Trump’s violent rallies threaten democracy

Credit: Emily Giedzinski/ Credit: Emily Giedzinski/
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

If you’re anything like me, you give an involuntary contemptuous little snort every time someone talks about neo-fascist revolutionary Donald Trump. Half a chuckle, half a sniff, this quick, sharp intake of air through the nose is the universal sign for “I can’t believe this clown is running for President — and winning.” If you’re anything like me, you thought Trump was a joke when he announced. Except the joke didn’t end in the summer like we all thought it would, or in the fall, or in the winter. Now, it’s spring, and Donald Trump is officially not funny anymore.

To be truthful, Trump never should have been funny in the first place, and his impending Republican nomination is as much our fault for treating him like a joke, as it is the media’s fault for making a circus about him and Republicans’ fault for voting for him. It’s not funny when you call Mexicans rapists and criminals. It’s not funny when you demean women for their looks, or their
menstrual cycles, or any other reason. It’s not funny when you lead a movement to question the President’s nationality because of the color of his skin. It’s not funny when you lead a veritable lynch mob against a group of five black boys accused of a heinous crime they didn’t commit. It’s not funny when you propose a ban on an entire religion.

But now Trump’s campaign has entered a new phase, something much scarier than even the racist, sexist, and xenophobic speech he has used in the past. And it really, really isn’t funny. Trump’s campaign has become violent, and that is a threat to democracy.

Since the beginning, there has been violence around the edges of Trump’s campaign. His rallies have always been rowdy, especially towards protesters, and violent crimes have been committed in his name. But until March, Trump was largely able to wag his finger at the violence and distance himself. His fans were simply“passionate,” he insisted, but he would never incite violence.

Those days are long gone. On March 9, Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was [accused of assaulting Michelle Fields](, a reporter for Breitbart. A few days later, a viral video surfaced of a Trump bodyguard violently slamming a photographer from Time to the ground by his neck. These attacks on reporters came just days after Trump proposed loosening libel laws so he could silence the free press. On March 9, a Trump fan sucker-punched a protestor, and a few days later Trump publicly considered paying for the assailant’s legal fees.
Trump frequently claims not to incite violence, but his words tell a very different story:

Feb. 1: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ‘em, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”

March 4: “Get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do I’ll defend you in court.”

March 9: “See, in the good old days this didn’t used to happen, because they used to treat them very rough. We’ve become very weak.”

On March 16, Trump said that his fans would likely “riot in the streets” if the Republican party used a brokered convention to rob him of the Republican nomination. This is exactly why the violent climate he has inspired is such a serious problem. What makes the United States and other democracies both secure and reliable is that we direct our government through civil processes, never through violence. While violent transitions of power are hallmarks of authoritarian governments and revolutionary guards, the United States has astounding institutional credibility that precludes violence. Absent of violence, our political system has integrity, it is strong and trustworthy. We might not always like our political leaders, but we can always trust in the power of the vote and of political action.

But when politics become violent, it is often the strongest, most brutal, most well-funded that win, and not the ones with the best ideas or a mandate from the people. By instigating a violent political climate, Trump has threatened to undermine the stability and legitimacy of our democracy. By seeking to intimidate and silence reporters and protesters, Trump has made clear that he is a threat to political freedom.

Hate speech isn’t funny. But it’s hard not to laugh, even at the most heinous of words, when they come from an orange-tinted, out-of-touch billionaire shouting outrageous things from the peanut gallery. Months later, Trump has built a movement of passionate, angry followers who seem willing to act on any violent seed he plants in their minds. We simply cannot allow ourselves to have a president whose path to the Oval Office was paved, even slightly, by violence. That is the opposite of everything our Constitution stands for. It’s time to stop laughing. It’s time to start thinking long and hard about how stop Donald Trump.