Most sane people are baffled by the almost daily reports that Donald Trump is doing well in the polls, and despite having no political experience, is a serious GOP presidential contender. However, understanding his appeal is as simple as looking back at some of the most ignorant and fear-mongering political figures in our country’s history.
After dissecting all 95,000 words of Trump’s public utterances, the New York Times discovered a distinct pattern echoing the tactics of Red Scare-era figures like Joe McCarthy.
Ironically, many Trump supporters regard him as a breath of fresh air, and a revolutionary new voice who will bring about unprecedented change. However, his main tactics, such as whipping people into a frightened frenzy using an ‘us vs them’ mentality, have been common political tactics for decades.
“His entire campaign is run like a demagogue’s — his language of division, his cult of personality, his manner of categorizing and maligning people with a broad brush.”
In a style very similar to McCarthy’s exploitation of the American public’s fear of communism during the 50’s, Trump exploits the economic insecurities of his supporters by channeling their frustration into suspicion and hatred of Hispanics, Latinos, Muslims, and others they think of as threats. He delivers race-baiting remarks similar to those of segregationist George Wallace in a friendly, bantering tone, which gives him a TV-ready appeal that lulls his supporters into a false sense of security.
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) December 8, 2015
The Times found that Trump has actually cleverly eclipsed his fear-mongering fore-bearers by combining these tactics with violent rhetoric. This taps into many Americans’ violence fantasies. Some of his most favored words are “kill,” “fight,” and “destroy.”
He has expressed enthusiasm for torturing enemies beyond waterboarding. Last month, after several men hit a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his rallies, Mr. Trump said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.
Politicians like McCarthy, Wallace, and Trump are rarely on the right side of history. However, they generate steam by appealing to our worst impulses, and are enthusiastically received by masses of people eager to blame others for their problems.
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