This is how you fight a bully: Donald Trump's violence and hate needs a careful response

Trump's protesters are "thugs" buthe turns blind eye to hate at his rallies? Don't fight this danger with violence

Published June 7, 2016 9:59AM (EDT)

Donald Trump   (AP/Greg Allen)
Donald Trump (AP/Greg Allen)

Donald Trump is a flagrant and unapologetic hypocrite. This is not surprising. Donald Trump is also a serial liar, bigot, misogynist, nativist, narcissist and racist. In all, such character defects are common to one another.

In response to the violence that accompanied his San Jose, California political rally last week, Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that protesters are “thugs” and “agitators.” Trump also said that the protesters at his events are “bad people” who were “sent by the Democrats.”

Apparently, Donald Trump’s concerns about violent “thugs” and “bad people” do not apply to either himself or his supporters.

Since his campaign began in 2015, Donald Trump’s political events have been “safe spaces” for bigotry and loci of violence and chaos.

Donald Trump is the instigator. When confronted by protesters--the vast majority of which are peaceful and quiet--Donald Trump has told his foot soldiers to "Knock the crap out of them. Just knock the hell out of them" and that "they should be carried away on stretchers." Trump has also said that protesters should be “roughed up.” Trump finds violence to be “fun.” His encouragement and endorsement of violence includes statements such as, "I promise you I will pay for the legal fees"; "And they started punching was a beautiful thing"; "Part of the problem is that nobody wants to hurt each other anymore"; “The audience hit back, that's what we need more of"; and "Treat them very, very rough." Donald Trump has threatened to personally engage in fisticuffs, telling one protester that, "I'll beat the crap out of you."

Donald Trump’s public has positively responded to his violent rhetoric. On more than one occasion, they have sucker-punched protesters in the face. Trump backers have spat on, pushed, beaten upon, and hurled racial epithets at African-American protesters. At a rally in San Diego, a group of Donald Trump’s supporters, one wearing a hat emblazoned with the American Swastika (i.e. the Confederate flag), pepper sprayed a group of peaceful and defenseless protesters. Donald Trump’s foot soldiers have also physically attacked people they identified as “Hispanic” or “Muslims.”

Because they are responsible and mature political leaders, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton publicly rebuked the violent behavior of the anti-Trump protesters in San Jose, California. By comparison, Donald Trump is irresponsible and immature. Consequently, he has not condemned the violent behavior of his supporters.

The anti-Trump protesters have an important decision to make about strategy and tactics in the days and weeks leading to the American Il Duce’s coronation at the Republican convention in July, and then the presidential election in November. Donald Trump is a proto-fascist right-wing authoritarian: his bonafides include militant nationalism, racism against non-whites, nativism, encouraging violence against his political opponents, Herrenvolk politics and right-wing producerism, misogyny, and hostility to the concept of freedom of the press.

Because he is a proto-fascist demagogue, Donald Trump presents himself as a perpetual victim. His narrative of white, right-wing, male victimhood also explains his popularity among a segment of White America that—however incorrect and delusional the belief may be—feels “oppressed” by people of color, “immigrants” and “Muslims," as well as stifled by “political correctness.”

In keeping with this script, Donald Trump, like other fascists and political strongmen, gins up violence against his political opponents and then claims to be a “victim” when the latter respond in kind. As one of the final moves in this political game, Trump can then encourage more violence against his political opponents because he and his foot soldiers are now acting in “self defense.”

It is true that the ascendance of Donald Trump raises serious questions about how best to confront authoritarianism and fascism in a liberal democracy. This is an old and unresolved dilemma that has existed since the democratic experiments of Greece and Rome thousands of years ago.

Donald Trump encourages violence by his supporters. Donald Trump also incites violence by those who find his nativism, racism, bigotry, and misogyny offensive and threatening to their communities and personhood. Ultimately, in order to stop Donald Trump, it is best that protesters not grant him his violent wishes.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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