It is simply not healthy for the country to have a president stuck perpetually in attack mode, fighting enemies real and imagined, pushing a toxic agenda that mixes the exaltation of grievance and the grinding of axes.
The president’s recent rallies have come to resemble orgies for Donald Trump’s ego, spaces in which he can receive endless, unmeasured adulation and in which the crowds can gather for a revival of an anger that registers as near-religious. They can experience a communal affirmation that they are not alone in their intolerance, outrage and regression.
At these moments, the preacher and the pious share a spiritual moment of darkness.
Such was the case again this week at a Trump rally in Florida, at which his supporters aggressively heckled and harassed the free press that Trump incessantly brands with the false descriptor of “fake news.”
In fact, there is no such thing as fake news. If something isn’t true, it isn’t news. Opinions, like mine here, are also not news, even if printed in a newspaper or broadcast by a news station. There may be news in such opinions, but the vehicle is by definition subjective and a reflection of the writer’s or speaker’s worldview.
This “fake news” nonsense isn’t really about the dissemination of false information. If it were, the administration could demand a correction and would receive one from any reputable news outlet.
No, Trump has made a perversion of the word “fake,” particularly among his most ardent supporters, so that it has come to mean news stories he doesn’t like, commentary that is unflattering to him and inadequate coverage of what he views as positive news about him and his administration.
Trump doesn’t want a free press; he wants free propaganda.
He gets it from his friends at Fox News, but that isn’t enough. This wannabe authoritarian needs two scoops. So he uses the power of the presidency to produce his own propaganda, to invent facts and twist news.
This seems to work mostly among his own Republican base, but for him that’s the point. The entire Trump presidency is about repayment to the most devout: the white nationalists, the Christian nationalists, the ethnonationalists.
They believe that America was founded as a white, Christian nation and should be governed as one. They pine over lost culture and lost heritage. They rage against blossoming minority groups and immigrants.
This is a Republican base governed by fear, and it has found its perfect apostle in Trump — a man who sells fear, gorges on it, bathes in it.
Trump and his base are like two mirrors facing each other.
Trump has killed the traditional Republican Party and raised and animated in its corpse a soulless, mindless monstrosity, loyal only to him. The moderating forces in the party have either been sidelined or subdued.
Trump, feeling both unassailable among the poltroons who are Republican lawmakers and buoyed by his spellbound base, has moved further and further into his own alternate universe and away from acceptable norms and conventions.
He is attacking the Robert Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt.”
He is attacking the FBI as a whole.
He is attacking our international allies.
He is attacking celebrities and athletes.
He is attacking immigrants.
He is attacking the press.
He is attacking the truth.
He does none of this because he is brave and strong, but rather precisely because he isn’t. His attacks are a compensatory disguise for his own fear and insecurity.
Trump is weak. Very weak. Unbelievably weak. But he knows now that his weakness is bolstered by the incredible power of the presidency and the overwhelming economic and military power of the country.
America’s greatness has given this coward a spine that only amplifies his bluster and bullying, his disrespect and his deceptions.
As he feels emboldened, his base rides the wave with him. The supposed evangelical Trump supporters have accepted he is an imperfect instrument to achieve their desired goal of a religious liberty agenda cemented by conservative judges.
And so, no matter how much he violates their religious tenets, they forgive him and cheer.
Traditional Republicans among Trump’s base look to the outrageous tax cuts and his efforts to undo regulation and undermine President Obama’s legacy, and they forgive and cheer.
The racist, white supremacists and Islamophobes share his hostility to people who are not white and Christian, and they don’t even need to forgive him to cheer.
That cheering for a man who is not only surrounded by corruption, but whose inner circle is also under criminal investigation, has become the discordant soundtrack of a man who is morally compromised and whose campaign may have been materially compromised.
<CHARLES M. BLOW