Now he’s suggesting that if Clinton wins it will “be a horrible day.”
His defenders, including the National Rifle Association, said he was talking about unifying voters. But his followers got the message; so did we.
There’s nothing ambiguous about the unrestrained anger rising in Trump’s most zealous followers; we’ve seen it. And there is nothing ambiguous about the danger in making such threatening suggestions.