If the penalties for aiding and abetting right-wing domestic terrorism were the same as those for supporting and funding Islamic terrorism, the next Republican Convention could easily be held inside Leavenworth Federal Prison. The entire Republican Party, from “nothing to see here” types like U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) to openly racist white nationalists like U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), has become a sinkhole of American fascism, going placidly along with Trump and his sock puppets encouraging racist violence.
Inside of 72 hours, the largest mass assassination attempt since the night Lincoln was shot was allegedly made by a pro-Trump bomber, a gunman echoing GOP talking points about Jewish philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros funding the “migrant caravan” allegedly slaughtered 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and a white gunman allegedly killed two black shoppers at a Louisville-area supermarket after trying to get into a black church. Those three days of hate were emboldened and encouraged by Trump and his GOP supporters.
Racial and religious hatred in America is as old as slavery and Native American genocide and has always simmered just beneath the surface. In the last half-century, though, Dr. King’s arc of the moral universe has, indeed, been long, but it’s slowly bent toward justice. Racists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists were always with us, but their power shriveled as a changing American shoved them out of mainstream thought.
But they were always there, the termites under the siding of the American edifice, slowly gnawing. Republicans did their best to use them, from Reagan’s screeds about “welfare queens” and Willie Horton to Newt Gingrich’s 1994 racial dog-whistles, but with limited success. The rise of the racist Tea Party just before the election of a black President in 2008 managed to ignite and focus white grievance for eight years.
In 2016, Donald Trump knew one big thing – tens of millions of voters were ready to put their white rage front-and-center. An April study of Trump voters from the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the prime driver of white Trump supporters is fear: fear of losing social and economic status to non-whites in a rapidly changing America.
That’s what the neo-Nazi tiki torch fascists meant last year when they paraded in Charlottesville chanting, “You will not replace us!” Equality feels like oppression when the whiteness that’s always been the American norm has to compete with African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and non-Christians in the political, economic, social, media, and popular culture arenas.
Trump’s seemingly endless stream of violent comments aimed at everyone from the free press and immigrants to Hillary Clinton and black political and sports figures are neither unhinged nor spur of the moment. They are calculated to inflame the unhinged and angry to violence. And when that violence erupts, from the alleged MAGAbomber and the synagogue terrorist to the Kentucky supermarket murderer, it’s mission accomplished. That mission is to terrify opponents, one seemingly random act at a time, while Trump and his political allies try to maintain plausible deniability.
But behind that placid whataboutism that claims “both sides” are guilty and that there’s really nothing wrong is the warning that George Orwell wrote in “1984”: “The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression …The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”
Trump and company understand completely. From chants of “lock her up” and “CNN sucks” at Trump rallies to the snatching of non-white migrant children from their parents at the border and the wholesale disenfranchisement of non-white voters through suppression, Trump’s aim has been to scare the opposition, make them look over their shoulders, discourage them, and terrorize them. And the entire Republican Party, frightened of a raging white voter base and rich right-wing donors, has gladly gone along.
Right after the alleged MAGAbomber tried to kill Democratic donor Soros, Trump chuckled at a White House event when the crowd began chanting about Soros, saying, “Lock him up.” Trump repeatedly referred to “globalists” – dog-whistle for “Jews” – in the same speech. Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-California) tweeted a far-right conspiracy theory that Soros was paying for the “migrant caravan” of asylum-seekers in Mexico. One day later, 11 people died in the Pittsburgh synagogue bloodbath.
That was no coincidence. By twisting language and hiding behind racial code, Trump and his allies inflamed anti-Semitism the same way calling U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) “low IQ” and New York Democratic Congressional candidate Antonio Delgado “a big city rapper” inflames racism. Yet, they always say, “Hey, it wasn’t us, we aren’t advocating violence.” Yes, they are – terrorist violence against minorities, the media, and their other perceived enemies.
Back in 2011, a blogger going by the name G2geek coined a term that’s since been taken up by terrorism analysts around the world: “stochastic terrorism.” The word “stochastic” means something that we know will occur based on probability distribution, but have no way of knowing exactly when or how. As G2geek put it, “You heat up the waters and stir the pot, knowing full well that sooner or later a ‘lone wolf’ will pop up and do the deed. The fact that it will happen is as predictable as the fact that a heated pot of water will eventually boil.”
The concept was originally used in connection with Islamic terrorism. A call for jihad from al Qaeda or ISIS would eventually lead to action, although you never knew where or when. It’s the same with Trump’s GOP. As former Homeland Security counterterrorism official John Cohen said on October 24, before the alleged MAGAbomber was caught, “This individual is acting out on behalf of what he is hearing from people who are running for office, or elected officials.”
Unlike Osama bin Laden, Trump is issuing his calls not from a cave in Afghanistan, but from the Oval Office. The effect is the same.
The president of the United States is encouraging a terrorist war against his enemies.
Charles Jaco is a journalist, author, and activist. Follow him on Twitter at @charlesjaco1.