I never thought that polls would tell us very much this early in a Presidential campaign, but what we see over the next week or so may prove to be a serious litmus-test for the remainder of the year. Because if Street Thug’s numbers go up, we’re are in for a rough five months; if his numbers stay the same or continue to drift downward, he may have finally shot his wad. And what I’m referring to, of course, are his comments about Muslims and immigration following the Pulse attack. Because if nothing else, he appears to be building his entire campaign on one issue and one issue only, and that’s the issue of fear.
First, what he is saying about immigration simply isn’t true. We haven’t even taken in the 10,000 Syrian refugees we agreed to receive, other countries (e.g., Canada) have taken in many more. We aren’t being ‘overrun’ by Muslim immigrants any more than we are being overrun by anyone else. And the idea of ‘building a wall’ is this year’s substitute for the 2008 riff, ‘drill baby, drill.’
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that if this desperate attempt by Street Thug to capitalize on fears engendered by Orlando falls flat, then we can all just relax and put November 8th out of our minds. This guy is a threat, he’s a menace, and he needs not just to be beaten, he needs to be beaten bad. But I’d rather try to figure out how to whup him when I have to look back over my shoulder to see his ugly mug, rather than letting him look back over his shoulder at me. Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself.
Want to know why Trump so dearly loves the 2nd Amendment and never tires of reminding his audiences about the enduring value of walking around with a gun? Because public opinion polls show that all those guns that were bought by the public since Obama took office were bought because of fear; fear of crime, fear of terrorism, fear of having the guns taken away, fear of God knows what. And fear is a very powerful, very compelling emotion. And when it comes to a politics, fear can trump facts and insight every time.
The first witness who testified in 1963 against Eichmann in Jerusalem was an old friend and academic colleague, Professor Salo Baron. And when he was asked to explain the extraordinary degree of violence represented by the Holocaust, he answered that the murder of 5 million Jews was based on fear, or what he called the ‘dislike of the unlike.’ Most of the comments coming out of Orlando are linking the ‘hatred’ of the LGBT lifestyle to this incredible act of gun violence, with the former seen as the causal emotion behind the latter event. And this may be true, but let’s step back for a second and see how this will play out in the Presidential campaign.
In his appearance at St. Anselm’s College, Street Thug specifically disavowed prejudice against gays. He said, “Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando’s LGBT community,” and I guess that includes him as well. But he then went on to make one false statement after another about Muslims and immigration, with the intent of making sure that everyone knows that only a ‘tough’ guy like him understands and can respond to our fears.
Mass shootings make us afraid. We become afraid to go to public places, we get afraid of letting the kids hang out at the mall. And calling for a ban on assault rifles doesn’t necessarily respond to those fears.
Gun violence is a terrible kind of violence, but people fear violence more than they fear guns. So to keep Street Thug out of the Oval Office, we have to come up with ways to help people deal with their fears. Otherwise, they’ll just go out and buy another gun.