During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump became famous at his rallies for his belligerent attitude towards protesters: Some times he would talk about the "old days" when protesters would be "taken out on a stretcher." Another time, after fearing that protesters might throw tomatoes at him, he said, "So 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." And his angry, brutish statements somewhat inevitably led to many verbal altercations, and a few actually violent ones, (most infamously an African American man was elbowed in the head while being taken out of a rally) none of which Trump ever apologized for.
|Pictured above: America, sadly enough|
Yes, on the campaign trail Trump proved himself to not only be a bigot, a liar, an egotist and a misogynist, but also an outright bully, one who seemed to openly implore his minions into violent behavior. The fact that his rallies never turned into full blown riots seems to be a combination of luck and good security. Not surprisingly, the Southern Poverty Law Center noticed a marked an increase in hate crimes across the nation the more Trump campaigned.
To be fair, Trump has not made as many hateful statements in office as he did on the campaign trail, but that seems to be more because he has other things to do than hold ego bloating rallies, like, say, running the country. Still, his bullying manner still manifests itself in his late night tweets and ranting interviews. Even more disturbing is his seeming admiration for authoritative leaders, like Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, whom Trump has praised despite the fact that Duterte's government has used death squads to kill thousands of suspected drug dealers.
Now, once elected, a president becomes not only the leader of the country, but also the leader of his party, who then sets the tone for that party. And Trump's influence on other Republicans seems to be appearing in several recent cases: in Montana, congressional candidate Greg Gianforte physically assaulted a reporter who had the audacity to ask him a question about the Trumpcare bill. Sadly, that didn't stop Gianforte from winning. Just two days later, while doing a photo op at a gun range, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott joked that “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.” Continuing the combative nature of Republican press relations in the Trump era. And in Mississippi, State Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona posted on Facebook that people removing Confederate monuments in Louisiana should be "lynched". Although he later apologized, the fact that he would post such a thing while representing a state that has a truly horrid history of lynching is stunning. While I'm not obviously blaming Trump directly for these actions, I think it's fair to say that when a bully runs the White House, it emboldens other bullies.
Not surprisingly, there has been no comment on any of this behavior by the White House; except that, concerning the Montana election, Trump tweeted: “Does anyone notice how the Montana Congressional race was such a big deal to Dems & Fake News until the Republican won?”. Obviously to him, a win is a win, and a bully on his side is a hero.
These are some really dark times for this country; when a major political party gets its cues from a president who ran a campaign full of anger and hatred; the only silver lining is that Trump has been extremely unpopular from the moment he took office, with his approval ratings sinking lower in a few months than Barack Obama's did in eight years. This combined with the ongoing investigation of Trump's campaign ties to Russian influence could mean that Trump's effectiveness as a president will be negligible, and his impeachment possible. Although some people on the left point out that Vice President Mike Pence replacing an impeached Trump as president would not be an improvement, and may actually be worse, I believe that Trump's humiliation if he were impeached would at the very least reduce the energy that various hate groups have with him in office, leading to a reduction in hate crimes overall in this country. For that reason alone, I would prefer President Pence.