(George Curry Media) – Friday, Donald Trump, the demagogue masquerading as a politician, got his wish.
After nearly a year of racist jibes against Americans of color and those of other nations, and goading supporters to harass and assault the few protesters who showed up at his rallies, Trump used the presence of a sizable throng of protesters at his planned rally in Chicago to cancel the event moments before it was to begin.
Why was that Trump’s wish?
For one thing, Trump will use the swirling controversy over the grassroots protests likely to shadow his rallies from now on to continue to avoid offering a coherent discussion of domestic- and foreign-policy issues beyond one-liner boasts followed by “and it’ll be great! People will love it!”
But the vastly more important benefit for Trump is that he’ll use the Chicago incident to more loudly claim he and his supporters are being victimized by forces of intolerance.
Indeed, he rolled out that line soon after arriving in Chicago from St. Louis, where his rally was repeatedly disrupted by a boisterous sizable protest crowd.
“You can’t even have a rally in a major city in this country anymore without violence or potential violence,” he said in an interview with MSNBC. “I didn’t want to see the real violence, and that’s why I decided to call it off.”
Naturally, Trump refused to accept any responsibility for the violence – just as he’s refused to acknowledge his role in stoking the small, increasingly frequent acts of Trump supporters attacking protesters at his rallies before Friday. Instead, he attributed the violence to “just anger in the country, and I don’t think it’s directed at me or anything. It’s just directed at what’s been going on for years.”
Those few words actually encapsulate nearly the whole of Trump’s appeal: “real” Americans are being victimized by “others”: by unauthorized Mexican immigrants, by Syrian refugees, by criminal Black Americans, by “uppity” feminists, by China’s trade policy, by the “liberal” media, by Islam, and on and on. And, as Trump has repeatedly told his supporters at his rallies, they should strike back – with racist and sexist slurs and lewd expressions, and with their fists.
That’s just what one John McGraw, a 78-year-old White man, did two days before the Chicago confrontation, at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
There, as a young Black man, Rakeem Jones, his arms held by police officers, was being ejected from a Trump rally, McGraw sucker-punched him in the eye. Jones’ face was bruised but otherwise he wasn’t seriously injured.
McGraw was subsequently arrested and charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct – but not before he gave an interview to the Inside Edition television news program. He said in response to a question, “You bet I liked it, knocking the hell out of that big mouth. We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American. Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”
You don’t have to be a Black American to hear in McGraw’s boast, and threat, the past echoes of centuries of White racists – especially those who infested the South – reveling in their pathological addiction to murdering Black people.
It’s been apparent for months that Trump’s rallies are full of men and women like McGraw. No wonder he’s gotten the endorsement of overt White supremacists. His slow-in-coming public disavowal of their support is as believable as his denial of responsibility for the violent rally incidents before Friday.
As if to underscore how central the “fight club” mentality is to the Trump campaign, a reporter for a conservative online magazine said his campaign manager last week grabbed and pushed her as she followed Trump to ask a question. The roughhouse tactic, which the campaign manager denied despite another reporter having witnessed it, angered journalists from liberal and conservative publications alike. Friday, after video surfaced that seemed to confirm the allegation, the reporter pressed charges with the Jupiter, Florida, police.
As for McGraw, he’s the first of the Trump thugs to actually face the law; and the sheriff of Fayetteville’s county made his feelings clear in issuing this statement after he was booked and charged.
“No one should be subjected to such a cowardly, unprovoked act as that committed by McGraw,” said Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler. “Regardless of political affiliation, speech, race, national origin, color, gender, bad reputation, prior acts, or political demonstration, no other citizens has the right to assault another person, or act in such a way as this defendant did. I hope that the courts will handle this matter with the appropriate severity for McGraw’s severe and gross violation of this victim’s rights.”
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His essay, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Great Provocateur,” appears in Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Peace Laureates of African Descent (2014), Race Forward: Facing America’s Racial Divide in 2014 published by Zed Books. His new collection of columns is available at http://www.amazon.com.