Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Dialing 911 for a Strongman

In 1974, Randy Bachman of the Guess Who wrote "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."  Now in 2024, Donald Trump is saying "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."

At a rally near Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, Mr. Trump remarked

If you’re listening, President Xi — and you and I are friends — but he understands the way I deal. Those big monster car manufacturing plants that you’re building in Mexico right now … you’re going to not hire Americans and you’re going to sell the cars to us, no. We’re going to put a 100% tariff on every single car that comes across the line, and you’re not going to be able to sell those cars if I get elected.

Now if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s gonna be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country. That will be the least of it. But they’re not going to sell those cars. They’re building massive factories.


Although questioning Trump's tone, GOP Senator Bill "Hopalong" Cassidy of Louisiana said on Sunday's Meet the Press "You could also look at the definition of bloodbath and it could be an economic disaster. And so if he’s speaking about the auto industry, in particular in Ohio, then you can take it a little bit more context.” The same morning,  colleague Mike Rounds of South Dakota rationalized on This Week without George Stephanopoulos “With regard to the autoworkers that he was talking to, he is showing them or he’s telling them what has been an economic downturn for them,”

Mark Mulvaney, NewsNation contributor and chief of staff to President Donald Trump, stated “I didn’t realize this until I went to do the research. It’s a conversation about Chinese automakers trying to use Mexico to get cars into the United States.”

Mulvaney evidently didn't say what constituted the  "research" but the Biden 

campaign responded to that objection with a video montage that included the “blood bath” comment alongside footage of Mr. Trump saying there were “very fine people on both sides” of the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” and pledging to pardon Jan. 6 defendants. “MAGA wanted context, so we gave them context,” a Biden spokesman, Parker Butler, wrote on social media on Monday.

It was a good point but unnecessary to determine context. Trump could have simply floated his tariff idea and added "Now if I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath for the whole- that's gonna be the least of it." But he didn't, instead adding "It's going to be a bloodbath for the country. That will be the least of it."

That will be the least of it. It would not be only a bloodbath for the auto industry or a bloodbath for the country because of the impact on the auto industry. No- that will be the least of it. In an article Politico published on St. Patrick's Day, Michael Kruse wrote

“He’s always been funny,” Jen Mercieca, the author of Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump, told me — “branding” and “framing” his foes in a way that “undermines their credibility” and “reaffirms the us-versus-them polarization” all “under the guise of just joking.” Practically every joke is “an in-group and out-group joke,” and “laughing at the joke is a sign of loyalty,” Mercieca explained.

“That,” she said, “is how autocrats work.”

It's going to be a bloodbath for the country, Trump said, as an in-group promise. To much of the media, right-wing and centrist, the former President was speaking exclusively about the auto industry. After all, it's difficult to acknowledge that the individual your fellow Americans are (for now) poised to elect as President will be eager to promote a bloodbath. It can't happen here, can it? Can it? Moreover, he already has made clear, publicly, that he's rooting for an economic cataclysm.

Trump cares little about the short-term impact of his words and largely disregards tactics. It's strategy which he has decided upon, which won him the presidency (with considerable help from FBI Director Comey) in 2016 and which he is counting on to return him to the White House.

That strategy has remained consistent while reinforced by the surprisingly strong campaign waged against him by Nikki Haley. The ex-governor, ex-ambassador said that he was the right President at the right time scoffed at the idea of voting Trump "off the island;" pledged to support him if he is re-nominated; vowed to pardon him if she is elected President.

Her argument was that Trump is a loser and is too old (as is Biden, she maintained) and that chaos follows him around.  "Chaos," Haley emphasized, "follows him everywhere he goes. Chaos follows him. And in a time where we need to start getting our act together, do we really want to go that route? I don't think we do."

Neither do Democrats nor the Independents not intent on voting for Trump. They want normalcy and no drama. And thus at the speech in Ohio on Saturday

“Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s gonna be a bloodbath. That’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country,” he said, without clarifying what he meant.

Later, he added: “I don’t think you’re going to have another election in this country, if we don’t win this election … certainly not an election that’s meaningful.”

If I don't win, there will be no more real elections, Trump insists. He argues- in the words of the late Randy Newman in the theme to Monk- that if he loses there will be "disorder and confusion everywhere." The song asks "hey, who's in charge here," to which Trump answers "No one- unless I'm elected."  A bloodbath awaits, unless he's put back in charge.

It may be chaotic now. But Donald Trump promises "you ain't seen nothing yet."




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