Last night, my wife and I watched as Donald Trump's rally on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus was "postponed" in the face of massive protests. They were at least one step above calls to 'Dump Trump' and 'Arrest Snyder' at the Detroit Republican Debate. My wife said that "the torches and pitchforks came out for the Trumpenstein monster last night." Yes, they have, but a different image came to my mind.
The protests and the conflict afterward stuck me as just one step short of Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold fighting with the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten during the Weimar Republic.* The mainstream media's came off as less alarmed, but not by very much. Watch ABC News's summary of the incident for Nightline: Trump Postpones Chicago Rally as Crowds of Protesters Gather.
Hundreds of protestors and supporters took to the streets after the GOP frontrunner canceled an event amid security concerns.I'll return to the comparison to 1968 later. Right now, I'll outsource my take on the responsibility for the atmosphere to Michael Smerconish on CNN, who contends TRUMP HAS SHOUTED "FIRE" IN A POLITICAL THEATER.
Smerconish assesses Donald Trump's role in contributing to the environment of anger in America, after chaotic protests cancelled a Chicago rally.As one can see, the news media has changed its tone when covering the Trump campaign. In part, it's because violence against protesters, who are mostly members of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, at Trump's rallies and other campaign events is a real story. As both reports show, Trump has contributed to the atmosphere that allows such behavior and capitalized on the prejudices of his supporters. That's not new.
Follow over the jump for what I think has changed.
What is new is that Trump has actively antagonized the press, beginning with calling for relaxing libel laws so that the news media can be more easily sued for defamation. That's called picking a fight with people who buy ink (or pixels) by the barrel. That's an action that Mark Twain advised should be avoided at all costs, yet Trump did it. Now, his campaign and supporters have escalated the conflict.
This week, the conflict between Trump's campaign and the media added another dimension when a Breitbart reporter claimed she had been bruised by a Trump campaign staffer. Breitbart tried to cover up the story, but one of their people resigned and blew the whistle on his former employers. Now, the targets of violence have expanded from protesters to the press. That's guaranteed to make coverage more hostile.
To add insult to the press's injury, a CBS reporter was arrested while covering last night's protest. That wasn't the Trump campaign's doing, but it added to the media's antagonism to the campaign.
As for ABC News' comparison of today to the summer of 1968, I think it's a better analogy than Weimar Germany. We're not at either place yet, but 1968 is only blocks away and we're headed right for it. Weimar Germany, on the other hand, sits way out on the horizon where one can make it out with sharp eyes. Let's hope we're not headed there. Otherwise, it's welcome to Weimar America, where it's Springtime for Trump.
*The sides aren't as extreme as Sturmabteilung vs. Roter Frontkämpferbund--yet.
Crossposted to Daily Kos and Booman Tribune.