Verbal assaults

In 1968, Douglas Kiker filed this report on the state of the nation during the presidential campaign. “It is as if somewhere a while back,” Kiker stated, “George Wallace had been awakened by a white, blinding vision: they all hate black people, all of them.”

He concluded, “They’re all afraid, all of them. Great God! That’s it! They’re all southern! The whole United States is southern!”

After Greenville and President Trump’s “speech” it is difficult not to surmise that he has come to the same judgment as Kiker. Indeed, Kiker knew of what he spoke and gazed in horror. Having been born in Eastern North Carolina, just a highway down from Greenville, I find it hard not to come to a similar conclusion.

Of course, Republicans hastily disassociated from Trump’s verbal assaults on four Democratic congresswomen of color with their usual moral cowardice. They refused to made a distinction between Trump’s prior remarks on immigration and race. Usually he hit the margins but the provoked chant of “send her back” on one of their number raised flags. Clearly Trump had crossed the line into blatant racism.

Why he said it is that Trump has little imagination and if he is a little unsure of himself, he goes back to the old reliable which is an appeal to bigotry. The “base” is indeed frightened of the demographic shifts in the United States, but considering where he made the pitch he didn’t have to do much persuading.

Historically, Eastern North Carolina has been fertile ground for the politics of racial resentment. George Wallace did very well there in 1968 and Jesse Helms swept the area. It has a high African-American population and Republicans are not a bit shy in trying to mobilize whites in large numbers to vote for the GOP. But Trump’s pitch was a trifle too blunt and opened the door to charges of racism.

Strangely, before the July 4th fiasco, Trump was having the best weeks of his presidency. Instead, ever conscious of his need to keep his supporters lined up he resorts to the politics of division. Whether it is a Stephen Miller egging him on or some fear that he can never expand his support, Trump resorts to these crude appeals as an afterthought.

As well, Trump cannot stay focused on those areas in which he has great potential for future success. At the G-20, he assured Turkey that if they bought Russian missiles, no sanctions would be applied. Instead he denied them the ability to purchase the F-35 fighter bombs and threatened sanctions. Obviously, he cannot seem to keep his government on the same page. The more he cannot push his advantage on his strongest virtue he goes back to wool hat politics at its worst. The more he does that, the weaker he becomes.

Indeed, he not only uses Wallace-style tactics, he imitates his governing style. Trump loves to campaign, watch television and to pop off via Twitter. Trade negotiations, reorienting foreign policy, those take time and effort. His advisers eager to prevent any change, shrewdly guess that he is not up to the task. Now he is simply stuck with ineffective tactics and rhetoric.

Trump’s lack of discipline will shape his legacy. His base will be his undoing.