Donald Trump took his embrace of victimhood to a new low Tuesday morning when he equated the House impeachment inquiry with a “lynching” in a desperate plea to his base to defend him by attacking basic standards of decency.
Comparing his political trials to the horrific history of lynching in our country—with 3,500 African Americans murdered between 1882 and 1965, according to the NAACP—was stunning, but not surprising, coming from our bigoted conspiracist in chief.
This is the tone that Trump has set for the Republican party. As it happens, his Tweet came the same week that two other elected officials had served helpings of the same rancid red meat that you could market as Trump Steaks:
Monday night, North Dakota GOP State Senator Oley Larsen went after one of Trump’s favorite targets, Rep. Ilhan Omar, posting on his Facebook page a grainy black and white photo of a woman in a headscarf holding a rifle, which he described as Omar at “Al Qaida training camp in Somalia.” Larsen added, “She is trying to get this picture blocked. Share it everywhere.”
In reality, “the picture was taken in Mogadishu more than four years before Omar was born,” according to The Washington Post. When Facebook users told Larsen that the picture was a fraud, he doubled down in true Trumpian fashion, writing, “Actually I’m begging to let everyone know she is an elected terrorist,” before finally removing the poisonous post.
Meantime in Sevier County, Tennessee, GOP County Commissioner Warren Hurst gave his own master class in Trumpism. Hurst, chomping on a toothpick like a character in a B-movie while in the public session of a county meeting, crudely slammed Mayor Pete Buttigieg: "We got a queer running for president, if that ain't about as ugly as you can get." The audience in the chamber applauded.
“I’m not prejudiced,” Hurst told the crowd, but “a white male in this country has very few rights and they're getting took more every day." Pressed on his comments by local reporters, Hurst said he’s “entitled to his opinions.”
Hurst and Larsen have both refused to apologize or acknowledge they did anything wrong. But then again, why would they when the head of their party is an open bigot, who almost daily serves up baseless conspiracies and victimhood with almost no push back from Republican elected officials and party leaders? Trump was lying again when he tweeted Tuesday morning that he has “95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party. Thank you!” But polls really do show that about 85 percent of Republicans support him.
This is why Republican leaders prefer to stay silent about hate spewed by the likes of Hurst and Larsen, rather than enforce standards of decency within their own party. And it’s why some Republicans offered tepid responses, like minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who said, "That's not the language I would use," or complete evasions, like Rep. Jim Jordan who, asked if lynching talk was “appropriate,” said, “I think, that’s just an example of the frustration the president feels.”
Others flatly defended them, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said “this is a lynching and in every sense. This is un-American.”Asked if he could see why African Americans might take offense to Trump using the term, Graham—in a stunning display of whitesplaining—replied, “No, I think lynching is being seen as somebody taking the law in their own hands and out to get somebody for no good reason.”
The words of the lawyer for the MAGA bomber Cesar Sayoc who sent bombs to media outlets and Democrats who had been critical of Trump, have stuck in my head since I read them in July, and they seem fitting to what we are seeing with today’s GOP. After detailing the long standing challenges of Sayoc’s grim life, his defense counsel wrote, "In this darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald J. Trump."
It appears that the GOP has found its light in Trump. Alarmingly, that light is one marked by bigotry, baseless conspiracies, and victimhood—a truly dangerous combination for our nation.