Donald Trump's presidential campaign is attracting Republicans fed up with Washington politicians not keeping their promises or fighting for their constituents, some of which have channeled that anger into violent outbursts at Trump's campaign events. At Thursday night's 12th GOP debate in Miami, CNN's Jake Tapper asked the real estate magnate if the tone of his campaign encourages fighting, and Trump's response to violence at his campaign rallies should raise some serious concerns about the atmosphere a Trump presidency would create.
There have been numerous instances of voters turning violent at Trump campaign rallies, the most recent of which involved a Trump supporter being charged for sucker-punching a protestor at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Tapper brought this up, along with Hillary Clinton's tweet saying, "This kind of behavior is repugnant. We set the tone for our campaigns, we should encourage respect, not violence," in reference to the North Carolina incident. Although Trump told Tapper he doesn't condone violence, his full response justified the perpetrators' actions by saying they did it out of love for their country — essentially, it's patriotic to punch people when you're angry about politics. The police (and the law) don't seem to agree with that sentiment.
Here are Trump's comments:
People come [to Trump rallies] with tremendous passion and love for the country... But when they see what's going on in this country, they have anger that's unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country. They don't like seeing bad trade deals, they don't like seeing higher taxes, they don't like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. And I know — I mean, I see it. There is some anger. There's also great love for the country. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all.
Though not fully encouraging violent behavior, Trump didn't condemn it either, going so far as to say the anger it's fueled by is beautiful. He also proceeded to blame the victims of the assaults, saying at the debate (without any evidence) that his supporters were just defending themselves. He said:
We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging. They are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people, and we had a couple of big strong powerful guys doing damage to people. Not only the loudness — the loudness I don't mind — but doing serious damage.
Defending violence as a manifestation of passion and implying that victims had it coming is very dangerous rhetoric. If Trump's campaign is already creating violent atmospheres, and he isn't even attempting to stop it, who's to say his presidency won't do the same on an even larger scale?
The businessman's claim that the protestors attacked by his supporters were dangerous was unsupported, and videos of such incidents only show his supporters getting rowdy. Trying to write off attacks on people who oppose or disagree with him by alleging that they were criminals who needed to be punished could easily become a common occurrence. America thrives on differing opinions and the right to express one's views, even (or perhaps, especially) negative opinions of a presidential candidate or the president of the United States. It would be extremely problematic for the country to elect a president who justifies hurting or eliminating his opponents.
Whether or not you agree with Trump's political ideologies and policy plans, the way he almost praises violence and blames victims should create a few doubts about his promises to make America great again.