Donald Trump is currently trapped in a catch-22 of his own making: he has said too many racist things to get elected, but the arguably racist Alt-Right will turn on him if he reneges on his promise to build a wall and deport all of America’s illegal immigrants.
Trump’s campaign spent last week trying to soften his offensive image, and the Alt-Right noticed. On Glenn Beck’s Blaze radio program a caller phoned in and threatened to “come after” Trump if his anti-immigrant stances are revealed to be empty campaign tricks. Donald Trump may fall victim to his own xenophobic faux-populism.
Props to Glenn Beck and his fellow hosts for shunning the caller’s veiled threat of physical violence, but Beck’s analysis of one of the “spookiest” interactions he has ever had is flawed:
“I think he just spoke the truth there. Who is he appealing to? People who are—and not everybody—but some, like Nate [the caller]—very frustrated, very angry. This is the prediction I made on Barack Obama, that if Barack Obama didn’t do what he said he would do, the Left would go out-of-their-mind-nuts—well, he’s been a leftist all the way. But if Donald Trump says he’s gonna build a wall and he doesn’t build a wall, the people that were counting on that and are one-issue and angry about it—I think he has put his finger not on the pulse, but in the spine on that nerve that’s been bugging everybody, and he’s pushed, and if he doesn’t do what he says he’s gonna do, he’s in trouble.”
Beck is right that Trump’s softened rhetoric will likely provoke Alt-Right rage, but he is very wrong to compare the Right’s self-destructive xenophobia to the Left’s constructive multicultural tolerance.
The Left is incomparably more rational and moderate as a whole than the Right, and contemporary history is proof. The Occupy Wall Street movement was often described as a liberal equivalent to the Tea Party movement, but Occupy focused on policies of economic equality whereas the Tea Baggers focused on bad-sport hyper-partisanship that often targeted President Obama’s race more than policy-specific disagreement. For another contemporary comparison, Democrats hated George W. Bush’s Iraq War, but never made good on bluffs to withhold government funding like Republicans did when President Obama simply tried to pay the government’s bills without taking away people’s health insurance.
For Beck, though, it is fascinating how quickly his peripheral career on the fringe of mainstream political punditry has been outpaced by the conservative Id. He helped lure the Tea Party into the echo chamber of hyper-partisan delusions and left Fox News (of all media networks) because it wasn’t ultra-conservative or Godly enough, but now he is spooked out by the faux-populist, anarchist movement he helped convince to existentially oppose America’s liberal pendulum swing. Beck was one of the many hyper-partisan Dr. Frankensteins at the National Review spooked by the Alt-Right, Trumpian monster their political machinations helped spark to life.
I remember watching Beck on Fox News with his chalkboard stagecraft, and it creeped me out because of the absurd conspiracies he peddled at an elementary school level. The Tea Party’s participation in American democracy was marked with little regard for critical thinking, and Beck’s paranoid obsession with zero-sum game politics was the subject of one of Jon Stewart’s greatest satirical accomplishments, this hilarious parody of Beck’s show:
If Glenn Beck is worried about Donald Trump’s faux populism, we all should be.
However, because of the Alt-Right’s anger, Trump should be worried about Donald Trump as well. Trump can appeal to moderate voters, which is the only way he can hope to be elected, but Trump cannot do that without alienating his most vocal base of support in the Alt-Right. Their penchant for aggressive threats has been encouraged by Trump himself with ill-advised, sorry-not-sorry allusions to the Second Amendment’s capacity to solve people’s democracy problems.
Quite a catch-22. Unfortunately for Trump, he created it all himself.